Monday, January 11, 2010

Lori Sturdevant: Facebook groupie

Here’s the lede from Lori Sturdevant’s In search of leadership’s sweet spot in the Strib yesterday:

Some of the most thoughtful end-of-decade analysis of Minnesota's shared life that crossed this scribe's screen appeared on Facebook. (Then again, doesn't everything?) [It is unclear whether Sturdevant meant all thoughtful analysis appears on Facebook, or just everything. You decide if you want to give her the benefit of the doubt.]

No, actually, Lori, you’re probably thinking of Twitter, since the posts there are shorter and easier to read.

Sturdevant’s Facebook pearls of wisdom dispenser is Tom Horner, poised to be what, the twenty-first candidate for governor in Minnesota? But as an Independence Party candidate, so that makes him special, so centrist, so “sweet spot.”

You have to admit that Facebook is the perfect place for Spin Doctor Horner to launch platitudes about “lack of innovation” and the need for “business taxes overhaul.” The amazing thing is that Horner’s Facebook “friend” (or maybe fan?) Sturdevant, a supposed policy wonk, swallowed it whole and passed it along as received wisdom.

Lori shows us a bit of Horner’s titanic thinking:

In Minnesota, fear of intraparty reprisal for interparty compromise has led to policy paralysis, Horner argued. That can be deadly for a state.

For example: In 2009, a Pawlenty-appointed task force concluded that the way Minnesota taxes business is outmoded and anticompetitive, and it recommended an overhaul. It said the resulting state revenue loss could be erased by expanding the sales tax to clothing and more services.

Notably, some of the Legislature's leading DFL tax experts agreed that business taxes need reform. But they said they would prefer to cover the state's losses by increasing income taxes paid by high-end earners.

So what happened? Nothing. And that's a shame, Horner said, because with the right business-tax structure, "Minnesota could be the Silicon Valley of bioscience industries."

And Horner would have done what? Taken the olive branch of independence and used it as a switch to flog the DFLers until they came to their senses?

Sturdevant plainly admires Horner:

Horner understands government and governing. He's also equipped with communication ability acquired during a 35-year career in journalism, politics and public relations.

Sturdevant will attest to the communication ability. In truth, Horner has been a Republican flack for as long as anyone can remember. As Spot wrote a few days ago:

[I]f you watch Almanac on Friday nights, you already know that Horner has often sat on the political couch as a spokesbeing for the Republicans. He’s a “principal” in the public relations firm of Himle Horner, an outfit that specializes in, inter alia, “crisis management.”

Crisis management is, of course, helping to gloss over really bad publicity resulting from a variety of malfeasance and allegations therof: toxic waste spills, corporate fines, action by regulators, criminal activity, and well, the list is almost endless: including the collapse of a major Interstate bridge.

So it is no wonder that Governor Gutshot’s administration turned to Himle Horner for help in, er, paving over the I-35W bridge collapse. To the tune of $550,000. Over half a million bucks:

The state is paying $550,000 for a public relations firm to tell the story of the new Interstate 35W bridge -- and to help restore the image of the beleaguered Minnesota Department of Transportation.

The firm, Himle Horner Inc., has been leading a "proactive, on-the-ground" initiative since last fall that includes information kiosks, attempts to shape media coverage and weekly "sidewalk superintendent tours" of the construction work.

A PR plan also promised to use a webcam to beam a half-hour live educational show from the bridge site to all Minnesota school-age children whose classrooms have Web access.

[italics are Spot’s]

Webcams are vey expensive, you know.

“Shaping media coverage” is Tom Horner’s specialty. He seems to be doing it rather effectively with Lori Sturtevant. The closest thing to a tough question in the whole piece was one that Sturdevant answered herself:

. . .  But the political club he's proposing to join has dwindled to near-obscurity since Hutchinson's puny 7 percent finish in 2006.

Or has it? It seems that the GOP candidate in the state Senate District 26 special election, Mike Parry, has suffered a self-inflicted political injury, via injudicious tweeting on Twitter. That means, I'm advised, that the IP's entrant in the Jan. 26 contest, Waseca Mayor Roy Srp, may have a real chance. His victory would be a sign of life that might spur Horner to take his candidacy thoughts to the next level.

Who advised Lori on Srp’s candidacy? Let’s hope it wasn’t Tom Horner. And let’s be frank: the state senate seat that Sturdevant is referring to is Dick Day’s old district. The fact that an Independence Party candidate might do well in this Republican-leaning area when the Republican Party candidate is damaged goods says nothing about how Tom Horner would do statewide as an Independence Party candidate for governor.

Except maybe in Lori Sturdevant’s hopes and dreams.

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