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This St. Cloud Times article is proof that overly meddlesome government isn’t just found within the confines of the federal government. This time, it’s found in Sauk Rapids. Last night, the Sauk Rapids voted unanimously to fine people who violate Sauk Rapids’ so-called nuisance ordinance. According to the article, the “fine for a first violation will be $100, the fine for a second notice of the violation will be $300 and the fine for the third notice will be $600. The fine for repeat offenders within a two-year period will also be $600.”

By now, you’re likely wondering what constitutes a nuisance ordinance violation. According to the Times’ article, homeowners can be fined for letting garbage accumulate. Homeowners can’t “allow peeling or blistering paint on more than 15 percent of a home,” either. The only part of the ordinance that’s justifiable is “keeping windows in working condition and walkways in good condition.” I’d consider the keeping of windows in working condition and maintaining sidewalks public safety issues.

Here’s where Sauk Rapids’ ordinance goes way too far:

The ordinance also prohibits vehicles including boats, four-wheelers, trailers or other defined vehicles from being parked in a residential yard unless parked in the driveway, licensed and road-worthy. They can be parked in a rear or side yard if they are licensed and operable.

If a homeowner wants to park their boat or RV in their back yard, the city should keep its nose out of that homeowner’s business. There’s a reason why it’s called private property. These busybodies seem to think that it’s called public-private property. They’re mistaken on that.

Governments at all levels think that they can dictate what people can do with the people’s private property. Whether it’s the EPA telling citizens that they can’t build their dream home on private property because there’s a single low spot that the federal government considers a wetland or whether it’s the Minnesota Board of Soil and Water or Department of Natural Resources telling farmers what they can and can’t do in raising crops or whether it’s a city council telling private property owners what things are permissible on the property owner’s property, government apparently thinks that they’re co-owners of the property.

If they want to be co-owners, then let them make half of the mortgage payment and pay half of the property taxes. If they won’t do that, then they should butt out and devote their time to running the city efficiently while keeping their collective noses out of their citizens’ private property.

Gov. Dayton is proudly proclaiming that Minnesota is the best state to do business in. He’s basing that propaganda on CNBC’s latest ranking. After looking at how they arrived at the categories that they ranked states on, it’s easy to see how CNBC arrived at their ridiculous ratings. First, it’s important to know this about the rating system:

For example, if more states tout their low business costs, the “Cost of Doing Business” category carries greater weight. That way, our study ranks the states based on the criteria they use to sell themselves.

According to CNBC’s report, workforce is the most important category, followed by cost of doing business and infrastructure, economy, quality of life, technology & innovation, education, business friendliness, cost of living and, finally, access to capital.

Minnesota ranked 13th in workforce, 35th in cost of doing business, 9th in infrastructure, 5th in economy, 3rd in quality of life, 6th in technology and innovation, 2nd in education, 23rd in business friendliness, 32nd in cost of living and 23rd in access to capital.

CNBC’s ratings only tell us what the states think of themselves. They don’t tell us what businesses think of the state. The fact that more businesses are leaving Minnesota than are moving to Minnesota is the best indicator of what businesses think.

That isn’t to say that Minnesota is getting everything wrong. There are some things that we can build off of. It’s just that there’s a handful of important things that we’d better correct if we want to be the best. Lowering the cost of doing business is essential. That’s only possible by streamlining government, especially regulations. Cutting special deals with a couple companies to entice them here, then shafting businesses that are already here, which the Dayton administration has done, needs to change, too.

UPDATE: King Banaian’s article for the Center for the American Experiment highlights similar points. This point is especially noteworthy:

If you’re a state that isn’t particularly business friendly, you don’t talk about that in your marketing materials. You emphasize other things. You puff your materials with discussion of quality of life and how hardworking your workers are and ignore the areas where your policies might make business a little harder to conduct. And CNBC will go right along and take weight off those things, if the rest of the states are doing the same thing.

I can’t emphasize enough the fact that CNBC’s article isn’t a serious economic statement. It’s a statement based off of the states’ PR statements.

Bill Hanna’s article has a great explanation for why eliminating the MPCA’s Citizen Board is such a good thing:

ST. PAUL — Sometimes the best offense is a good defense. And Iron Range lawmakers were at the top of their game in that regard to forge a hard-fought good end to the 2015 legislative session. Provisions in contentious legislation that are vital to the Iron Range were in doubt right up to the early Saturday morning adjournment of the legislative overtime session. Even the very future of the PolyMet copper/nickel/precious metals project near Hoyt Lakes, which is knocking on the door of production and creation of 360 jobs, was in jeopardy.

But they all survived.

Twin Cities liberal DFL lawmakers were relentless in their attempts to get legislation changed to meet their environmental agenda, which would have proved disastrous to the Iron Range. But Range legislators, especially Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk of Cook and Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, returned their left-wing serves with hard, fast and successful volleys. The results for the Range were huge:

Elimination of a long-standing citizens’ advisory board that would have had the authority to delay the PolyMet project through the back door even after the venture receives its permits, which is likely later this year, following the environmental impact statement soon to be approved. The advisory board is hostile to nonferrous mining on the Range and would have used all tactics available to delay even further the venture.

Hanna gave Republicans for their role in standing up to the DFL’s environmental activists:

But the GOP-controlled House rejected that new bill and reinstated the original measure that abolished the MPCA advisory board, which is hostile toward copper/nickel/precious metals mining on the Iron Range, and the provision beneficial to the PolyMet project.

I was ‘watching’ the special session through Twitter Friday night. After the Agriculture/Environment bill had been defeated in the Senate, Sen. Marty spoke on the issue:

After watching the video a second time, after hearing Sen. Marty saying repeatedly that the MPCA’s Citizens Board wasn’t for the MPCA, that it was for the citizens, I realized that Sen. Marty had a point but it isn’t the point he tried making. He said that the Citizens Board had intervened because the MPCA hadn’t listened to the citizens on various issues. Sen. Marty highlighted the fact that yet another bureaucracy wasn’t listening to the people.

I’m shocked, shocked I tell you, to find out that bureaucrats don’t listen to people.

In reality, though, Sen. Marty was spinning things just a bit. The Citizens board isn’t just about catching the MPCA’s mistakes. It’s about stopping mining projects. It was another stop in the permitting process where the environmental activist wing of the DFL could stop permits dead in their tracks.

Last Friday night, former Speaker Kurt Zellers said that the Citizens Board had stopped projects that had gotten their MPCA permits. They stopped these projects after the companies had started investing money in these projects, too.

These companies had done what was required of them by the regulators. They got their permits. They acted in good faith. Then an unaccountable, unelected bunch of bureaucrats stopped their projects after they’d invested their hard-earned money.

Thank God that the Citizens Board is heading to the dumpster where other failed DFL policies rest. The elimination of the Citizens Board is the biggest victory for either side from this session.

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Now that the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, aka PUC, has issued a certificate of need for the Sandpiper Pipeline project, it’s time to ask an important question. First, here’s what happened:

ST. PAUL – The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission has approved a certificate of need for the proposed Sandpiper pipeline from North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields to Superior, Wisconsin. While the PUC agreed 5-0 Friday that the $2.6 billion, 610-mile pipeline is necessary, they didn’t foreclose the possibility of rerouting it away from environmentally sensitive lakes, streams and wetlands in northern Minnesota. Enbridge Energy will still have to go through a lengthy review of its proposed route and a proposed alternative.

It’s great that they approved the project but I’m just a little worried about why they’re involved. Their primary responsibility is monitoring public utilities. There’s no doubt that politicians create ‘innovative’ definitions for words but that doesn’t mean a pipeline is a public utility.

There’s no justification for adding the PUC into the regulatory process — except if the goal is to create another hoop for companies to jump through. Then it makes perfect sense. If creating multiple hoops is the goal, then having the PUC review pipeline projects is imperative.

There are multiple agencies that review these types of proposals. Why? Shouldn’t Minnesota create a one-stop shopping center for reviews? Shouldn’t there be a time limit placed on both parties to speed up the review process? That way, companies can’t run out the clock by withholding important information and regulators can’t string companies along with endless amounts of questions.

Streamlining the review process gets important projects approved quickly while still asking the important questions.

There’s a throng of anti-corporation organizations filled with environmental activists attempting to kill the Sandpiper Pipeline project. They thrive off of multiple bites at the apple during the regulatory process. They’re assisted by politicians like Sen. Klobuchar and Sen. Franken, not to mention Gov. Dayton, Lt. Gov. Smith and legislators like Rep. Thissen and Sen. Marty.

These environmentalists will stand in the way of this type of reform. They’ll insist that the process isn’t broken and that it doesn’t need fixing. That’s a fantasy. Any system that requires years to get a project approved isn’t just fractured. It’s broken. Companies should be held accountable but they shouldn’t be required to spend tens of millions of dollars on each step of the regulatory process.

A strong national economy relies on cheap energy. If that’s our goal, which it should be, then it’s time we stepped into the 21st Century.

Sen. Jim Inhofe has a warning for everyone. It’s a warning he put into this op-ed. Here’s Sen. Inhofe’s warning:

EPA claims that it now has the right to regulate any water in a 100-year floodplain of a navigable water, any water that is 4,000 feet from a tributary, and any prairie pothole, pool or wetland that EPA has declared a “regional water treasure,” if it can identify a “significant nexus” with a navigable water.

EPA defines “significant nexus” so broadly that this test can be met in almost every instance. If EPA shows that a pond or wetland holds water, EPA can regulate it. If EPA shows that a pond or wetland seeps into the ground to an aquifer that feeds a stream or river miles away, EPA can regulate it. And, if EPA can show that a pond or wetland provides “life cycle dependent aquatic habitat for a species” that spends part of its time in a navigable water, EPA can regulate it. The “water” that EPA can regulate does not even have to be wet. It is also defined by “chemical, physical, and biological indicators.”

What’s happening is that the EPA is saying it has the right to regulate land that’s previously been thought of as being under the jurisdiction of state government. By expanding this definition, the EPA is redefining what’s the state government’s jurisdiction and what’s the federal government’s jurisdiction. If you think I’m making this up, think again. Check this out:

[Andy Johnson] and his wife built a small pond on their rural property using the stream flowing through it. They stocked the pond with trout so that their three small children could fish. The pond is an oasis for wildlife such as ducks and geese passing through.

It is precisely the sort of industriousness that reasonable people and zealous stewards of the environment applaud. But the EPA is made up of neither reasonable people nor zealous stewards of the environment. They are crazed hypocrites greedy for unchecked power and hell-bent on destroying the passions that connect people to the nature surrounding them. Like the Food and Drug Administration in the movie “Dallas Buyers Club,” the EPA has become the face of absolute power in the hands of blind government bureaucrats.

That is why the faceless henchmen of the EPA have come after Mr. Johnson and his family, charging them with violating federal law and threatening to bankrupt them. These EPA thugs ordered the Johnsons to destroy the pond they built and threatened to fine them $75,000 a day for being in violation of the Clean Water Act.

The Totalitarian Left used to get its way through the judiciary. Once more Constitution-minded judges replaced retiring legislative-minded judges, the Totalitarian Left shifted to the last vestige of totalitarianism: unelected, unaccountable regulators.

If conservatives wanted to return the United States to the proper balance, they’d elect a Constitution-loving conservative president in 2016 and hold onto their majorities in the House and Senate. That’s the first step. The next step is to abolish the filibuster so that legislation could pass that eliminates the regulators’ stranglehold. Force Congress to vote on every major rule. Major rules would be defined as rules that will cost the people being regulated more than $50,000,000 in compliance costs.

Pass legislation that forces regulators to show why protecting the Delta Smelt, through the Endangered Species Act, is more important than strangling farmers’ water rights. In fact, I’d require that the EPA has to use the least intrusive method possible to accomplish their goal.

In other words, I’d put these regulators on the defensive. I wouldn’t tolerate the weaponized federal government to put private property owners on the defensive. It’s time to fit the federal government into its proper-sized limits. The Founding Fathers wanted to keep as many decisions as close to the individual as possible. What the Obama administration has done is attempt to change that so that government is distant from the people it effects.

The EPA’s new rule is a perfect illustration of that.

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During his interview with MPR, Gov. Dayton experienced a brief flash of lucidity:

Gov. Mark Dayton is siding with U.S. Steel in a battle over water pollution standards for the company’s taconite facility in Mountain Iron. In an interview with MPR News, Dayton said the existing sulfate standard aimed at protecting wild rice is out of date, and pushing it could be catastrophic for northeastern Minnesota.

As the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency prepares to release new environmental standards, U.S. Steel is lobbying the Legislature to delay the implementation of a clean water standard aimed at protecting water where wild rice grows.

The existing state standard prevents companies from discharging more than 10 milligrams of sulfate per liter of water. But company lobbyists and Iron Range legislators say the standard is too low. With his latest comments, his strongest to date on the long-running debate, Dayton is joining that group.

“Some people will say, ‘you’re going to abandon the standard,'” Dayton said. “But if the standard is obsolete and it’s not validated by current science and information, then to stick with it and close down an industry isn’t really well advised.”

The MPCA just issued this draft proposal:

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is proposing that rather than relying on a single sulfate level for all wild rice waters, sulfate levels should be calculated for each wild rice water, based on location-specific factors. In coming to this conclusion, the MPCA studied how sulfate affects wild rice. The study, which began in 2012, found that:

  1. In the sediment in which wild rice is rooted, sulfate from the water above is converted to sulfide by bacteria.
  2. Higher levels of sulfide in the sediment create an environment that is less hospitable to wild rice.

However, certain factors change the rate at which sulfate is converted to sulfide. Most significantly, higher levels of iron can lead to less sulfide, and higher levels of organic carbon can lead to more sulfide.

To take these variables into account, the MPCA developed an equation that can determine a sulfate level that will protect wild rice for a specific water body. The agency proposes collecting sediment samples in wild rice stands, measuring the iron and organic carbon concentrations in the sediment, and then plugging the data into the equation to calculate a protective sulfate concentration for that particular wild rice water.All of the environmental organizations are protesting these findings because it strips them of another of their anti-mining arguments. They aren’t happy campers over this draft proposal. These environmental organizations were licking their proverbial chops over this:

Dayton said the sulfate standard is outdated and has rarely been enforced since it was first established in 1973. U.S. Steel’s Minntac plant was facing the new standard as it renewed a decades-old permit, something U.S. Steel said would cost hundreds of millions of dollars in upgrades.

Then Gov. Dayton stepped in.

It isn’t that Gov. Dayton had a change of heart. It’s that he knows pissing off the Iron Range means Tina Smith, his Lieutenant Governor, will lose the DFL gubernatorial campaign to Tom Bakk in 2018. Gov. Dayton can’t have that. That’s part of his lackluster legacy.

Brian Beutler’s article is a testimony to how warped hardline progressives’ thinking is. Check this out:

At every step, we were told our goals were misguided or too ambitious; that we would crush jobs and explode deficits. Instead, we’ve seen the fastest economic growth in over a decade, our deficits cut by two-thirds, a stock market that has doubled, and health care inflation at its lowest rate in fifty years. So the verdict is clear. Middle-class economics works.

As a theme, this riff should have struck a chord with the conservative movement’s myriad Reaganologists.

This, supposedly, is Beutler’s attempt to prove that Barack Obama is the next Reagan. Let’s check that comparison. The ‘Obama Recovery’ is still the slowest recovery in history. It’s created few full-time jobs. Most of the jobs it’s created are part-time jobs. Economic growth has stagnated because a) regulation has skyrocketed and b) Obamacare became the law of the land.

Most of the full-time jobs that’ve been created were created in spite of Obama’s policies. Think Texas, which is pretty much putting anti-Obama policies in place, and North Dakota, where the Bakken Boom is happening because they didn’t have to deal with Obama’s oppressive, stifling regulations.

Any comparison with Reagan is foolish. In September, 1983, the economy created 1,100,000 jobs. For 6 straight quarters, GDP topped 5%. Thus far, the economy hasn’t grown by 4% two quarters in a row. It hasn’t had back-to-back quarters topping 3.5%.

Comparing Obamanomics with Reaganomics is like comparing a small plate of tofu with a thick, juicy steak with a side of hash browns. They’re both food but that’s where the similarity ends.

The economy’s rapid growth in recent quarters has scrambled these assumptions, and now the White House is pitching the Reagan comparison to political reporters in Washington.

What rapid growth? Seriously? Economists will slap down Beutler’s claims in a New York minute.

“All historical analogies are imperfect,” Obama’s senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer told me recently, but “people connected the economic success of the ’80s to Reagan’s policies and Democrats also became convinced that the only way to win was to move to the middle. … We want to make sure people understand the policies we put in place, how they work, how they’ve improved their situation, so when Republicans get back into it we’ll have shifted the four corners of the political debate to the left.”

First, there’s no question that President Obama’s policies are definitely to the left of where people are at. Further, there’s no question that it’ll take time to fix the myriad of messes President Obama has created.

Finally, here are the biggest ways to show Obama isn’t like Reagan:

  1. Economic growth was robust during the last 6 years of Reagan’s time in office.
  2. Economic growth during President Obama’s time in office has been pathetic.
  3. Reagan’s national security policies brought the Soviet empire to its knees.
  4. President Obama’s policies of appeasement has helped terrorism expand its control while threatening most of the civilized world.

Other than that, Obama’s accomplishments are virtually identical with Reagan’s.

This article is worth reading just based on this quote alone:

But opponents argued that the pipeline will worsen the problem of climate change by continuing reliance on fossil fuels, instead of developing renewable energy. “It’s a not a matter of how safe that pipeline is, better than trains,” said Dave Carroll. “We’re looking at the survivability of all civilization.”

That’s stunning! It’s stunning in its ignorance. It’s just more proof that environmentalists’ predictions aren’t tethered to the truth in any meaningful way.

In the grand scheme of the universe, humans are insignificant at best. Let’s scale that to the grand scheme of this solar system. People are still pretty insignificant. But according to Mr. Carroll, we’re capable of destroying Planet Earth with a 616-mile long pipeline from North Dakota through Minnesota to Wisconsin. That’s utter nonsense.

According to this graph, there’s already 1,566,495 miles worth of pipelines crossing the United States. Why should anyone think that another 616 miles of pipeline will suddenly make the environment toxic?

Thankfully, some voices of sanity testified at this week’s hearing:

State Rep. Dale Lueck, R-Aitkin, said there’s a “pressing need” to increase the amount of oil moved by pipeline instead of by rail, which he said is responsible for far more fatalities. “This is not about anything more simple than we need to put crude oil in pipelines in the interest of public safety,” Lueck said.

Several union members testified in favor of the project, saying it would create much-needed well-paying jobs. Scott Erlander, a member of the Pipefitters Local Union 455 of St. Paul, said pipe workers care about safety and water quality too. “No one here wants to see our water contaminated including all the workers on this project … This is not trading water for oil,” Erlander said.

Teresa Bohnen, president of the St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce, said the Sandpiper would provide “real benefit” to Minnesota, including the creation of about 1,500 construction jobs. Bohnen noted that the increased amount of oil rail traffic is interfering with the state’s commerce and movement of goods, including agricultural products and coal for the Sherco plant in Becker.

It’s time to shout this information from the rooftops: renewable energy won’t replace fossil fuels in the next generation. Period. Their capability is limited at best. Meanwhile, fossil fuels have supplied a steady stream of relatively inexpensive energy that’s helped make the United States the world’s economic superpower of the last half-century.

Finally, environmentalists protesting the Sandpiper Pipeline project are hurting farmers. That includes the environmentalists appointed by Gov. Dayton to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, aka MPUC. Thanks to the environmental activists’ protests, farmers are getting hurt because they aren’t getting their crops to market in a timely fashion.

The pipeline battle is really a fight between Twin Cities-based environmental activists vs. outstate farmers, both of which are supposedly part of the DFL.

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Bill Jacobson’s op-ed for USA Today highlights in outstanding detail President Obama’s unconstitutional actions. Let’s start with this:

Three areas of the Obama administration going it alone stand out: Immigration, Obamacare and the environment. Immigration is perhaps the most dramatic example.

Legalizing and eventually providing a path to citizenship for the estimated 10-12 million illegal immigrants is a top administration priority. But that priority hit a roadblock in the form of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, and soon, Senate. Out of frustration, Obama has taken unilateral action to evade the immigration laws.

Prior to 2014, the administration already had imposed non-repatriation policies at the border, and established the “mini-dream” policy, precluding deportation of people who were brought to the country illegally as minors and met certain other criteria. These policies, however, only applied to a relatively small portion of the total illegal immigrant population. So more was needed, and that “more” would not be coming from Congress.

It’s worth highlighting this first because it’s likely to get dealt with first. With the government funded for the year except the Department of Homeland Security, Republicans can play hardball on this issue. All they have to do is attach a rider to funding DHS prohibiting DHS from spending any money on documents that President Obama promised when he took this unconstitutional action.

That’s the short-term fix. The medium-term fix will come when the courts slap down President Obama’s actions in due time. The long-term fix will happen when a Republican president secures the Tex-Mex border, then signs one-piece-at-a-time immigration reform.

It’s worth noting that it’s Congress, not the president who sets immigration policy:

Congress’s legislative powers are enumerated in Section Eight:

The Congress shall have power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common defence[note 1] and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;
To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;
To establish a uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

Here’s the heart of Prof. Jacobson’s commentary on the subject:

This immigration end-run creates a class of people who effectively are exempt from the immigration laws, without Congress ever having recognized such an exemption. It is not prosecutorial discretion but a usurpation of legislative power.

The executive branch never is vested with legislative authority. The minute this gets to the courts, they’ll rule against the Obama administration.

Here’s Prof. Jacobson’s excellent closing argument:

The exploitation of environmental regulatory authority not to implement laws, but to create a regulatory equivalent of legislation, is an abuse of executive discretion. At every level, the Obama administration has signaled that going it alone is the only way to get things done.

But that is not how our constitutional system is set up. The Framers understood the threat of an overreaching executive who wants to be king not president.

When President Obama leaves office, the next president will have a lengthy list of things to clean up from President Obama’s assault on the Constitution.

One question that Gov. Dayton and the DFL have continually refused to answer is where the proposed pipelines are. Gov. Dayton, the DFL and their allies in the environmental movement constantly cite the need for additional studies to make sure the pipeline won’t hurt Minnesota’s supposedly pristine waters.

Whatever their arguments, the truth is that Gov. Dayton, the DFL and environmental organizations don’t want pipelines built. As a result, farmers are getting hurt and cities along rail lines are at greater safety risk. The Anoka County Watchdog highlighted the problem:

One of the most prolific offenders in this regard is Governor Dayton, whose incompetence creates numerous problems he then attempts “solve,” mostly by wrongly blaming others for starting the fire.
Such was the case this week, when the Governor showed up in Coon Rapids for a roundtable discussion on rail congestion in the city and the attendant problems it is causing.

The city is home to two mainline tracks which carry a large volume of freight to the West Coast. These tracks have become congested, mostly because of oil trains, which is causing not only an inconvenience, but is creating safety issues as trains block intersections and the oil trains remain a risk for derailment.

I don’t often give advice but I’ll make an exception this time. If the GOP majority in the House of Representatives want to put the DFL in a difficult position, they should vote on legislation that puts a time limit on how long it takes from initial application to final up-or-down vote.

That doesn’t mean all pipeline projects be approved in that time period. It simply means the regulating bodies have to vote up or down. The regulating body would have to explain why they rejected a pipeline company’s application. For instance, the Public Utilities Commission couldn’t just call for examining different routes. If the PUC rejected the application, they’d have to give a substantive, point-by-point explanation for why they rejected a pipeline company’s application.

If the DFL majority in the Senate rejected the House bill, then they’d have to explain to voters why they voted against freeing up railcar space for farmers. That’d expose the DFL as being anti-farmer and/or anti-outstate Minnesota.

In 2014, the DFL insisted that they weren’t anti-outstate Minnesota. In 2016, they couldn’t make that argument because Republicans would have substantive proof for their accusations..