Political Notebook: Minnesotans Take Top Financial Roundtable Jobs

By Don Davis

One of Washington’s influential lobbying organizations soon will have a stronger Minnesota leaning with the promotion of a Detroit Lakes native.

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, president and chief executive officer of the Financial Services Roundtable, on Jan. 1 will make Eric Hoplin, a former Minnesota Republican Party official, the group’s executive director. Hoplin has been the organization’s vice president of communications and organizational strategy.

The roundtable represents 100 of the country’s largest financial services companies, such as banks, insurance companies and investment firms. Firms the roundtable represents account for nearly $93 trillion in assets.

“Eric’s exceptional leadership and management skills make him the right person to help me lead FSR as one of the most dynamic organizations in Washington,” Pawlenty said.

Hoplin, 35, gained a certain amount of fame as leader of National College Republicans before he became Minnesota GOP deputy chairman in 2005.

In an interview when he worked for the party, Hoplin’s arms whipped about as he spoke in his uber-enthusiastic manner.

“I just love my job,” the animated political wonk said. “There is something new every day.”

Even then, he was used to talking to reporters and large political crowds. He delivered a speech to the 2004 Republican National Convention.

While leading College Republicans, the Seattle Times and other newspapers uncovered a marketing arrangement that riled some older Republicans. The marketing company was accused of over-selling the need for money, especially to the elderly, and not making it clear the solicitation was for College Republicans.

As College Republican leader, Hoplin took the heat.

“I’m the guy who fixed it,” Hoplin declared in 2006 interview. “I just knew what was happening was wrong.”

In that interview, Hoplin said he hoped his career led him to somehow fighting terrorism.

Instead, he works for Pawlenty, who had been fairly quiet after he took the roundtable job since dropping out of the 2012 presidential race. However, in recent days the former governor has greatly increased his social media presence, at one point even quoting what he said in a newspaper story.

Dayton defers on wolves

Howling for Wolves, a group fighting Minnesota’s wolf hunting season, wants to give Gov. Mark Dayton and the Department of Natural Resources petitions with 50,000 signatures in an effort to cancel this year’s hunt.

Members should not get their hopes up.

“In taking this office, I promised to carry out faithfully the laws of the state of Minnesota, not my own views,” Dayton said. “Minnesotans who want to stop wolf hunting need to persuade legislators to change the law.”

The Legislature passed a law establishing a wolf hunting and trapping season, the first of which was last year. But Howling for Wolves officials say a wolf census shows fewer of the animals after the hunt, saying this season should be called off.

Rents up, incomes down

Housing advocates say that since 2000, Minnesota rents have risen 6 percent while renters’ incomes have fallen 17 percent.

The Minnesota Housing Partnership reports that in all but three counties, “there are more extremely low income renters than there are affordable and available apartments to rent. Statewide, there are only 38 units of rental housing available for every 100 extremely low-income renters.”

Partnership Executive Director Chip Halbach said that the situation hurts children the most. “We know that parents end up cutting out food, school supplies and medicines when housing isn’t affordable.”

DFL blasts Kline

Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party leaders are spending much of their time this year going after U.S. Rep. John Kline, a Republican representing an area south of the Twin Cities.

They claim Kline is more conservative Tea Party queen U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, who is not seeking re-election from her northern Twin Cities suburban district.

The National Journal reported that Bachmann was the 80th most conservative member, while Kline was No. 26, the DFL says.

“It comes as a shock to Minnesotans that Congressman Kline is more extreme than Congresswoman Bachmann, but it’s time for Minnesota families to get to know the real Congressman Kline,” DFL Chairman Ken Martin said.

With Bachmann not running, Democrats are turning much of their attention to defeating Kline, who as chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee holds the most powerful position of anyone in the state’s congressional delegation.

Probe done in weeks

An investigation into Minnesota Vikings owners should take weeks, not months, a spokeswoman for the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority says.

There is no deadline to finish the investigation, which is looking into the business dealings of Zygi and Mark Wilf.

Word that the Wilf family was involved in a 21-year-old lawsuit, which they lost in recent days, came as a surprise to Gov. Mark Dayton and other Minnesota politicians who negotiated with the owners last year before agreeing to build a nearly $1 billion stadium for the team.

Prettner Solon out?

Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon is thinking about not running for a second term, the MinnPost on line newspaper reports.

Doug Grow wrote that she said: “I’m 67 years old. I’ve worked since I was 10 years old.”

Prettner Solon was elected to the Senate after her senator-husband died and Gov. Mark Dayton picked her as his running mate in 2010.

She revealed that she and Dayton seldom talk, and they apparently have not discussed the 2014 campaign. “The way I look at it, I’m only 2 and a half years into our term. … It’s not essential to make a decision for awhile.”

Kiffmeyer eyes run

State Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, says she is thinking about running for the secretary of state office she held for two terms.

The St. Cloud Times reported that she is interested in replacing Mark Ritchie, who defeated her in 2006. She also is considering running for U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann’s seat.

In either case, she would maintain her Senate seat, with a four-year term, if she loses.

Ritchie, a Democrat, opted not to seek a third term.