Erik Paulsen

Erik Philip Paulsen (born May 14, 1965) is an American politician who represented Minnesota's 3rd congressional district in the United States House of Representatives from 2009 to 2019. A member of the Republican Party of Minnesota, he served in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 1995 to 2009 and as majority leader from 2003 to 2007. In his 2018 reelection bid he was defeated by the Democratic nominee, businessman Dean Phillips.[1]

Erik Paulsen
Chair of the Joint Economic Committee
In office
January 11, 2018  January 3, 2019
Preceded byPat Tiberi
Succeeded byMike Lee
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Minnesota's 3rd district
In office
January 3, 2009  January 3, 2019
Preceded byJim Ramstad
Succeeded byDean Phillips
Majority Leader of the Minnesota House of Representatives
In office
January 3, 2003  January 3, 2007
Preceded byTim Pawlenty
Succeeded byTony Sertich
Member of the Minnesota House of Representatives
from the 42B district
In office
January 3, 1995  January 3, 2009
Preceded bySidney Pauly
Succeeded byJenifer Loon
Personal details
Erik Philip Paulsen

(1965-05-14) May 14, 1965
Bakersfield, California, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Kelly Paulsen (m. 1993)
EducationSt. Olaf College (BA)

Early life, education, and career

Born in Bakersfield, California, Paulsen graduated from Chaska High School in Minnesota in 1983.[2] He attended St. Olaf College, and received a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics in 1987. After college, Paulsen worked as an intern for Republican Senator Rudy Boschwitz from 1989 until Boschwitz was defeated by Democratic challenger Paul Wellstone in 1990.[2] Paulsen then took a staff position with Republican Representative Jim Ramstad in Washington, D.C. He worked on Ramstad's local congressional campaign in 1992 before seeking election to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 1994.[3][4] He succeeded Sidney Pauly.[5]

From 2007 to 2009 Paulsen worked as a part-time business analyst for Target Corporation while a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives.[2]

Minnesota House of Representatives

Paulsen was initially elected as an Independent Republican. Before entering politics he was a businessman.[6] He served on the Commerce and Labor, Rules and Legislative Administration, Taxes, and Ways and Means committees.[7]

U.S. House of Representatives



Paulsen won a three-way race for Minnesota's Third Congressional District in November 2008.[8] His U.S. House candidacy was announced after the incumbent, Jim Ramstad (a Republican), announced his retirement in 2007, which gave an opportunity for both major parties to field candidates. Shortly after he announced his retirement, Ramstad endorsed Paulsen and served as the chairman of Paulsen's Steering Committee.[9] Paulsen was a speaker at the 2008 Republican National Convention in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Paulsen won the election with 48.48% of the vote to Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party nominee Ashwin Madia's 40.85% and Independence Party of Minnesota candidate David Dillon's 10.56%. While not achieving a majority, Paulsen defeated Madia by about 30,000 votes.[10]


Paulsen won reelection with 59% of the vote against Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party challenger Jim Meffert.[11]

During the race Meffert filed a complaint with the United States House Committee on Ethics claiming that Paulsen distributed a deliberately misleading mailing to his constituents using the franking privilege afforded to House members. The committee did not act on the complaint, as the franking office had cleared the mailer in advance.[12]


Paulsen ran against DFL nominee Brian Barnes, an Edina businessman and former Navy Reserve officer. He was reelected with 58% of the vote.[13]

Minnesota's 3rd Congressional district election, 2014[14]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Erik Paulsen (Incumbent) 167,515 62.14
Democratic–Farmer–Labor Sharon Sund 101,846 37.78
Write-in Others 224 0.08
Majority 65,669 24.36%
Total votes 269,585 100
Republican hold
Minnesota's 3rd Congressional district election, 2016 [15]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Erik Paulsen 223,077 56.70
Democratic–Farmer–Labor Terri Bonoff 169,243 43.01
Write-in 1,144 0.29
Total votes 393,464 100
Republican hold
Third Congressional District of Minnesota Election, 2018
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic–Farmer–Labor Dean Phillips 202,402 55.61%
Republican Erik Paulsen 160,838 44.19%

Committee assignments

  • The Bicameral Joint Economic Committee
  • The House Committee on Ways and Means
    • Subcommittee on Health
    • Subcommittee on Trade

Town halls

In 2017 a group of constituents sought signatures on a petition asking Paulsen to hold public town hall meetings.[16] His campaign made only unannounced robo-calls with campaign aides screening questions, business tours, and private meetings.[17][18] Paulsen was invited to attend a "With or Without Him" town hall meeting but declined.[19]

On May 30, 2018, Paulsen held three in-person town hall meetings[20] in the 3rd district. During the events he distanced himself from Trump and congressional leaders.[21]

Political positions

Paulsen was a member of the Republican Main Street Partnership,[22] the Republican Study Committee,[23] the Congressional Arts Caucus,[24] the United States Congressional International Conservation Caucus[25] and the Climate Solutions Caucus.[26]

Paulsen opposed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.[27] He voted against the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.[28] Paulsen introduced the Text a Tip Act to the House in 2010. The bill would have allowed users to send tips about crimes to a third party, removing all identifying information about the source before the police received the message.[29] The bill died in committee and was not adopted.[30]

In 2010 Paulsen cosponsored a draft of the Small Business Assistance and Relief Act intended to provide increased lending and aid for small businesses and ease their financial burden.[31]

Paulsen supported the special investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and Trump's dismissal of James Comey.[32] In February 2017 Paulsen voted against requesting Trump's tax returns from the Treasury Department.[33]

FiveThirtyEight found that Paulsen voted with Trump 98% of the time, and was the third-most partisan Republican in the House when compared to his district's voting patterns.[34][35]


Paulsen helped to author the Republican tax reform of 2017, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.[36]

Paulsen supported continuing the Bush-era tax cuts and global free trade agreements.[37] He voted for the fiscal 2012 federal budget plan that provided for substantial overhaul of Medicare, including replacement of the traditional program with a premium support payment for private health insurance coverage for Americans under age 55.[38]

Paulsen voted against the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act[39] and Dodd-Frank.[40]

Health care

In 2009 Paulsen expressed opposition to a public health insurance option and instead supported a Republican alternative plan.[41] At an April 7, 2010, Republican rally in Minneapolis, Paulsen described the Affordable Care Act as a "government takeover of health care," a claim that Minnesota Public Radio said "isn't correct."[42]

Paulsen voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act.[43][44] In January 2017 he voted for the budget reconciliation provision to begin the process of ACA repeal.[45]

On May 4, 2017, Paulsen voted to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and for the American Health Care Act.[46]

In February 2018 Paulsen sponsored legislation to repeal caps on Medicare outpatient services such as physical therapy.[47]

Paulsen introduced legislation to combat opioid abuse by educating seniors about non-opioid alternative pain treatments and ways to safely dispose of addictive painkillers.[48]


Paulsen was a longtime proponent of immigration reform and supported granting temporary legal status to those who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children,[49] saying he supported "ensuring that young people who came to the United States through no fault of their own and have done nothing wrong are able to be valuable contributors to our country."[50]

In May 2018 Paulsen joined House Democrats in signing a "discharge petition" to force the House to vote on a series of immigration bills, including one that would provide permanent legal status to those who came to the country illegally as children.[51]

Paulsen did not support building a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, citing its projected multi-billion-dollar cost.[52]


Paulsen had a lifetime rating of 16% from the League of Conservation Voters.[53] He called for an end to Minnesota's ban on building nuclear power plants, saying that "trying to meet our energy needs without using nuclear energy is a little bit like trying to row a boat with one oar."[54] Along with 95% of Republicans and 17% of Democrats, he voted against the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which would have imposed a cap-and-trade system.[55]

Paulsen voted against allowing copper-sulfide mining in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.[56]

LGBT rights

In 2010 Paulsen voted against a bill repealing the U.S. military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.[57] In 2017 he voted for an amendment that would have defunded transition-related healthcare for transgender soldiers in the military.[58]


From 2007 through 2018 Paulsen received $21,150 in campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association (NRA), which gave him an "A" rating.[59] As of June 2016 he had voted 13 times against bringing gun safety bills to the House floor.[60]

In February 2018 Paulsen said he would support a ban on bump stocks, strengthened background checks, a lifting of the ban on federal research for gun violence, and gun violence restraining orders.[61]

In May 2018 Paulsen co-sponsored the Jake Laird Act, which provides grants to encourage states to adopt gun violence restraining order laws. Gun violence restraining orders enable local law enforcement to seize and retain firearms from people who are determined to be an imminent danger to themselves or others.[62]

In December 2017 Paulsen voted for the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017,[63] which allows people with a concealed carry permit in one state to legally travel with hidden guns to any other state.


On February 13, 2013, Paulsen introduced the National Park Service 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 627; 113th Congress), a bill that would direct the Secretary of the Treasury to mint and issue gold, silver, and half-dollar clad coins in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the National Park Service (NPS).[64][65] The coins would all have a surcharge attached, the money from which would be given to the National Park Foundation.[65]

Paulsen strongly supported a bill that would make it easier for nonbank financial institutions such as money service businesses to provide remittance payments internationally.[66] He argued that the bill would make it easier for American immigrants "supporting their extended families overseas" to help their relatives, while still "providing the necessary safeguards to ensure their money reaches its intended destination."[67]

On November 21, 2013, Paulsen introduced the Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act of 2013 (H.R. 3610; 113th Congress), a bill that would require each state, within three years, to have in effect legislation that: (1) treats a minor who has engaged or attempted to engage in a commercial sex act as a victim of a severe form of trafficking in persons, (2) discourages the charging or prosecution of such an individual for a prostitution or sex trafficking offense, and (3) encourages the diversion of such individual to child protection services.[68] The bill was scheduled to be voted on in the House on May 20, 2014 under a suspension of the rules.[69]

With Democratic U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, Paulsen led an effort to repeal an excise tax on medical devices imposed by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The bill passed the House one vote shy of a veto-proof majority.[70] A two-year suspension of the tax was included in a 2015 year-end funding bill.[71][72][73][72][73]

Also in 2015 Paulsen authored a bill to provide tax incentives to encourage food donations[74] and wrote a provision of the National Defense Authorization Act that requires the Department of Defense to return all military working dogs to the United States after completing their service.[75] The American Humane Association strongly advocated passage of this provision.[76]

Personal life

During college at St. Olaf, Paulsen met his wife, Kelly. As of 2014 the Paulsens had four daughters and lived in Eden Prairie. Paulsen serves as a board member of the Eden Prairie A Brighter Day Foundation, Habitat for Global Learning, Habitat for Technology and the Southdale YMCA. He is a member of the American Council of Young Political Leaders and the Eden Prairie Chamber of Commerce, and volunteers for Learning Exchange.[77]

Paulsen has participated in the inaugural two-year class of the Aspen Rodel Fellowship in Public Leadership, the German Marshall Memorial Fellowship, the Young Leaders Forum of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, and the American Council of Young Political Leaders.[78] He has been granted an Aspen Institute Rodel Fellowship in Public Leadership, and a Marshall Memorial Fellowship from the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

See also


  1. "November 7, 2018 General Election Unofficial Results". Minnesota Secretary of State. November 7, 2018. Retrieved November 7, 2018.
  2. "Paulsen, Erik - Legislator Record - Minnesota Legislators Past & Present". Retrieved January 11, 2018.
  3. Minnesota Legislative Library for Erik Paulsen
  4. "MN House Seat 42B Race – Nov 08, 1994". Our Campaigns. Retrieved October 25, 2010.
  5. "Paulsen, Erik, (1965 - )". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved October 26, 2016.
  6. Duchschere, Kevin (January 27, 2008). "Ramstad protégé Paulsen announces House bid". Star Tribune.
  7. Brunswick, Mark; Furst, Randy (November 5, 2008). "Paulsen triumphs over Madia for Third District seat". Star Tribune.
  8. Ramstad endorses Erik Paulsen
  9. Minnesota Secretary of State Archived November 22, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  10. "State Results – Election Center 2010 – Elections & Politics from". CNN.
  11. Wallbank, Derek (April 28, 2011). "No Comment: The story of an ethics complaint and what didn't happen next". MinnPost. Archived from the original on May 1, 2011. Retrieved April 28, 2011.
  12. "Erik Paulsen wins re-election in 3rd Congressional District | Local News |". November 6, 2012. Retrieved January 11, 2018.
  13. "Results for All Congressional Districts, 2014". Minnesota Secretary of State. Retrieved February 26, 2018.
  14. "November 8, 2016 General Election Unofficial Results". Minnesota Secretary of State. November 8, 2016. Retrieved February 26, 2018.
  15. "Group asks Paulsen to hold town hall meetings". Retrieved February 10, 2017.
  16. Golden, Erin (March 25, 2017). "Reps. Paulsen, Lewis under pressure over town halls". Star Tribune. Retrieved January 11, 2018.
  17. Brooks, Jennifer. "Paulsen uses 'telephone town halls' to hear from constituents". Star Tribune. Star Tribune.
  18. Hirsi, Ibrahim (February 24, 2017). "Scenes from the 'With or Without' Erik Paulsen town hall (spoiler alert: it was without him)". Minn Post. Minn Post.
  19. Murphy, Esme (May 30, 2017). "Rep. Paulsen Faces 3rd District Constituents In Town Hall Meetings". CBS Minnesota. CBS Minnesota.
  20. Coolican, Patrick (May 30, 2018). "At town hall, Rep. Erik Paulsen parries tough questions, distances from Trump". Star Tribune. Star Tribune.
  21. "Members". Republican Mains Street Partnership. Archived from the original on August 26, 2018. Retrieved October 4, 2017.
  22. "Member List". Republican Study Committee. Retrieved January 2, 2018.
  23. "Membership". Congressional Arts Caucus. Archived from the original on June 12, 2018. Retrieved March 21, 2018.
  24. "Our Members". U.S. House of Representatives International Conservation Caucus. Archived from the original on August 1, 2018. Retrieved August 5, 2018.
  25. "90 Current Climate Solutions Caucus Members". Citizen´s Climate Lobby. Retrieved October 18, 2018.
  26. Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives
  27. "House Vote 550 – Passes 9/11 Health Care Bill". Pro Publica.
  28. "Public Statements - The Voter's Self Defense System". Vote Smart. Retrieved January 11, 2018.
  29. Erik Paulsen (July 28, 2010). "Text a Tip Act of 2010 (2010; 111th Congress H.R. 5913)". Retrieved January 11, 2018.
  30. "Public Statements - The Voter's Self Defense System". Vote Smart. Retrieved January 11, 2018.
    "Text of H.R. 5554 (111th): Small Business Assistance and Relief Act of 2010 (Introduced version)". June 17, 2010. Retrieved January 11, 2018.
  31. Nelson, Cody. "Paulsen joins Democrats' call for independent Russia probe after Comey firing". MPR News. MPR News.
  32. Friedersdorf, Conor. "These 23 Republicans Passed on a Chance to Get Trump's Tax Returns". The Atlantic. Retrieved February 16, 2017.
  33. Tracking Congress in the Age of Trump, accessed September 25, 2018
  35. Rubin, Richard (October 8, 2018). "A GOP Tax-Law Writer Faces Skeptics in His Minnesota District". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved October 9, 2018.
  36. Black, Eric. Erik Paulsen on tax cuts: inflammatory and misleading. Archived June 2, 2010, at the Wayback Machine Minn Post. October 15, 2008.
  37. "H.Con.Res. 34 (112th): Establishing the budget for the United States Government for fiscal year 2012 and setting forth appropriate budgetary ..." April 15, 2011. Retrieved January 11, 2018.
  38. Appropriations, Tax Law Amendments, and Unemployment Benefit Amendments ("Stimulus Bill") Project Vote Smart.
  39. The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009 Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives
  40. "Minnesota delegation's positions on health care plans". MinnPost. June 30, 2009. Archived from the original on August 25, 2010. Retrieved August 22, 2010.
  41. "Fact-checking yesterday's political rallies | Minnesota Public Radio NewsQ". April 8, 2010. Retrieved August 22, 2010.
  42. "Final Vote Results for Roll Call 154". May 16, 2013. Retrieved March 5, 2017.
  43. "FINAL VOTE RESULTS FOR ROLL CALL 58". February 3, 2015. Retrieved March 5, 2017.
  44. "House takes first step towards repealing Obamacare". January 17, 2017. Retrieved August 22, 2010.
  45. "How the House voted to pass the GOP health-care bill". Washington Post. Retrieved May 4, 2017.
    "Health care vote puts pressure on dozens of vulnerable GOP reps". USA TODAY. Retrieved May 4, 2017.
  46. "Paulsen introduces legislation to permanently repeal Medicare cap on outpatient services". Ripon Advance. Ripon Advance. February 6, 2017.
  47. "Committee gives nod to Erik Paulsen's opioid measure". SW Newsmedia. SW Newsmedia. May 17, 2018.
  48. "Minn. Congressman Erik Paulsen Pushes Bill To Protect DACA Recipients". CBS Minnesota. December 6, 2017.
  49. "Paulsen Statement on DACA". Archived from the original on July 30, 2018. Retrieved May 31, 2018.
  50. Rao, Maya (May 23, 2018). "Paulsen joins effort to force House vote on Dreamers". Star Tribune. Star Tribune.
  51. Sherry, Allison (February 17, 2017). "Paulsen, emboldened by full GOP rule but skeptical of Trump, tries to shape federal tax reform". Star Tribune. Star Tribune.
  52. Jones, Hannah (July 13, 2018). "With seat in jeopardy, Erik Paulsen suddenly becomes an environmentalist". City Pages. Retrieved July 20, 2018.
  53. Scheck, Tom (November 24, 2009). "Reps. Paulsen and Walz call to lift ban on nuclear power". MPR News. Retrieved January 11, 2018.
  54. HR 2454: American Clean Energy and Security Act Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives
  55. Kraker, Dan. "U.S. House OKs bill paving way for mining near Boundary Waters". MPR News. MPR News. Retrieved May 30, 2018.
  56. Hart Van Denburg. "DADT passes House with help from Walz, Ellison, McCollum and Oberstar". City Pages.
  57. Andy Birkey (July 20, 2017). "MN GOP Reps. Lewis, Paulsen, Emmer vote to deny healthcare for transgender troops". The Column. Retrieved January 11, 2018.
  58. Williams, Aaron (October 5, 2017). "Have your representatives in Congress received donations from the NRA?". Washington Post. Retrieved February 26, 2018.
  59. Zurowski, Cory (June 20, 2016). "Hired guns: How the NRA buys sway with Minnesota politicians". City Pages. Retrieved March 21, 2018.
  60. Nelson, Tim (February 22, 2018). "ep. Paulsen backs bump stock ban, gun violence research". MPR News. Retrieved February 26, 2018.
  61. Rao, Maya. "Rep. Erik Paulsen gets behind gun violence measure in Congress". Star Tribune. Star Tribune.
  62. Maya, Rao (December 25, 2017). "Push for gun permits across state lines concerns Minnesota law enforcement". Star Tribune. Star Tribune.
  63. "H.R. 627 – Summary". United States Congress. Retrieved May 1, 2014.
  64. Pekow, Charles (April 30, 2014). "House approves commemorative coins for National Park Service centennial". The Examiner.
  65. Radio, Dalsan (May 7, 2014). "Somalia: Congressman Ellison's Money Remittances Improvement Act Passed". All Africa. Retrieved May 8, 2014.
  66. "Ellison, Paulsen, Duffy Applaud Passage of Money Remittances Improvement Act". House Office of Keith Ellison. May 6, 2014. Archived from the original on May 8, 2014. Retrieved May 8, 2014.
  67. "H.R. 3610 – Summary". United States Congress. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  68. Marcos, Cristina (May 16, 2014). "Next week: Lawmakers to debate defense and drones". The Hill. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  69. Brodey, Sam.U.S. House passes repeal of medical device tax. Minn Post. June 18, 2015.
  70. Spencer, Jim. Medical device tax could be suspended for two years in tax deal. Star Tribune. 16 December 2015.
  71. Zdechlik, Mark. With Special Tax Suspended, Medical Device Firms Reap Big Savings. npr. 16 February 2016.
  72. H.R. 2029 - Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016. 18 December 2015.
  73. Olson, Samantha. John Oliver Exposes Food Waste In America: Billions Of Dollars In Food Wasted While Millions Of People Go Hungry. Medical Daily. July 20, 2015.
  74. Keady, Cameron. Every U.S. Military Dog Will Be Brought Home, Thanks To New Law. The Huffington Post. December 7, 2015.
  75. American Humane Association clinches major victory for military dogs. American Humane Association. November 25, 2015.
  76. "Project Vote Smart – Representative Erik Paulsen – Biography". May 14, 1965. Retrieved November 29, 2010.
Minnesota House of Representatives
Preceded by
Tim Pawlenty
Majority Leader of the Minnesota House of Representatives
Succeeded by
Tony Sertich
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Jim Ramstad
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Minnesota's 3rd congressional district

Succeeded by
Dean Phillips
Preceded by
Pat Tiberi
Chair of the Joint Economic Committee
Succeeded by
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