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Our view: Politics aside, Nolan errs with fundraiser

There’s no question Republicans are looking to get as much political mileage as they can out of a fundraiser dinner in Duluth this month for Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, an event featuring Peter Yarrow of the 1960s folk-singing trio Peter, Paul and Mary.

But their political motivations and feigned outrage aside, Republicans — and specifically the National Republican Congressional Committee — aren’t in the wrong. They have a point. There’s no way Nolan, his campaign or his supporters should have picked Yarrow for the event. Any vetting at all would have told them to keep their incumbent candidate as far away as possible.

In 1970, Yarrow admitted to having “immoral and improper liberties” with a 14-year-old girl in his hotel room in Washington, D.C., where he was performing concerts. He was arrested, jailed, sentenced to three months and carries to this day the label “child molester.”

Not that it has stopped his political involvement. His advocacy for Democrats started before 1969 when, in Willmar, Minn., Yarrow married the niece of Democratic U.S. Sen. Eugene F. McCarthy after they worked together on McCarthy’s campaign. In 2008 Yarrow reportedly performed for volunteers for President Barack Obama’s campaign. Last fall, Democratic congressional candidate Martha Robertson of New York came under the same sort of fire Nolan is now facing when her campaign also booked Yarrow to perform at a fundraiser. The National Republican Congressional Committee was front and center then, too.

“Rick Nolan should immediately cancel his fundraiser with a convicted child molester and apologize to his constituents,” Republican committee spokesman Tyler Q. Houlton said in a statement sent to the News Tribune and other media. “The fact that Rick Nolan even considered hosting an event with a child molester in the first place shows how wildly out of touch he is with Minnesota families.”

The News Tribune Opinion page on Tuesday contacted Nolan’s campaign and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for a comment and to ask whether Yarrow’s appearance at Bowery Brothers Pub in Duluth on April 25 might be canceled or altered because of the criticism. Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Brandon Lorenz responded by telephone but would talk only “on background.” Then he emailed a statement that didn’t address the questions but focused instead on Nolan’s Republican challenger this fall.

“This is a desperate attempt from Stewart Mills to distract from the fact that he is personally offended when millionaires like himself are asked to pay their fair share, putting him squarely in line with Congressman Paul Ryan’s budget that would raise taxes on middle-class Minnesotans in order to cut taxes for the wealthy,” Lorenz said.

So should Nolan and company cancel the fundraiser? Should they ask Yarrow to stay away?

Yarrow shouldn’t have been booked in the first place. And whether the attention being drummed up about it now is politically motivated or not doesn’t really matter. Either way, Nolan’s re-election bid is left to withstand an association with an admitted sex offender.