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Nolan talks economics, tribal issues in Walker visit

U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn., receives an explanation of equipment from laser operator Chris Splichal at Next Innovations, a Walker-based manufacturer on Tuesday. Nolan also spoke at the Elder Abuse Awareness Conference at Northern Lights Casino and Event Center at Leech Lake. (Zach Kayser | Bemidji Pioneer)

WALKER -- With more campaign cash than his opponent, U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan took advantage of Congress' Easter break to visit constituents back home in Minnesota.

In the first three months of 2014, Nolan's campaign to keep hold of the Eighth Congressional District raised about $65,000 more than Republican opponent Stewart Mills, a vice president at Mills Fleet Farm. However, Nolan attributes that advantage simply to high support in the Eighth.

"The only thing I can say is, I've got a lot of enthusiastic supporters out there in the district," Nolan said in a Pioneer interview. "Various people throughout the district have offered to do fundraisers for me, and I do that."

Nolan decried the Supreme Court decision earlier this month in McCutcheon v. FEC, which raised the limits on the cumulative amount of money a donor can give to all political campaigns in a particular election cycle.

"In itself, it's not that big a deal, but as part of a trend, it's a very bad deal," Nolan said of the decision. "We're moving toward an oligarchy where the rich dominate American politics, and I'm pretty sure our framers did not have that intention."

Nolan was one of several members of Minnesota's congressional delegation to take advantage of a two-week break on Capitol Hill to visit constituents. Fellow Democrats, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar was in Park Rapids and Walker on Tuesday, and U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson visited Bemidji last week.

Visits with tribal elders

Nolan began his day in Walker with an address to the third annual Elder Abuse Awareness Conference on the Leech Lake Reservation at Northern Star Casino and Event Center. He told the crowd of mostly tribal elders he was proud to have the Ojibwe people in his district.

"I get to represent two great nations: the Chippewa Nation, and... the United States of America," he said.

He mentioned recent legislation he authored that swapped land owned by Carlton County with land owned by the Fond Du Lac Band of Ojibwe, intended to make whole the tribal land that was broken up by white settlers acquiring tracts that were supposed to belong to the Ojibwe under the Treaty of 1854. He also talked about legislation he was working on to prevent anti-senior fraud, and said he'd fight efforts to "turn Social Security over to Wall Street".

"If ever there was an entity that was rigged to take advantage of people, that's certainly one of them," he said.

Nolan said his office doors were open to help tribal members.

"One of my important goals in life is to be the best champion that Indian Country has ever had," he said.

Innovative stop

Next on Nolan's Walker tour was a stop at Next Innovations, a metalworking plant that manufactures products ranging from lawn decorations to shooting targets. While meeting with company leadership, Nolan connected Next Innovations' upcoming move to export products to Panama with his own experience running an export company.

Both then and now, the U.S. government provides an invaluable service to American companies in using the commercial attaches at embassies abroad to foster business deals with local companies, Nolan said later.

"Their job is to know that market," he said of the attaches.

Nolan also talked about the Overseas Private Investment Corp., a self-funded government agency that Nolan said provides insurance to American companies against potential losses due to things like political unrest in a foreign country.

"You have (OPIC), you have the commercial attaches, you have some export finance entities at various state and federal levels to help you finance your sales," he said. "It's all very, very helpful, especially to small- to medium-sized companies."