News that DFL State Sen. David Tomassoni — a DFLer from Chisholm — has taken a job that will pay him to be essentially a lobbyist while he remains an elected official — isn’t only shocking to the occupants of a chicken coop being guarded by a fox.

Taxpayers of Minnesota might well feel an affinity to those chickens based upon published news reports that Tomassoni will be the executive director of the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools — a group that lobbies the Legislature on behalf of Iron Range communities.

To be clear, I have no objections to the right of Iron Range communities to actively lobby on behalf of the people of their region.

The fact is many of those communities would do well to have a more effective voice in Saint Paul — both in terms of their elected representatives — but also in terms of the lobbyists who support their goals and aspirations.

But, having the best of both worlds — a state senator responsible for voting on laws that can directly benefit them, who is also paid by a lobbying organization who will be rewarded for delivering the votes on laws that can directly benefit them — is a line that simply cannot be allowed to be crossed.

This isn’t a DFL or Republican issue as evidenced by the fact that a couple of Minnesota Republicans are defending Tomassoni for his odd rationale that guarding the purse and putting his hand in the purse is a right he should be able to exercise.

It’s not.

A teacher who is elected to the Legislature or a farmer, goes to the Legislature as a teacher – or a farmer.

They have not been hired by the school district – or the chickens or the cows – to directly benefit themselves or their interests in Saint Paul.

The people of the Iron Range district that elected David Tomassoni to the state Senate did so with the belief that he would go to St. Paul and stand up for their rights and interests.

They have paid him quite well to do just that.

In 2013, Sen. Tomassoni received a Senate salary – for a part-time job – of roughly $31,000.

According to the St. Cloud Times, that same year he ranked second among all senators receiving per diem — $13,760.

Furthermore, according to the same story, “In addition to per diem, legislators may claim reimbursement for vehicle mileage, travel to events in or near their legislative districts, lodging, cellphone bills and other costs.”

At a minimum, in 2013 Senator Tomassoni received nearly $45,000 for a part-time job.

In his new gig, he will receive $45,000 a year.

It’s unlikely the people of his district feel compelled to pay Senator Tomassoni $45,000 if there is another organization — committed to their cause — that is prepared to pay him $45,000 to do the same job.

That Sen. Tomassoni believes he is entitled to $90,000 — half of which is footed by the taxpayers of Minnesota — to do, as he claims, two part-time jobs — is exactly the kind of hubris that leaves taxpayers of both political parties cold.

Defenders of Sen. Tomassoni have no leg to stand on.

Regardless of their party affiliation.

If Sen. Tomassoni is so effective at his job as being a state senator he should simply deliver to his district the promises he made for the money the taxpayers of his district — and the state — are already paying him.

If he is not, then he should quit and become the full-time executive director of the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools and accomplish what he has been incapable of doing as an elected official.

But to suggest he is entitled to be both a public servant — and exploit the fact that he is a public servant — to enrich himself is beneath his office.

And, it’s beneath defending.


Norm Coleman is a former Minnesota U.S. senator, mayor of St. Paul and

chairman of the

conservative Minnesota Action Network group.


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