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JEFF JOHNSON
JEFF JOHNSON
May 13 Team Elise
JEFF JOHNSON TIMELINE
1985 Graduated from Detroit Lakes High School
1989 Graduated from Concordia
1992 Graduated from Georgetown University Law School
1992-2000 Practiced law in Chicago and Minneapolis; served as attorney for Cargill
2000 Elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives
Post 2001 Started employment-law consulting business, Midwest Employment Resources; also worked as an
employment attorney with Wessels & Pautsch, P.C.
2002 Reelected to the Minnesota House
2004 Reelected to the Minnesota House
2006 Ran unsuccessfully for state attorney general
2008 Elected Hennepin county commissioner
2011 Elected RNC committeeman
2012 Re-elected Hennepin county commissioner
2013 Entered race for governor
THE COMPANY HE KEEPS
Johnson attended 9/11 Truther event. “Ben Swann, a former television reporter, brought his controversial ‘truth’
to Minneapolis last week attracting between 150 and 200 attendees, according to an organizer, including a few
candidates. Swann has also attracted controversy for breathing life into conspiracies ‘rethinking’ the Sept. 11, 2001
attacks, questioning the ‘official narrative’ of lone shooters in recent mass shootings and an alternative explanation
for the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson, a Hennepin County
commissioner, attended part of the event…” (Rachel E. Stassen-Berger, “Ben Swann’s controversial ‘truth’ event
attracts controversy — and campaigns,” Star Tribune, September 17, 2013)
Johnson campaign logo promoted on 9/11 Truther event materials. “The Alliance for a Better Minnesota is
petitioning to demand that Hennepin County commissioner and 2014 MNGOP gubernatorial hopeful Jeff Johnson
apologize for attending a 9/11 truther event held last Friday at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. The event,
which also featured (of all people) former AM 1130 political talker Bob Davis (see an event flier listing all the
participants here), was headlined by Ben Swann, a former TV anchor-turned-reporter who recently raised eyebrows
with his piece ‘Reality Check: More Americans Are ‘Rethinking’ 9/11?’ In the piece, Swann raises the same
questions about the allegedly mysterious collapse of the World Trade Center #7 building as those raised by
Minnesota 9/11 Truth in a full-page ad taken out in City Pages last week. Days after the 9/11 anniversary, Johnson,
whose website betrays no hint of viewpoints anywhere outside the Republican mainstream, was spotted at the
Humphrey event. ABM reports that he did more than just attend — his campaign logo ‘was promoted on event
materials, tweets from the event claimed that his campaign staffed a table in the lobby, and the candidate attended
the event himself,’ an ABM press release says.” (Aaron Rupar, “MNGOP governor candidate Jeff Johnson taking
heat for 9/11 truther connection,” City Pages, September 18 2013)
TRIED, TESTED AND REJECTED AS STATEWIDE CANDIDATE
Failed in 2006 Attorney General Race
Johnson gained only 41 percent of the vote in failed run for attorney general. (Robert Franklin, “Turnover of
state offices is one for history books,” Star Tribune, November 9, 2006)
Johnson lost by 12 points despite running for 15 months before his opponent entered race. “Swanson was a
late entry into the attorney general’s race after the party’s endorsed candidate, Rep. Matt Entenza, abruptly dropped
out in July. By contrast, Johnson had been running since February 2005.” (Robert Franklin, “Turnover of state
offices is one for history books,” Star Tribune, November 9, 2006; Steve Karnowski,” Democrats win attorney
general, secretary of state, auditor races,” Associated Press, November 8, 2006)
Underwhelmed during 2014 Precinct Caucuses
Despite huge effort, Johnson finished with only 17 percent at 2014 precinct caucuses. “Johnson’s 17 percent
finish matters enormously to him. Along with state Sen. Dave Thompson, he is one of the two Republican
candidates in the field who have pledged to abide by the party’s endorsement. Johnson won a similar straw poll last
October with 35 percent of the vote, beating Thompson’s 27 points by a comfortable margin. This time Johnson
finished 9 points behind the second-place Thompson, whose gambit in naming fellow Sen. Michelle Benson as his
running mate seems to have paid off on caucus night, particularly on her CD 6 stomping grounds.” (Politics In
Minnesota: The Weekly Report, February 7, 2014)
ISSUES
Taxes/Spending
Johnson voted for anti-free market legislation which would effectively create a monopoly for certain
diagnostic services. (HJ 7329: Passed 90-39; April 27, 2006; Johnson voted Yea.)
Johnson voted to dedicate 3/8 of one percent of the state sales tax to arts and the environment. (HJ 7110:
Passed 78-55; April 25, 2006; Johnson voted Yea.)
Johnson and Hennepin County sought millions in federal stimulus money. “Replacement of the Lowry Avenue
bridge in Minneapolis topped a list of 27 projects approved by Hennepin County commissioners Tuesday as
candidates for federal stimulus money. The board approved projects that would cost just over $172 million. Thirty-
one other projects that cost more than $208 million were bumped back to board committees for further discussion.
Commissioners are eager to get projects moving as soon as possible to compete for the federal funding, and more
projects likely will surface for approval in the next two weeks. All of the projects still must win approval from
federal officials or state agencies, such as the Minnesota Department of Transportation, that are allotted lump sums
of federal funding. (Board County Minutes, February 24, 20009; Mary Jane Smetanka, “Board OKs $172 million
wish list for stimulus money,” Star Tribune, February 25, 2009)
 “Other projects approved by the commissioners include: • $38.5 million for energy efficiency and
conservation, including replacing heating, lighting and air-conditioning systems and roofs in many county
buildings. New libraries in Plymouth and Maple Grove would get green roofs and other energy efficiencies.
East Lake, North Regional, Franklin and Linden Hills libraries would get heating and cooling fixes or
insulation. …• $600,000 to maintain roads and trails, eliminate buckthorn, restore habitat and plant trees in
parks and cities using crews of juvenile and adult offenders who are doing community service under the
Sentenced to Serve program.” (Board County Minutes, February 24, 20009; Mary Jane Smetanka, “Board
OKs $172 million wish list for stimulus money,” Star Tribune, February 25, 2009)
Johnson later asked for more federal stimulus money. “Crystal Lake in Robbinsdale should become a little more
crystalline after Hennepin County commissioners on Tuesday approved not one but two possible ways to clean up
the polluted lake. The board agreed to ask for $3 million in federal stimulus money to clean up the 78-acre lake and
two others nearby. … The stimulus money request for Crystal Lake passed unanimously.’” (Mary Jane Smetanka,
“Board approves two plans to clean up Crystal Lake,” Star Tribune, March 25, 2009)
Johnson proposed increasing property tax increase ceiling. “Battening the hatches for the sea of red ink they fear
will rise even higher, Hennepin County commissioners on Tuesday approved a 4.95 percent increase in the property
tax levy ceiling for 2010 to cover mounting medical costs and the potential for more state aid cuts. … Jeff Johnson,
the only commissioner to vote against setting the ceiling at a 4.95 percent increase, proposed 3 percent instead.”
(Kevin Duchschere, “County Board backs 5% ceiling on tax increase,” Star Tribune, September 9, 2009)
“Johnson said he doesn’t support tax increases, but that he wouldn’t sign a no-new-taxes pledge – or any
other pledge – because he thinks they become a distraction.” (Brian Bakst, “Johnson enters race for
governor,” St. Cloud Times, May 6, 2013)
ANYTHING TO GET ELECTED
On Medical Marijuana
Johnson says “yes” to medical marijuana. “Medical marijuana is one of the rare issues of the Capitol that does
not break down along party lines. That became evident during a recent Republican gubernatorial forum in
Rochester. The five candidates were asked whether they would be willing to sign a bill legalizing marijuana.
Hibbing teacher Rob Farnsworth, Sen. Dave Thompson and Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson all said
“yes.” Wayzata businessman Scott Honour and former House Speaker Kurt Zellers said ‘no.’” (Heather J. Carlson,
“Campaign to legalize medical pot in Minnesota underway,” Post Bulletin, October 29, 2013)
Flip-flop: Just months earlier, Johnson didn’t have a position on medical marijuana. MinnPost: “Would you
support the legislative proposal to legalize medical marijuana?” Jeff Johnson: “You stumped me. I don’t know.”
(Cyndy Brucato, “GOP candidate Jeff Johnson on raising taxes, stricter gun control, gay marriage: He’s
opposed,” MinnPost, May 6, 2013)
On KingFish
Johnson backed project KingFish; now says he regrets supporting it. “A recent KARE-11 report about the
secretive use of cellphone tracking devices by Minnesota law enforcement agencies has sparked calls for hearings
from a bipartisan group of lawmakers, forced two prominent political candidates to publicly revisit past positions on
the controversial technology, and outraged open government advocates. … Conversely, Jeff Johnson, a Hennepin
County Commissioner and current gubernatorial candidate, wrote that disclosures about the NSA snooping — as
well as ‘widespread unauthorized and unwarranted access of individual data in state databases’ — caused him to
regret his past support for KingFish.” (Mike Mosedale, “Phone tracking debate to get Minnesota House
hearing, Legal Ledger, December 27, 2013)
Flashback: Johnson voted for KingFish. “The latest: The Hennepin County Board for a second time has tabled
Sheriff Rich Stanek’s request to seek $426,150 in federal money for a cell-phone tracking device called the
KingFish. The device helps law enforcement agencies by pinpointing the location of cell phones that are on but not
being used. …Commissioner Jeff Johnson said he was convinced it was an important and useful law enforcement
tool that wouldn’t violate privacy rights. How they voted: Commissioners Peter McLaughlin, Mike Opat, Mark
Stenglein and Dorfman voted to table the request. Commissioners Jan Callison, Randy Johnson and Jeff Johnson
voted against the layover.” (Kevin Duchschere, “Hennepin hangs up on cell phone tracker,” Star Tribune, March 4,
2010)
AT ODDS WITH CONSERVATIVES
On New Pro-Life Reforms
Johnson: “I would not expend any political capital on the issue.” “I am pro-life so I would likely sign pro-life
legislation if it came before me but I would not expend any political capital on the issue or be proposing any
changes at all.” (Cyndy Brucato, “GOP candidate Jeff Johnson on raising taxes, stricter gun control, gay marriage:
He’s opposed,” MinnPost, May 6, 2013)
On Importance of Social I ssues
Johnson: “On the local level, social issues are largely irrelevant.” “Jeff Johnson, the Hennepin County
commissioner who also serves as Republican national committeeman, bluntly addressed the potential divide posed
by the Paul movement at last month’s convention. …Besides, Johnson said, ‘on the local level, social issues are
largely irrelevant and foreign policy is entirely irrelevant. So I think it’s a positive development.’” (Kevin
Duchschere, “Ron Paul disciples seek local offices,” Star Tribune, June 11, 2012)
On Partisan J udicial Elections
Johnson expressed “mixed feelings” regarding partisan judicial elections. Minnesota Lawyer: “Where do you
stand on the issue of partisan judicial elections?” Johnson: “I have mixed feelings on that. I do not believe that the
White case is going to make much of a difference. And I know a lot of lawyers have fears that it’s just going to be
disastrous. I really don’t think it will. And I can understand the frustration of many citizens in the state of Minnesota
who feel like they just have no information at all on judges, and some of them are looking for some small piece of
information about their general philosophy. … [But] if some of the horror stories that people are afraid will happen
do happen then we’ve got to make some changes.” (Michelle Lore “Interview with Jeff Johnson, MN
lawmaker/attorney running for state attorney general,” The Minnesota Lawyer, October 2, 2006)
On Campaign Finance
Johnson on 527s: “I think that’s a fair question to ask if we can regulate (527s) at the state level. And if so,
how?“ “State government’s role in regulating 527s is an issue for legislators and legal experts, said Rep. Jeff
Johnson, R-Plymouth, chairman of the Civil Law and Elections Committee. ‘I think that’s a fair question to ask if
we can regulate (527s) at the state level. And if so, how?’ Johnson said.” (Charley Shaw, “MN lawmakers debate
status of 527 groups,” The Legal Ledger, February 3, 2005)
AT ODDS WITH LIBERTARIANS
On Pseudoephedrine Crackdown
Johnson pushed crackdown which “required pharmacies to keep cold medications containing
pseudoephedrine a key ingredient for meth behind the counter.” “Johnson, a three-term state representative,
tried to make the race a referendum on Hatch’s performance as attorney general and said he wanted to shift the
focus to public safety. He helped lead a crackdown on methamphetamine that required pharmacies to keep cold
medications containing pseudoephedrine a key ingredient for meth behind the counter.”(Steve Karnowski, “Minn
AG: Hatch protege or rare GOP winner?” Associated Press, November 7, 2006)
On Familial DNA
Johnson spoke approvingly of proposal to use familial DNA. “What happens when DNA collected from a crime
scene doesn’t yield an identical match in a police database but is a partial match with someone else, probably a
relative? Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek thinks Minnesota should find out. Stanek wants a state law allowing
investigators to use familial DNA — also called kinship DNA — as a tool to narrow the field of suspects when an
exact match isn’t found.…. The possible infringement of the privacy and civil rights of innocent people have raised
concerns about the technique. Another worry: Members of minority groups may be disproportionately targeted since
they make up about 60 percent of the prison population in the United States. … Hennepin County Commissioner
Jeff Johnson, who chairs the County Board’s public safety committee, said he’s inclined ‘to provide law
enforcement with as many tools as we can and this seems like a pretty useful scientific tool.’ Johnson said he would
need to have questions answered about privacy considerations.” (Kevin Duchschere, “Sheriff backs use of familial
DNA,” Star Tribune, January 9, 2011)
On Violent Video Game Crackdown
Testifying before U.S. Senate, Johnson asked Washington for federal funds to combat violent video games;
bill he sponsored had potential constitutional issues.. SEN. BROWNBACK: “Representative Johnson, what
would be the most useful or helpful thing we could do at the federal level for you, at the state level, dealing with this
issue? What information, what could we do to be the most helpful?” JOHNSON: “Mr. Chairman, I think two things
come to mind. Number one, anything you can do to provide more evidence than we already have. And I’m under the
impression that there may be enough there in front of a certain court to show a link and a compelling state
interest. But anything that the government could help establish in that area by funding something would be very
helpful. And then as I mentioned, I think at least there should a discussion of a rating system different than what we
have. And I don’t think the rating system we have is necessarily wrong, but I think it does pose some separate
potential constitutional problems.” (U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee: Subcommittee on Constitution, Civil Rights
and Property Rights Holds a Hearing On Violent Video Games Regulation, March 29, 2006)
Johnson acknowledged bill he sponsored would not be enforced. “Children and teens who buy or rent games
rated for more mature players can face a fine of $25 — less than many Minnesota cities charge for a parking ticket.
The law, which takes effect Aug. 1, also requires retailers to post warning signs in their stores. Even the law’s chief
sponsor thinks it won’t be enforced. …Jeff Johnson, a Republican representative from Plymouth who’s running for
state attorney general, was the primary sponsor of the bill in the House. ‘I don’t think we’ll ever see a kid fined for
this,’ Johnson said. ‘The purpose was to get people’s attention, particularly parents’ attention, and to discourage kids
a little bit. Maybe it will make them a little bit less interested and a little scared of trying it.’” (John Reinan, “Video
game makers take aim at new Minnesota law,” Star Tribune, July 7, 2006)
Johnson blasted for sponsoring video game crackdown he expected never to be enforced. “Starting Aug. 1,
Minnesota is supposed to implement a law aimed at keeping minors and violent video games apart… This law is so
bad on so many fronts that it’s another shining example of all that’s wrong with politicians who would rather pander
for votes than point to obvious solutions to problems. … And that brings us to perhaps the most ridiculous aspect of
this entire situation. Rep. Jeff Johnson, chief House author of the plan and the Republican candidate for attorney
general, even admitted during the session he never expected the measure to be enforced. Why then waste
Minnesotans’ time and tax dollars not just passing unrealistic legislation, but having to fight in the courts to have it
enforced?” (Randy Krebs op-ed, “Video game legislation is a waste of time, effort,” St. Cloud Times, July 21, 2006)
Johnson video game bill struck down as infringement of free speech. “A federal judge on Monday shot down a
Minnesota law that would fine youngsters who get their hands on the smuttiest, bloodiest and most violent video
games. … Given the court’s ruling, bill sponsor Rep. Jeff Johnson, R-Plymouth, said he might try a different
approach next session. ‘I don’t know if we could go and craft different legislation that would be more narrowly
tailored,’ Johnson said. ‘Maybe the next step is just outside of legislation.’ Informing parents, he said, might be
more effective.”(Shannon Prather, “U.S. judge throws out Minnesota video game law; Statute violates free speech,
unsupported by research,” Pioneer Press, August 1, 2006)
 “This year, he sponsored bills making it harder for governments to seize private property through eminent
domain and barring minors from buying or renting violent, adult-rated video games. A federal judge struck
down the video bill as an infringement of free speech.” (Patrick Sweeney, “Candidates focus on Hatch
legacy; Swanson would continue his efforts; Johnson raps priorities,” Pioneer Press, October 30, 2006)
OTHER PROBLEMATIC POSITIONS
Johnson voted to strip all state funding from the University of Minnesota for accepting private donations for
stem cell research. “Jeff Johnson, her Republican opponent, is a capable, likable and respected suburban legislator
who is also well suited to the job, but whose views on policy place him outside the mainstream. Consider his vote in
2004 to strip all state funding from the University of Minnesota for accepting private donations for stem cell
research. Or his bill to restrict policyholders from suing their insurance companies. Or his vote against disclosure of
compensation packages paid to HMO and health insurance executives, the very issue that rocked UnitedHealth
Group last week.” (Editorial, “Lori Swanson for attorney general; Jeff Johnson’s crime focus is good, but he voted
to cut cops, courts,” Star Tribune, October 22, 2006)
“Johnson is right to highlight crime as a serious threat. But as a legislator he repeatedly voted to cut funding
for public safety, including state aid used for local police and courts.” (Editorial, “Lori Swanson for attorney
general; Jeff Johnson’s crime focus is good, but he voted to cut cops, courts,” Star Tribune, October 22, 2006)

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