ST. PAUL -- Gov. Jesse Ventura, who caught plenty of flak for a budget that many people thought was too hard on education, struck back Friday by criticizing the lobbying bill run up by the state's largest teachers union.
Ventura also used his weekly radio show to criticize House Republicans for an upcoming fund-raiser at a St. Paul country club.
The union, Education Minnesota, has a membership of 69,000 teachers and spent $725,000 lobbying the Legislature during the first six months of this year -- making it the top spender among interest groups. That is the most the union, with an annual budget of $22 million, has spent lobbying the Capitol.
"I'm just amazed at the stats coming out of Education Minnesota and how the whole system works," Ventura said.
"They take public tax dollars, and then turn right around and use those public tax dollars to get more public tax dollars," he said.
Union teachers are required to pay a portion of their wages from the state in membership dues. The union lobbies on their behalf to get more education funding from the state.
This year, lawmakers significantly changed the way education was funded, so the stakes were higher for education funding advocates. The governor also had proposed much lower levels of funding than the schools had requested, which increased lobbying activity.
The governor also took aim at a fund-raiser for the House Republicans -- billed as an end-of-session party -- at the Town and Country Club in St. Paul on Aug. 15.
A seat at the leadership table will cost guests $2,500. Guests must pay $500 to get their photo taken with a lawmaker and $100 just to get in.
He said people who attend the Republican event, hosted by several political action committees, will be buying influence with the lawmakers.
"What you have here is how your government is being run today," Ventura said. "Let's remember, this was the House Republicans that killed all campaign finance reform, would not allow it to see the light of day during the session. This clearly shows you why. Because they're run by political action (committees) -- the Democrats are the same -- they're run by special interests."
House Speaker Steve Sviggum disagreed with Ventura's analysis of the fund-raiser.
"It is not buying access," Sviggum said. "My door is open to anyone at anytime."
Sviggum also said the House will be holding interim hearings on campaign finance reform legislation.
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