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Though he’s a long time gone from the political fray, former Sen. Rod Grams keeps a close watch on the goings-on in Washington from his place on the family farm and the familiar confines of the media world he was in before being elected to Congress.
A Minnesota native, Grams grew up on the same farm his father was born and raised on. He came to Capitol Hill as a Republican member of the House in 1993, and after serving one term he was elected to the Senate, where he served until 2001. He lost his re-election bid to Democrat Mark Dayton, who is now governor.Farm-Bred Politics
In a roundabout way, farm life not only preceded Grams’ political career, it brought it into existence in the first place by shaping his politics.
Growing up on the farm got him used to waking up bright and early. When he took an afternoon radio job, he needed something to fill those morning hours to which he had become accustomed. He started a couple of companies, one of which involved building homes for people, and that’s where he ran up against the law — not by breaking it, but by following it.
While he’d been plugging away at his work, Congress and the state of Minnesota both retroactively eliminated a tax credit on building solar-powered homes. As a result, Grams lost $5,000 each in 1980s dollars on several homes he’d built.
It was an unforeseeable shortfall that had nothing to do with market forces and everything to do with regulation. That’s when he decided to stop complaining about the situation and go do something about it, he said in a recent interview with CQ Roll Call.
He described the relationship between private enterprise and government as perpetually at loggerheads. Regulatory obstacles were the name of the game, and he was content enough to play it until he saw that only one side could change the rules — and do so at its leisure, to boot.
“It just kind of upset me that the government can do things like that,” he said. So he decided to fix the system from the inside out. “I think that’s the best way to do it.”