MANKATO Rep. Tim Walz's campaign for Minnesota's 1st Congressional District harshly criticized his Republican opponent Allen Quist on Wednesday, claiming Quist was only opposing the federal Farm Bill for personal gain.
The press release with the accusation came in response to a Quist press conference on his opposition to the Farm Bill. Quist called it a misleading bill that focused on food stamps. He argued that the addition to the federal debt that the passage of the bill would add exceeds any problems that came from delaying its passage.
Following the press conference, Walz's Campaign Manager Sara Severs handed out a press release that stated Quist was on the wrong side of the issue. It outlined how Walz has been working with Republican and Democrat organizations to advocate for the stalled bill's passage, which it claimed was essential for Minnesota farmers.
The concluding statements in the press release dealt with Quist's relationship with the Farm Bill's proposal to eliminate direct payments to farmers in favor of crop insurance. The nature of the claim makes it essentially impossible to substantiate.
"It's hard to imagine what reason Quist has for opposing the Farm Bill, unless he is worried about losing the farm subsidies he has received from the federal government since 1995. Watching out for his own pocketbook and not Minnesota farmers makes Quist a typical politician," said Severs in the press release.
Quist has received $577,000 in farm subsidies from 1995 to 2010.
Quist expressed outrage about the statements. He said the claim was purely negative campaigning because it attacked his motives.
"When I was in the Legislature, a person was ruled out of order if they made a claim about a person's motives. It's rightly considered wrong because no one can possibly know another person's motives, but it's hard for the person to defend against them," said Quist.
Quist claimed that Walz was the true hypocrite in the situation, railing against somebody for taking the farm subsidies he voted for.
When asked about how the Walz campaign could prove its claim and whether it was appropriate, Severs said it was a question to ask Quist.
"He needed to layout why he took half a million dollars in subsidies, then decried government spending. He's not being honest with people on why he does it," said Severs, "Walz has been doing bipartisan work to try to get [the Farm Bill] passed. I don't see Mr. Quist working with the Democrats on anything. He's pretty set in his ways and ideas."
Quist said he reconciles taking farm subsidies in the past because it was an economic necessity to remain a competitive farmer. He said that he does not regret taking the subsidies nor claims any negativity against those who did take subsidies. However, he said he opposes the government situation that created the situation in the first place, and that he supports eliminating the farm subsidies to end the practice.
Similarly, he said that despite criticizing the current food stamp program, he did not blame anybody eligible for food stamps for taking them. He said recipients were in the same situation as him on farm subsidies, where they would be putting themselves at a severe disadvantage to not take them.
"I don't think it's wrong for people to take advantage of these programs. It's just part of the American life," said Quist.
(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)