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Reality Check: Phillips Ad Finds Bigfoot Looking For Rep. Paulsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A new digital ad from Democratic Congressional candidate Dean Phillips is getting a lot of social media traction. It stars Bigfoot, looking for Congressman Erik Paulsen, who Phillips says is elusive.

In the Phillips ad, the Bigfoot character, relaxing with a cup of coffee, laments, "I thought I was good at hiding."

The ad reveals Bigfoot is looking for Republican Congressman Erik Paulsen.

"I mean, how can you have tens of thousands of people looking for you all the time and not one of them find you?," Bigfoot asks. "I started to wonder -- does Erik Paulsen really exist? Where's the proof?"

Democratic Congressional candidate Phillips claims Paulsen did not hold a public town hall meeting for almost seven years. That's TRUE. Paulsen does not like town halls, telling, "people turn them into a gotcha moment or a shouting moment."

(credit: Dean Phillips For Congress)

Releasing the "Bigfoot" ad, Phillips also released an open letter to Paulsen, calling for more public meetings between the candidates.

Here is the text of the open letter, in full:

Congressman Paulsen:
In April of this year, I invited you to make a mutual pact to campaign the Minnesota Way, which — in addition to eliminating PAC money, self-funding and spending from outside groups — would have ensured at least two public voter forums per month.
On August 10th, after receiving no response, I invited you to join me at a series of town hall meetings throughout the district. I again heard no response.
On August 21st, the morning of the TwinWest Chamber debate, you finally accepted an invitation to debate in public and suggested three 90-minute forums. I welcome that opportunity, and I accept under only one condition: that each forum be free and open to all 3rd-District voters, without restriction.
There is no good reason to turn away any voters — particularly undecided ones — who wish to see us side-by-side and compare our records, our values, and priorities for the future. And there are ample venues in our district to accommodate the likely demand for such an occasion.
In addition to those three forums, I intend to participate in the closed media debates hosted by Minnesota Public Radio, KSTP-TV and TPT Almanac. Taken together, these should provide voters with ample opportunity to hear from us both and decide for whom to vote.
I hope you will agree that it's important for voters to have the opportunity to see us in person, and that you will not limit those opportunities to restricted forums with either limited voter participation or held outside of the district — or both.
My staff will gladly work with yours to secure dates and venues, and agree on moderators for the forums which you've proposed. Thank you for your consideration and I'll be eagerly awaiting your response.
Dean Phillips

Meanwhile, protesters in Paulsen's district have been pressuring the Congressman for more live, unrestricted town hall meetings. He had not held one for almost seven years, from 2001 until May 2018, when he held three ticketed events in one day.

According to Paulsen's campaign manager John-Paul Yates, "Phillips must have a very narrow definition of what a town hall is."

Here is a Paulsen campaign accounting of the Congressman's public engagement:

Just this Congress (last two years), we have had 23 telephone town hall meetings, 3 in-person town hall meetings, 3 open office hour sessions (where constituents can sign up for blocks of time-open to anyone to meet with Erik), 6 Congress On Your Corner events (we go to a Cub, notify people in that area, they can come ask Erik a question, share a casework issue, etc in a one-on-one setting), and well over 100 constituent meetings (constituent calls/writes in, asks for a meeting with Erik, they meet with Erik). This is in addition to over 30 school visits, 140 business visits, and dozens of chamber/rotary/roundtable/community events Erik has participated in, hosted, or attended.

The campaign also challenges Phillips on debates:

We have already debated in person once (TwinWest debate, which was also broadcast on WCCO radio), and we have agreed to three additional debates (KSTP TV, MPR radio, TPT Almanac TV). We challenged Dean to three additional in-person debates, with a moderator agreed on by both campaigns, with equal questions from the audience, and with each campaign able to distribute tickets however they want. Phillips wants free-for-all debates. They've offered no format, just that it's open to anyone. Given how his supporters behaved at the TwinWest debate, with a Phillips donor buying 50 tickets and his supporters repeatedly violating the code of conduct the chamber asked everyone to abide by, we think there should be some format. I wonder how our one debate already and three additional agreed to compares to other competitive Congressional races. I'm not sure any of them have debated.

The Bigfoot ad is a video homage to late Minnesota Democrat Paul Wellstone, who famously went "Looking for Rudy" -- Republican US Senator Rudy Boschwitz-- in 1990. Phillips says he is trying to get Paulsen to agree to more unrestricted events open to the public without restrictions, using humor to make a point.

"So take it from me, Bigfoot," the ad's star says, "Erik Paulsen really exists."

That's Reality Check.

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