Otto tries to leverage ‘no’ vote

Rebecca Otto

ST. PAUL — State Auditor Rebecca Otto was the only “no” vote when 31 mining leases were approved by the Executive Council on Oct. 18 to be issued for exploratory drilling for copper/nickel/precious metals in northeastern Minnesota.

Within hours of the meeting, her re-election campaign had sent out an email seeking donations based solely on her vote against exploratory mining. The email included a link to a WCCO TV story in the Twin Cities story the day of the vote, which showed an interview of Otto on the issue.

At least two Iron Range legislators said they could no longer support fellow DFLer Otto in her re-election campaign because of her position on the issue.

Otto, in a telephone interview last week, said her vote and the fundraising overture were not pre-determined.

“The campaign does send out emails periodically to do fundraising. I didn’t send out the letter,” she said.

When asked if it was planned, Otto said, “No.”

When asked about the timing of the letter going out just hours after her vote against exploration for copper/nickel/precious metals, Otto said, “So what. Some of my supporters didn’t necessarily like my vote, either.”

But Otto’s vote, coupled with the fundraising letter, do not add up to “So what” for at least two of her DFL colleagues, state Reps. Jason Metsa of Virginia and David Dill of Crane lake.

“I’m disappointed to hear her explanation,” Metsa said. “She voted against something that is no different than drilling a water well. She will have to earn my support back.”

Dill said, “It’s not helpful to have a state executive officer not in concert with what we need. It makes me sad to think this is happening with some, certainly not all, of our executive officers to try to defer, stop or delay development of our resources in Minnesota.”

The Executive Council is comprised of the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state and auditor.

“If we can’t do it right in Minnesota then we have regulations to ensure it doesn’t move forward. And all of us (Range legislators) have said if it can’t be done right we won’t support it. This is so two-faced ... to want and use the devices the minerals we are talking about help produce and then to be against mining them,” added Dill.

Dill also said, “It would be very difficult to support that individual again.”

Metsa was “p----d” about the fundraising letter being sent out hours after her “no” vote on the mineral leases. “It was something I felt was very divisive to seek financial gain for her own political purposes,” he said.

Otto, who previously had voted to support mineral leases, said on the day of the vote in October, “I bolted up in bed. I realized what was really, really bothering me was that future generations can’t be saddled with costs if something goes wrong. We meed more of a discussion.”

Otto, who stressed that “I am not anti-mining,” said she was taking the long-term approach.

“Exploration happens first. Exploration leads to mining,” Otto said.

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