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Minn. Lawmakers Take Cozy Trips with Lobbyists, Health Care Execs

Updated: 10/16/2013 5:25 PM
Created: 10/15/2013 10:19 PM KSTP.com
By: Jay Kolls

For the past five years, some Minnesota lawmakers have traveled to Germany to study that country’s health care system, but who they’ve gone overseas with on those trips is raising some eyebrows. The program is sponsored by the Center for German and European Studies at the University of Minnesota and paid by the German government.

Every year since 2009, however, key lawmakers from the House and Senate Human Services Finance Committee have been invited along with lobbyists from the health care industry and HMO executives.

Each year, the Chairmen of the Human Services Committee makes the trip as well as the ranking minority member.

In 2012 or 2013 the following officials went on the trip:

  • Rep. Jim Abeler, (R) Anoka. Ranking member, House Human Services Finance Committee.
  • Rep. Joe Atkins, (DFL) Inver Grove Heights.  Co-Chair, MN-Sure Legislative Oversight Committee.
  • State Senator, Tony Lourey, (DFL) Kerrick, Chair, Senate Human Services Committee and Co-Chair MN-Sure Legislative Oversight Committee.

Hamline University law professor David Schultz tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS “it isn’t illegal activity, but it should be.”

Schultz says when these meetings “take place 4,000 miles away from Minnesota, there is not a reporter, or a citizen, remotely close enough to ask ‘Hey, what’s really going on here?’” Schultz says these types of trips have been made illegal, in some states, but Minnesota still allows them.

Schultz says it “is unethical, at the very least, for lawmakers to spend a week overseas with lobbyists and health care executives, because those lawmakers have to make decisions about giving those same companies hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts paid by Minnesota taxpayers.” Schultz goes on to say “these cozy trips create a conflict of interest and usually benefit the industry and not the average citizen.”


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