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TV ads draw fire in hard-fought Twin Cities congressional races

October 13, 2018

A national Republican political group attacks Democratic candidate for Congress Angie Craig in a TV ad for supporting repeal of the federal medical device tax, even though her Republican opponent also supports repealing that tax.

U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsens latest ad hitting his opponent, Democrat Dean Phillips, over a sexual harassment scandal draws a public rebuke from an attorney in the case who says Phillips had nothing to do with it.

As Election Day draws closer, the TV ad wars in these two suburban Twin Cities districts are growing more intense. Paulsen and Rep. Jason Lewis, the Republican in the neighboring congressional district, are facing Phillips and Craig in two expensive, hard-fought races that are among a handful likely to help determine which party controls the U.S. House next year.

On Friday, attorney Lori Peterson who represented a group of women who sued Allina Health for sexual harassment in 2007 blasted Paulsen for making it a campaign issue against Phillips.

Phillips served on the Allina board of directors from 2005-11. A new Paulsen TV ad calls Phillips shady and charges that he did nothing to combat the harassment.

No allegations were made about Phillips and he had no involvement in this matter. In fact, Id never even heard of him until this election campaign started, Peterson said.

Paulsen campaign manager John-Paul Yates responded that Phillips says he knew nothing about these allegations despite the fact they were widely published in the Star Tribune. It is clear Dean Phillips is either lying or was a negligent member of the board.

Phillips campaign manager Zach Rodvold released a statement saying, Ms. Petersons statement speaks for itself, and if congressman Paulsen had any decency hed take down the ad and apologize.

Just as Paulsen and Republican groups have delved into Phillips background in business as fodder for attacks, Lewis and GOP groups have been hitting Craig, a former health care company executive, as beholden to corporate special interests. A new ad from the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), which works to elect Republicans to the House, suggests that Craigs support for lifting the federal medical device tax is a benefit to the same industry bankrolling her campaign.

The script omits that Lewis has also voted for legislation that included provisions to repeal or delay the tax.

This line is really disingenuous, and I think our federal delegation on a bipartisan basis would agree that this is an area where weve actually found some common ground, Craig said.

Neither the Lewis campaign nor the NRCC responded to requests for comment on the ad, which alludes to Craigs compensation from St. Jude. She reported receiving $3 million from St. Jude Medical in 2017, the year she stepped down as an executive; she said it was a combination of salary, deferred compensation from a longtime savings plan and stock options that vested when the company was sold.

In 2017, Lewis voted with Republican colleagues for a health care package, intended as a replacement to the Affordable Care Act, that repealed the tax. He voted twice in 2018 for budget measures that suspended the tax for another two years. Medical Alley Association President and CEO Shaye Mandle released a statement in January 2018 thanking Lewis and a bipartisan group of Minnesota lawmakers for voting to suspend the measure.

Craigs campaign is releasing its own TV ad on Saturday that accuses Lewis of taking half his money from special interests and putting them first an apparent reference to the congressmans acceptance of $916,215 from political action committees (PACs) this election cycle.

During their first match in 2016, Lewis won by less than 2 percent, even as Craig outspent him 4-1.

Paulsen was a major proponent of doing away with the medical device tax, securing 277 co-sponors on a measure to do so. In July, all but one House Republican and 57 Democrats voted to repeal the medical device tax.

Todays vote shows strong bipartisan support for lifting this burden on innovators in an industry so important to Minnesota, Paulsen said following that vote.

Republicans have repeatedly pushed to get rid of the tax in recent years, along with many Democrats. Several medical device firms are among Minnesotas most prominent corporations.

This is an additional tax on manufacturing, innovation and research at a time when we need manufacturing to be strong, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar said in a statement earlier this year.

Craig has drawn political attacks for her past career as an executive at St. Jude Medical. The NRCC ran ads against her earlier in the campaign that painted her as corrupt by outlining various lawsuits against St. Jude and another previous employer, Smith Nephew. Craig has responded that she had nothing to do with those suits and worked in different divisions, or was no longer at the firms at the time of the allegations.

In their 2016 contest, Lewis repeatedly drew attention to Craig being the second-largest recipient of campaign contributions from the medical device industry. That year, the NRCC made a similar attack against Craigs support for the industry.

The bottom line is that I am going to stand up to any tax that would cost Minnesota jobs, Craig said, adding, This super PAC ad is attacking me for the same exact position he took.

Maya Rao 202-662-7433

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