When you vote for someone, should you know what they do for a living? That's a question surrounding Minnesota Sen. David Hann, one of the most powerful leaders in the Republican Senate.
If Republicans retain their majority after this election, Hann could be in line to be their leader. What his constituents don't know is that he's also currently working in the insurance industry, which is the very industry he also oversees as chair of the powerful Health and Human Services Committee. That committee is responsible for overseeing both the health insurance industry regulation compliance and health reform.
In recent discussion about the health insurance exchange, he said, "The people I hear mostly from are people who are selling insurance and insurance agents who are very concerned about this because they see it as a direct threat to their business."
Even many at the Capitol did not know that Hann got his license to sell health and life insurance after the legislative session ended in June. Now, he works on a contract basis for Boys and Tyler Financial Group, an Eden Prairie company that is a leader in market-based health insurance.
Yet, on his campaign website, Hann describes his employment with a vague title of "business process consultant," and lists only "consultant" on the financial disclosure form lawmakers fill out.
Government ethics expert David Schultz told FOX 9 News these actions create a perception problem for the senator.
"How fair and impartial can he be in his duties as chair and a legislator when he is also an employee in the field?" Schultz asked.
FOX 9 News attempted to contact Hann about whether he feels he's been transparent about his new career or if there is a conflict of interest, but he said he was too busy campaigning to comment.
Still, he's hardly the only person at the Capitol with a similar conundrum. Republican Rep. Steve Gottwalt is also a licensed health insurance agent. In fact, he's an associate of the same firm – and he also chairs the House Health and Human Services Committee.
Democrats aren't immune either. Former Sen. Jim Vickerman was a farmer who once chaired the Agriculture Committee, and Sandy Pappas – an instructor at Metro State University – once chaired for higher education.
On one hand, it may seem these lawmakers add expertise, but questions about potential conflicts of interest begin to emerge without transparency. According to Schultz, that's the key issue with Hann.
"The fact that he appears to have gone out of his way not to disclose work appears to lend suspicion that he's hiding it for reasons that he wants to hide," Schultz said.
In a statement sent at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Hann wrote:
"I have not pursued all the requirements necessary by Minnesota law to become an insurance salesman. I cannot sell any insurance products. Therefore, no conflict exists and no disclosure is necessary. It would be misleading to suggest otherwise. This is a baseless political attack by my liberal DFL opponents."
So far, Hann does have a state license to sell – but no company has authorized him to write a policy yet. That, however, is a very quick process, and at this point, it is still unclear exactly what Hann does for a living.