In mid-December of last year, one of GOP U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn’s staff members emailed a congressional liaison to the National Park Service with an urgent request.
“I am emailing on behalf of my bosses [sic] wife, Jennifer Carnahan,” read the email. “Mrs. Carnahan would love to have a private guided tour of the Grand Canyon (preferably within the next hour.)”
The email went on to ask if the same could be arranged for her at Horseshoe Bend that afternoon, and at Zion National Park in Utah the next day.
“Likewise, she hopes to get the entry fee waived, as she is a member’s spouse,” it concluded.
This email and a chain of others to follow were released Monday by the Minnesota DFL Party, which obtained the thread through a Freedom of Information Act request. In an email of her own, Carnahan, also the chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota, identified herself as Hagedorn's wife, and added: "If an official request needs to come from his staff we can submit that ASAP. Trying to see if I'm too late in the game to organize anything."
The liaison told Carnahan they’d have to call the parks and see if anyone was on hand to show her around. Carnahan thanked them and said she understood “either way.”
In response to the liaison's query, an employee at the Grand Canyon National Park’s office wrote back: “I’m not quite sure what [Carnahan] is wanting. A tour today? We have no capacity to accommodate that type of request.”
In another thread, the superintendent of Zion National Parks replied that the parks were low on staff and didn’t have personal guides to spare… and that, since this was a “personal trip” without Hagedorn (who also isn't on any of the parks’ committees), fees would not be waived.
In a statement, DFL Party chair Ken Martin called the request Hagedorn "using his government position to get free things for his wife." Neither Hagedorn’s office nor the Republican Party of Minnesota responded to interview requests, but the Hagedorn campaign called the emails “personal attacks” when the Star Tribune inquired after them.
“Members of Congress and their spouses are encouraged to inform the National Park Service whenever they visit Park Service facilities,” the campaign said in a statement. “Jennifer is an avid hiker who sought whatever assistance was available and purchased her own park passes.”
Hagedorn is usually in the headlines for saying shit like “The Democrat ‘Black Lives Matter’ Party” is “at war with our country, our beliefs, and western culture," and people who die by suicide "go to hell." Lately, he’s been getting unwanted attention for use of government resources.
Earlier this year, it was revealed that his office had spent $270,000 on printed mail, and some of that cash had gone to a firm partially owned by one of his part-time staffers. After the news came out, Hagedorn fired his chief of staff, and kept the part-timer on payroll. He’s insisted he did nothing wrong.
“I’m the first one when I found out about it that took action,” he told MPR. “[I] canceled the contracts, have changed staff, self-reported it to the House. It’s really been misconstrued by the Democrats and my opponent and others.”
Hagedorn was also one of three Minnesota congressmen to take a round trip with President Donald Trump to his recent Duluth rally on Air Force One, shortly before he was diagnosed with COVID-19. The three took a Delta flight home on Friday, which has earned each of them and the airline a good amount of heat for perceived recklessness and risking the spread of disease.
Once again, Hagedorn insisted no wrongdoing, saying he’d relied on the airline and attending physicians to make the call, and had tested negative upon his return.
He was supposed to appear in a debate against his Democratic opposition, Dan Feehan, on Tuesday night, but the event was canceled due to a disagreement between the campaigns about how to handle coronavirus precautions.