Two recent letters to publications based in Minnesota’s Third Congressional District suggest that Rep. Erik Paulsen’s constituents are losing patience with him.
The first letter, penned by Andy Dvorak, appeared in Monday’s Sun Sailor. Dvorak expressed frustration with Paulsen’s representation of himself as a moderate Republican. As I wrote last week, Paulsen is anything but, and Dvorak knows it. He pointed out one of the more egregious examples of how Paulsen is hard at work loosening regulations on business to the detriment of American citizens.
About a year ago, Paulsen (and every other Minnesota Republican in the House and Senate) voted to roll back Federal Communications Commission rules that protected consumers’ personal information from internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon. The measure passed along a party line vote, with Paulsen in lockstep with his party.
That means that those ISPs can now sell your personal information without permission. As the Star Tribune wrote at the time: “Whether you’re checking on cancer treatments, making a purchase, looking for a home mortgage or a car or perhaps indulging in some online porn-watching, as a majority of Americans do, it all goes through your ISP. With access to individual browsing histories, app usage, financial information, geolocation and other bits and pieces, your broadband provider probably knows more about you than your closest relative. Ever typed your Social Security number online? Your ISP could collect it and, according to congressional experts, sell it.”
Dvorak says Paulsen defended his position in a letter published after the vote, which read: “Simply put, your privacy rights on the Internet remain the same as they were last week, last month, last year and for as long as you’ve used the internet.”
While this is true in a narrow sense － the legislation affected the ISPs, not website content itself － Dvorak rightly points out that his statement is grossly misleading, and ultimately, the businesses who make money by selling our data are the only ones who gained anything from the bill’s passage.
In another letter published earlier this month, Maple Grove student Aashna Sheth excoriated Paulsen for his failure to support commonsense gun legislation. While Paulsen has said he supports banning bump stocks (accessories that increase rifles’ rate of fire), he has also voted to allow concealed-carry firearm permits to be recognized across state lines, and he’s against universal background checks for gun sales. Like most of his fellow Republicans, he has an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association.
Writing to the editors of the Press & News, Sheth wondered “how many more lives” it will take before Paulsen acts on gun control.
“I don’t want to be scared of school anymore,” she writes. “I don’t want to lose any of my friends or siblings or peers, and I do not want to talk to my teachers about what to throw at a shooter first or what to hide behind.”
In February, 17 teachers and students were gunned down at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The Parkland students “had to go through something so horrific,” Sheth says, but Paulsen does “nothing to prevent it from happening again. That is shameful and pathetic!”
In the wake of the Parkland massacre, a wave of anti-gun activism － much of it fueled by the student survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas － has inspired more people to speak out against America’s lax gun laws.
Sheth closes by reminding Paulsen that the nation is at a turning point on guns: “The youth voters are coming for you, and, if something doesn’t change, you will be voted out! Remember, you got elected by your constituents, and you work for us, not the other way around!”
Paulsen and his GOP colleagues, sadly, remain opposed to making our nation safer. But if Dvorak and Sheth are any indication, Paulsen faces a tough campaign in the rapidly approaching midterm elections.