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Lawmakers scramble to take credit for aid

Policymakers agreed on the need to get federal help for businesses and residents near northeastern Minnesota's Gunflint Trail after last month's fire, but they don't agree on who deserves the credit once the aid was announced.

Many of those policymakers sent news releases demanding that federal agencies do more to help fire victims. Once it came, they did not hesitate to plug their roles in the action.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar sent a news release saying she spent time along the Gunflint: "Following her visit, Klobuchar and Congressman Jim Oberstar were successful in securing funds from the Small Business Administration to help communities start the rebuilding effort, and are actively pressing the Federal Emergency Management Administration to provide addition financial support to expedite the rebuilding process."

Klobuchar and Oberstar are Democrats. Not to be outdone, Republican U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman also sent out a news release.

"The decision, which both Coleman and Gov. Tim Pawlenty urged SBA to make during communication with the agency this week, makes financial assistance available for businesses and residents affected by the recent fire damage," Coleman's release said..

Oberstar said the Federal Emergency Management Agency needs to do more, especially because telephone and other communications are out.

"In this case, magnitude should not be measured in numbers of structures destroyed, but by the intensity of the effect," Oberstar said. "In this area, the intensity of effect is huge because of the nature of the economy here. If resorters are without communication for three months in a five-month economic season, then they might as well have all burnt to the ground."

The Ham Lake fire began on May 5 and burned out of control in wilderness areas in Minnesota and Canada until it was contained on May 19. about 75,000 acres burned and more than 130 structures were destroyed.