Hagedorn office expense survey focuses on staff
The report is the latest in an investigation into Hagedorn’s disproportionately high taxpayer dollar spending on prepaid mail and printing services during his first year in office, 2019 to 2020. Hagedorn’s office spent nearly $ 500,000 for such printing services. These expenses were for two printing houses: one belonged to the brother of Hagedorn’s chief of staff, Peter Su, and the other belonged to Sample, a part-time digital media worker in Hagedorn’s office.
Both employees were suspended by Hagedorn shortly after the expenses were revealed. Su’s suspension became permanent, but Sample returned to his part-time status and continues to work for Hagedorn.
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The Congressional Ethics Office, an independent, non-partisan body, said it was referring the allegation against Sample to the House Ethics Committee because “there are substantial grounds for believing that Sample may have been involved in and benefited from the use of official funds to procure services from businesses owned or controlled by Congress staff. ”
Hagedorn hired an outside lawyer to conduct an internal review of its prepaid mail practices, which led to both Su and Sample being suspended. Hagedorn and Sample refused to cooperate with the OCE investigation, according to the report.
The report says Sample and Su, who knew each other and worked together in the Virginia state government before being hired by Hagedorn, sought to get away with it financially and tried to secure printing services. for businesses that âthey or their families ownedâ.
The report goes on to say that Hagedorn’s knowledge of the efforts of his two employees remains unclear. But he says several factors indicate that Hagedorn “should have been aware of and acted negligently in overseeing these important contract decisions.”
Attention to irregularities in Hagedorn’s office spending began to gain public attention when Legistorm published a short article on June 8, 2020. It notes that Hagedorn spent 19% of its annual budget on prepaid mail in the first quarter of 2020. During this same period, an average member spent 0.8 percent of their budget.
The OCE says that Su did not cooperate with Hagedorn’s internal review, but the OCE was able to obtain Su’s “partial cooperation”. Su said Sample concealed his stake in Invcoq Technologies LLC. But he found some of Su’s information to be unreliable and untrue.
“Throughout the interview, Su was ambiguous about the idea of ââhiring Sample,” the report said. âInitially, Su indicated that Rep Hagedorn knew Sample and made the first contact on his own. Later, Su states that he made the initial introduction. Su openly acknowledges that he and Sample discussed the issue. ability to provide some type of media or constituency contact services to the Hagedorn representative before either is hired by the Hagedorn representative. ”
Su also said that Hagedorn asked him and Sample to hire Blue Earth Graphics, a printing company in Hagedorn’s hometown, to produce printed direct mail. But Su said the company was unable to meet higher volume requirements. He was also unable to provide the level of customization of graphic and printing choices required by Hagedorn. That’s when Sample suggested another company, Invocq, the company he owns, Su said.
OCE later contacted Blue Earth Graphics to corroborate Su’s claim that the company was unable to meet Hagedorn’s volume and customization needs. The company said their services were abruptly canceled without an explanation. He also said he was quite capable of meeting Hagedorn’s demands for customizable direct mail.
After hiring Invocq, the Hagedorn office paid $ 41,088 for its services on its first disbursement. Prior to that, his office had spent only a tenth of that amount, $ 4,754, on Blue Earth.
The scandal surrounding Hagedorn’s office spending didn’t hurt him in the 2020 election as he won a second term against DFL candidate Dan Feehan. Last July, Hagedorn reported that his kidney cancer had returned. He has yet to say whether he plans to run for a third term to represent Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District, which includes Rochester.
Last October, the House Ethics Committee accepted an OCE recommendation to further investigate allegations that Hagedorn abused office funds as well as allegations that he did not report. an in-kind contribution of private office space.