Members of the Twin Cities business community have hit back at Rep. Erik Paulsen's re-election campaign, describing it as exhibiting "some of the worst behavior and judgment we have ever seen in a congressional campaign."
The rebuke was delivered in an editorial published by the Star Tribune on Wednesday, accusing the 3rd District representative's campaign of hitting "a negativity level we have never seen from this former paragon of political civility."
Paulsen is in serious jeopardy of losing his seat to DFL challenger Dean Phillips, and the piece written for the Star Tribune relates to an attack ad ran by the Paulsen campaign last week.
In it, Paulsen accuses the board of the nonprofit Allina Health of doing nothing about a doctor who was accused of sexually harassing nurses at a Richfield clinic in 2007. Phillips was a member of the board in 2007, later becoming chairman in 2009.
The Phillips campaign last week responded to the claim that the board's inaction allowed the harassment to continue, telling WCCO he hadn't even been made aware of the allegations, which were settled out of court, in 2007.
Ten members of the Twin Cities business and nonprofit communities wrote the Star Tribune opinion piece in response to the ad, among them former Medtronic CEO Bill George, former Piper Jaffrey CEO Tad Piper, former Northwest Area Foundation president Terry Saario, and former Allina Health Board Chair Ed Spencer.
George had previously made his feelings clear about the Paulsen ad on Twitter.
In the Star Tribune piece, they accuse the Paulsen campaign of leveling "an outrageous lie at members of our community who volunteered to serve on the board of a nonprofit organization."
"We point this out because Rep. Paulsen didn’t just aim this recent attack at his political opponent," they add. "He went on to accuse the entire Allina Board of Directors (on which Paulsen’s opponent served at the time) of covering up a sexual harassment suit in 2007.
"We resent the implication that the Allina board ignored such concerns. The validity of Paulsen’s claim is further disproven by the plaintiff’s attorney in the lawsuit, who has publicly refuted the claim."
"We have known Congressman Paulsen for many years and we have respected his ability to act honorably to bridge divides between the parties and see the big picture. But something has changed. Over the past years, he has forgotten the important common-sense role he has played. And now he has exhibited some of the worst behavior and judgment that we have ever seen in a congressional campaign."
The latest poll by SurveyUSA for the 3rd District, which covers a large area of the southwestern Twin Cities metro, has Phillips leading Paulsen by 5 points.
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