The Politics of Paychecks During Shutdowns May Come Back to Haunt Candidates

U.S. Capitol BuildingThe federal government has been shutdown for almost six days, but after the federal government re-opens, at least one issue will likely dog incumbent members of Congress: Did they accept a paycheck during the government shutdown? The only member of Minnesota’s Congressional delegation that is accepting a paycheck during the federal government shutdown is Congressman Keith Ellison.

Congressman Ellison told WCCO:

If handing back pay would help furloughed workers I would find a way to survive without pay, but of course it won’t. Only allowing a vote on a clean continuing resolution will do that. The focus on Congressional pay is an attempt to draw attention away from the issue. 

MPR contacted the other members of Minnesota’s Congressional delegation and they are either declining pay or donating their salary during the shutdown to charity. U.S. Senator Al Franken, who is up for re-election next year, will donate his salary to Second Harvest Heartland, a Minnesota-based hunger relief organization serving Minnesota and Western Wisconsin.  

One of the Republican candidates hoping to defeat Sen. Franken, Mike McFadden, quickly placed a petition on the front page of his website, which states “NO SHUTDOWN PAY FOR LAWMAKERS.” 


In 2011, the longest state government shutdown in the history of Minnesota happened, lasting 20 days. Many of the major candidates seeking statewide office served in the Minnesota Legislature during the 2011 shutdown and the smaller 2005 partial government shutdown in Minnesota. So who accepted their pay checks in 2005 and 2011?

Candidates for Governor

Mark Dayton – Elected in 2010, Gov. Dayton was in office during the 2011 Minnesota government shutdown in 2011 and he was the first elected office to announce that he would not accept a salary during the shutdown.

Kurt Zellers – Representative Kurt Zellers, served as Speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives from 2011-2013, during the time of the government shutdown. Speaker Zellers was paid during the shutdown. According to Minnesota State News, a media service from the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota, then-Representative Zellers also accepted pay during the 2005 partial government shutdown, as did all 201 members of the Minnesota Legislature.

Jeff Johnson – Hennepin County Commissioner and the Republican National Committeeman Jeff Johnson was not serving in the Minnesota Legislature during the 2011 government shutdown. But, Johnson was serving in the Minnesota Legislature during the 2005 partial government shutdown and records from Minnesota State News claim all 201 members of the Minnesota Legislature, including Johnson, were paid during the shutdown.

Dave Thompson – State Senator Dave Thompson was elected to the Minnesota Legislature in 2010 and re-elected in 2012. Senator Thompson served in the Minnesota Senate during the 2011 state government shutdown and accepted his full salary.

Scott Honour – Scott Honour has never held elective office, therefore my analysis isn’t applicable to him.  

Candidates for U.S. Senate

Al Franken – As noted above, U.S. Senator Al Franken, will donate his salary to Second Harvest Heartland, a Minnesota-based hunger relief organization serving Minnesota and Western Wisconsin. In fact, when the federal government faced a potential government shutdown in 2011, Sen. Franken stated that should the federal government shutdown, he would not accept his salary. 

Julianne Ortman – State Senator Julianne Ortman was elected to the Minnesota Senate in 2002 and served during both the 2005 and 2011 Minnesota state government shutdown. Again, records from Minnesota State News, indicate Ortman received pay during the 2005 state government shutdown. In 2011, Ortman accepted her full paycheck during the state government shutdown. As a candidate now running to be the final Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Sen. Al Franken, Ortman has made an issue of salaries during the federal government shutdown by tweeting this last week:photo.PNG       

Sen. Ortman, who according to public records and media reports, accepted her full salary during two state government shutdown. She now exposes herself to the charge of being a hypocrite by blasting President Obama in a tweet about essential staff, while she could have voluntarily refused to refuse her paycheck or donate it to the charity of her choice. 

Jim Abler – Records from the Minnesota State News, indicate Abler received pay during the 2005 state government shutdown. In 2011, Abler accepted his full paycheck during the state government shutdown. But unlike Sen. Ortman, who’s tweet will make her the potential target by the other candidates running for the U.S. Senate, Rep. Abeler has kept his rhetoric down about the federal government shutdown and payment of salaries. 

Chris Dahlberg – Chris Dahlberg has been elected to county board, so again, my analysis isn’t applicable to him.

Mike McFadden – Mike McFadden has never held elective office, therefore my analysis isn’t applicable to him. His comments have been strong that lawmakers should not receive paycheck durings the federal government shutdown. 

Sen. Julianne Ortman

Sen. Julianne Ortman

Politics aside, it’s a personal decision for an elected official to refuse to accept their paycheck during a government shutdown. Some, more than others, can financially afford to forgo their salary. The smart decision politically for elected officials during a government shutdown is to refuse to accept their paycheck or donate their pay to the charity of their choice.  The worst move for a candidate or elected official during a government shutdown (aside from shutting down government) is to poke others for accepting pay, when records show you’ve accepted pay in previous shutdowns. While most of the elected officials and candidates have messaged this issue correctly, Sen. Ortman has exposed a weakness in her own record.  

As always, please check back to for additional commentary and analysis on the 2014 elections. 

One Comment

  1. Pingback: Political Drive-Time – October 7, 2013 | - An inside view of Minnesota politics by Michael Brodkorb

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.