Feds Seek $748,000 From GOP State Senator

Updated: 04/01/2014 6:40 PM
Created: 04/01/2014 6:29 PM
By: Tom Hauser

A state senator failed to respond to a federal civil lawsuit filed in January, so on Tuesday the U.S. Attorney in Minnesota ordered Sean Nienow to immediately pay the government $748,532. 

The U.S. Attorney's office filed an "affidavit of default" because "no answer or other pleading" has been received from Nienow since he was served with the lawsuit in January.

Sen. Nienow, a Republican from Cambridge, wouldn't discuss any specifics of his case during an interview just outside the Minnesota Senate Chambers Tuesday afternoon. When asked why he hasn't responded, Nienow told me "that'll all get worked out as we move along...we're just in the process of having discussions."

Nienow has promoted himself as a fiscal conservative in the state legislature as a strong opponent of public financing for the Vikings stadium and federal spending on health care.  Outside the legislature, Nienow and his wife started a business called "National Camp Association" in 2008. It was mostly an online business aimed at helping parents find camps for their kids.

In 2009, the Nienows applied for and were granted a $613,000 loan through the federal Small Business Administration. After making $7,500 monthly payments for a while, they suddenly stopped. Nienow told KSTP he had a good business plan that just didn't work out. "The question is if the numbers didn't work, would the bank have approved it?" he asks, rhetorically. "Of course not. Everything worked by the numbers."

But in reality, he admits the business failed. When asked if all the money is gone, after a long pause, all he would say is, "that's part of what we're discussing right now."

The federal government is asking for repayment of $558,000 in principal and more than $190,000 in interest and court costs. They've also asked that those amounts continue to accrue interest until repaid.

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