Friday, July 30, 2010

We’ve been over this before, Stonewall

Here’s Stonewall Emmer on a court’s blocking of portions of the Arizona immigration law:

Every state has the constitutional authority, even the obligation to protect it’s [sic] citizens from any threat to the safety of their person or their property.

The Court in this case ignores the real constitutional question in an attempt to justify the federal government’s failure to secure our borders and create a realistic, consistent, easy to understand path to citizenship. We need to encourage immigrants who still desire the freedom and opportunity the United States is supposed to offer to enter this country legally and, further, to become productive and contributing members of the community.

And here’s the decision enjoining portions of the recently-enacted federal statute.

The judge did not enjoin most of the law, rather than repeat all of those sections here, I suggest you just go and read the decision; the un-enjoined sections are referred to in the first few pages. Really, they are easy to find.

But here’s what did get enjoined:

capture 2

The court enjoined these provision of the law on the grounds of federal preemption. Preemption is based in turn on the Supremacy Clause, the part of the Constitution that Tom Emmer and the nullifiers don’t believe is there. But it is; it’s in Article VI:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

Here’s the Supreme Court of the United States, ruling on a Pennsylvania law to require aliens in the state to register with state authority:

Hines v. Davidowitz, 302 U.S. 512 (1941). The case is quoted extensively in the Arizona decision.

You can see, boys and girls, that there is very little new under the sun.

Stonewall engages in hyperbole when he says that the Arizona decision prevents the state from protecting citizens from all threats to “the safety of their person or their property.”

If an undocumented alien commits a violent or property crime, s/he can be arrested, charged, and convicted like anyone else.

You have to wonder what other undesirables that Stonewall would like to round up and take off the streets, just because he thought they “might” do something.

Tom Emmer is a putrefying bag of resentment and prejudice, a demagogue, and an unapologetic enemy of civil liberties. He appeals to the baser side of our nature, certainly not the “better angels” that Abraham Lincoln spoke of.

Emmer deserves only our contempt; his brand of extra-constitutionalism is simple nihilism and anarchy.

Update: I forgot the thump of the tail to Emptywheel for the link to the decision.

Hitting the Bullseye?

A steaming cauldron of outrage at Target has been bubbling over since campaign finance filings revealed their $150,000 contribution to MN Forward. But I have to admit, I've been curious about the apoplectic response.

It should surprise no one that Target, like any large retailer, would prefer the anti-union, lower wages, anti-regulation economic policy favored by Emmer (specifically) and the GOP (generally.) But it seems to have been a surprise to quite a few folks who had fuzzily positive feelings about Target to discover that their political agenda looks more like Walmart's than their local co-op. I'm trying to decide whether to chalk that up to strategic amnesia on the part of activists or to the success of Target's marketing department. Personally, I think that both explanations have some truth to them. It's been my experience that where Walmart inspires revulsion on the part of lefty types, especially in the upper Midwest, Target gets a pass. Is it Target's canny marketing of upper-middle class aspirations? Regional chauvinism that excuses the behavior of a Minnesota corporation while tut-tutting about the Bentonville behemoth? I suspect that many folks who are upset about Target's pro-Emmer contribution would have found the same contribution from Walmart barely worthy of a mention.

There's a selectiveness to this outrage that I find confusing. The most obvious example of this is that another Minnesota-based large retailer gave six figures to MN Forward, and no one's marching into Best Buy and cutting up their credit card. And I don't know whether the $50,000 that Red Wing Shoes gave to MN Forward will cause Tom Rukavina to stop wearing his Red Wing hiking boots, but it must at least cause some cognitive dissonance when he puts them on.

Boycotting businesses that support political causes that you disagree with is a staple of activists on the right and left. Just this week the American Family Association "made it official" and announced a boycott of Home Depot for its support of "open displays of homosexual activism." Some of the most visible calls for boycotting Target have come from GLBT activists, upset that Target simultaneously markets to GLBT customers while supporting a candidate opposed to GLBT rights.

Target CEO Steinhafel's letter to Target employees tried to finesse this:
However, it is also important to note that we rarely endorse all advocated positions of the organizations or candidates we support, and we do not have a political or social agenda.
On the one hand, Steinhafel's response is ludicrous; how can you say that you have no political agenda when you are supporting a candidate? But on the other, Target's real interest in supporting Emmer is a financial one. Target, like any corporation, will support candidates that would help their bottom line.

The very visible and specific anger toward Target for a pretty predictable contribution needs to be interpreted in the context of the Citizens United decision. It is not "ugly" or "thuggish" to use boycotts to influence corporate behavior. You have a right to vote with your spending, and Target (and other corporations) will have to balance their desire to support a political agenda that could increase their profits against the potential loss of customers that would hurt their bottom line. And this very visible attack on Target for their MN Forward donation is meant as a warning shot. Since corporate money/speech has been accorded First Amendment protection by the Supreme Court, counter-money/speech is a logical response.

So, why Target? I think the answer is part emotional and part strategic.

Emotionally, there are a lot of folks on the left who feel betrayed by a corporation for whom they had positive feelings. I honestly don't understand that, since it should be obvious that the political interests of a large retailer are focused on their profit margin. Target's success at developing an emotional connection between consumers and the Target brand is now boomeranging back at them as jilted consumers vote with their pocketbooks. If it makes you feel better to boycott Target, go for it. I'm just saying "what took you so long?"

Strategically, this is a test case for the financial cost incurred by corporations in response to their political contributions. In that sense, I do see value in emphasizing to corporations that they do not get to pursue a social and political agenda that some of their customers disagree with at no cost. In Minnesota, the loss of Target's squeaky clean image is the biggest cost that a boycott can impose on them.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

(Image Credit: AP, via Minnesota Public Radio)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Broke GOP AG candidate Barden wants unlimited campaign contributions

It's been a tough time for the GOP in the race against Attorney General Lori Swanson. After months of hemming and hawing and stalling, Chris Barden entered the race and won the GOP endorsement.

Barden's late start hasn't done him any favors in the fundraising department. Barden's campaign finance report indicates that he's flat broke, with $4,700 on hand after loaning his campaign $5,000. Nearly all of his fundraising activity was in June and July, and with that in mind, his $47,000 raised in individual contributions is credible considering the short timeframe. Nonetheless, even with a couple of recent $1,000 contributions he's fishing for coins in the couch.

On the other hand, incumbent Swanson is sitting pretty. She has over in $200,000 in cash on hand. She's raised $140,000 in 2010, nearly $100,000 from individual contributions. She has more cash on hand than any candidate for state office (other than Governor candidates.) For perspective, she's got 2/3rd of Tom Emmer's cash on hand, and more than half of Kelliher's available cash.

All of this made the following press release from Barden's campaign even more confusing:

Rejecting the Limits is Our Path to Victory in November

I believe that accepting the insufficient subsidy funding for the Attorney General race in MN would provide a huge advantage for the incumbent, Lori Swanson, and her entrenched 40 year political machine. Given that the integrity of the Minnesota legal and election system is at stake in this campaign, I will go forward making the significant, serious and unlimited effort required to win this essential race and restore the trust of voters in the Office of Attorney General.

With regard to financing our campaign, we will rely upon the judgment of the people of Minnesota and will not be limited by the government subsidy system.

These are bold words from a campaign that is $200,000 behind Swanson's cash reserves. Even more bold from a campaign that has just foregone at least $81,000 in public subsidy, and increased the amount of public subsidy Swanson's campaign receives. And even more crazy, considering that now Swanson will be freed from the spending cap while still receiving the $95,000+ in subsidy.

The spending cap for the AG race is somewhere between $430,000 and $567,000 if you accept the public subsidy. Since Barden is likely to meet both conditions that increase the cap (first time candidate and closely contested primary), he would have been able to spend $137,000 more than Swanson if he'd accepted the subsidy. As it is, he's removed the more restrictive cap on Swanson's spending. And that, my friends, makes no strategic sense at all. It makes me wonder if Barden's campaign failed to meet the requirements of the public subsidy program and are trying to bluster their way out of the embarrassment.

Well, I hope it's bluster, because if you accept Barden's reasoning on its face, he's pining away for a world of unlimited individual and corporate contributions to campaigns:
Rejecting the limits relies upon the citizens of the state of Minnesota and their unlimited First Amendment right to support the candidate who stands for them, rather than a government-controlled election funding system.

Under our First Amendment Right to Free Speech, voters should decide the limits of political campaigns. Yet under Minnesota's current laws, our campaign faces donation limits on the free speech of individual citizens.

Chris Barden is an unlikely champion of a hyper-Citizens United world where there are no limits whatsoever on campaign contributions. He can barely buy a full-page newspaper ad with his cash on hand. But his argument that there should absolutely no limit on political contributions is far more radical than anyone else on the GOP ticket. Even Stonewall Emmer is for the public subsidy (after he was against it.)

Oh, one more thing. Remember when I said Barden would be in a "closely contested primary?" Well, that's because he faces the inimitable Sharon Anderson, who's run for AG repeatedly. (No, not THAT Sharon Anderson.) GOP endorsed AG candidates ignore Anderson at their peril. She knocked off the endorsee in 1994, and ran relatively close to Jeff Johnson in 2006.

As Spot likes to say, "there's still time for a pool party."

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

What’s another word for corporatism?

In 1971, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled on the case of an anti-war activist shareholder of Honeywell, Inc. who wanted access to the shareholder list of Honeywell for the purpose of communicating with these shareholders about the munitions manufactured by the company that were being used in the Vietnam war.

If I recall correctly, cluster bombs and Claymore mines — the use of which is now regarded by many civilized nations as a war crime, but not by the U.S. — were some of the munitions that Pillsbury objected to. This all happened at the very beginning of an activist initiative that became known as the Honeywell Project.

That’s ancient history to most of you, boys and girls, but I remember the case quite well. I even remember bringing it up in my corporations class, questioning the result, and being met by a dismissive professor (who was not, it is perhaps unnecessary to say, Professor Don Marshall).

The case was captioned State of Minnesota ex rel. Charles A. PILLSBURY, Appellant, v. HONEYWELL, INC., Respondent. It would be hard to find a case in Minnesota with only two parties with more famous names.

The Supreme Court of Minnesota, affirming the district court, turned Mr. Pillsbury down, stone cold. Why? The court ruled that Pillsbury only had a legitimate interest in Honeywell’s bottom line, not social or political matters.
In the instant [a much cooler word, don’t you think boys and girls, than the pedestrian “this” or even “present”] case, however, the trial court, in effect, has found from all the facts that petitioner was not interested in even the long-term well-being of Honeywell or the enhancement of the value of his shares. His sole purpose was to persuade the company to adopt his social and political concerns, irrespective of any economic benefit to himself or Honeywell. This purpose on the part of one buying into the corporation does not entitle the petitioner to inspect Honeywell's books and records.
Under Pillsbury against Honeywell, the social and political concerns of a shareholder do not matter, but under Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, the corporation is a citizen entitled to a voice in social and political affairs.

These decisions are, well, at odds. They throw into sharp relief the problem with making corporations into political and social stakeholders with direct access to the political system.

Corporations aren’t, practically speaking, accountable to their owners. The real ability of shareholders of Best Buy, Polaris Industries, Securian (which is a better name for a condom company than a company in the insurance business), Target, or any of the big dollar company contributors to MNForward, to have any effect on on where contributions for political speech goes, is nil.

Many of the companies who have contributed to MNForward have been the recipients of economic assistance by the state of Minnesota or its political subdivisions in the past, by the way of direct grants, tax incentives, or tax abatements.

The potential for subversion of a functioning democracy is obvious to the casual observer, if not to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In spite of what morons like Jonah Goldberg write, or what the unlettered say at Tea Party rallies, corporatism is the real synonym for fascism; the contributions highlighted by MNO yesterday illustrate the point very well.

A thump of the tail to MNO for the post making me think about Pillsbury against Honeywell.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


In case anyone was wondering as to which corporate entities have given what to the MN Forward corporations-as-people political fund, here's the complete list, which can be found at the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board's website.

Best Buy ($100,000)
Davisco Foods ($100,000)
Hubbard Broadcasting ($100,000)
Polaris Industries ($100,000)
Regis ($100,000)
Securian ($100,000)
Target ($100,000 cash, $50,000 in kind "Branding" services)

The thing to watch in the last weeks before the election will be the "24 hour notices," which require disclosure of the last-minute funding of the fund and are often overlooked. Since the last report, additional money has flowed in even faster:

Insurance Federation of MN ($10,000)
Federated Insurance ($100,000)
Pentair ($125,000)
Red Wing Shoes ($50,000)

You can also see who's on this gravy train by looking at the expenses. Big winners? Lawyers, Brian McClung, pollsters, and SSG Media, Inc. At this point, they've spent $195,000 on an independent expenditure for Candidate Emmer (no others), and have $790,000 in the bank.

Welcome to the post Citizens United world.

Update: And just today, Senate Republicans ensured that we will remain in a post Citizens United world with corporate money destroying our democracy when they blocked passage of the DISCLOSE Act.

Further Update: Just since late this morning when the listing above went up, MNForward's coffers have grown even fatter. Another 24 hour notice indicates that the Cold Spring Granite Company gave $35,000 yesterday.

The first person to Drink Liberally

331-profile-front Tomorrow night, Thursday, July 29th, Justin Krebs, a founder of Drinking Liberally, will be the guest at, well, Drinking Liberally in Minneapolis. Drinking Liberally has grown to well over 300 chapters from it beginning seven years ago in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York City.

Drinking Liberally is now part of an organization called Living Liberally. (You can go to the website and find a link to the Minneapolis chapter of DL and get email notices about our meetings.)

Justin should be around for most of our meeting from six to nine, but he’ll offer a few comments starting around seven. We’ll be at the 331 Club in Northeast Minneapolis.

Justin’s in town as part of a national book tour to promote his book, 538 Ways to Live, Work, and Play like a Liberal (Skyhorse Press 2010). So, you’ll be able to buy a book and have Justin inscribe it for you right there before your eyes. So you know it will be genuine.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Finance report tidbits - Sen 50 and Rep 35B

The release of campaign finance reports has provided a wealth of information, and while the focus is on the top of the ballot races, the downballot contests often turn on effective fundraising. Also, since many of these races aren't polled, the money race is one of the few indicators of what's going on. This installment covers a couple of interesting legislative contests. (Note: most of the links below are to .pdf files)

Senate 50: Chaudhary (D) / Goodwin (D) vs. Bauman (R) vs. Anderson (I)

The ugly saga of Satveer Chaudhary hasn't deprived him of the resources needed to mount his campaign for re-election, but whether that will be enough to overcome the cloud of the Fish Lake matter and his IRS troubles remains to be seen. Starting with over $20,000 in the bank, Chaudhary posted a number of high dollar contributions late Spring and Summer. Perhaps the most interesting was a $250 contribution from Education Minnesota that posted the day after Chaudhary's endorsement was yanked by SD50 DFL. He also just posted a $500 contribution from Teamsters Joint Council 32 DRIVE. Apparently the Teamsters, who have endorsed Mark Dayton for Governor, don't hold it against Chaudhary that he switched his allegiance in the Governor's race to Kelliher under pressure from district DFLers. He's raised around $9,000 this year and spent most of that, but he still has $20,000 cash on hand.

Barb Goodwin's gotten a campaign going in short order and raised over $9,000 since filing for the office on June 1st, with over $7,000 in individual contributions. She's pretty short on cash, but has a good sign presence around the district, good name recognition from her stint as 50A Representative, and the backing of local DFL activists. If she can keep raising money at this pace and win the primary, she'll be fine for the general election.

All of the internecine warfare has led to speculation that the SD50 seat might be plucked by the GOP, but endorsed Republican Gina Bauman posted lackluster numbers with less than $6,500 raised. $1700 of that was from party units or other candidates, and she has only $2500 cash. Bauman will have a serious fundraising disadvantage against either DFL'er. And even worse for GOP hopes, 2006 GOP candidate Rae Hart Anderson has filed as an independent. Anderson, who represents the looniest fringe of the right, will further split the vote and pave the way for whoever emerges from the DFL primary.

Representative 35B: Buesgens (R) / Rees (R) vs. LaFrance (DFL)

It's more amusement than anything else that draws me to this race, but I'm really amazed at how little fundraising Mark Buesgens has done in this race. His campaign's filing shows only $910 raised from individual contributions, $1400 cash, and only one itemized (> $100) donation in the whole report, making for some quick reading. Buesgens is obviously busy with his paying gig as Stonewall Emmer's campaign manager, so we'll get a chance to see whether Buesgens can ignore his district and get reelected.

His primary opponent, former State Rep. Tom Rees, has taken issue with Buesgen's willingness to sell Minnesota's patrimony (in the form of our state parks) to the highest bidder. He's pretty much self-funded his campaign and spent most of it on his website and some newspaper advertising. Jannaya LaFrance is doing okay, raising around $2500 between individual contributions, DFL party support and WomenWinning PAC, but faces the prospect of campaigning in one of the reddest districts in Minnesota.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

A pitch for tolerating intolerance

Here’s a letter in the Star Tribune today:

Yoder's response to Katherine Kersten was very moving. Yoder wrote about her two gay children, the struggles they have faced, and the love within their family. I thank her for her perspective, and I do not doubt her sincerity.

However, she completely missed Kersten's point, which was (that) it is not easy to be an opponent of same-sex marriage. [chortle]

Almost daily, the media accuses us of bigotry and hate. All of us have been dragged into fights we did not want. Most of us have lost friends we valued. Some have been financially, professionally or personally attacked. And it is getting worse.

Kersten's article documents how, increasingly, those of us who oppose same-sex sex activity are under attack in every region of our lives. Gay activists are beginning to threaten our grades in the classroom, our paychecks in the workplace and, in extreme cases, even our freedoms of speech and of worship.

Perhaps we deserve this. I certainly don't expect homosexuals to sympathize. They have faced much worse discrimination for much longer.

History may view our movement as the last courageous defense against a culture of death. Or as the last vestige of a homophobic Jim Crow. That history is being written now.

But Kersten is right. The gay-rights movement is no longer about mere tolerance. It is about enforced universal acceptance. Those of us who can never accept homosexual activity are weathering a worsening storm. Brittle courage keeps us afloat.

Please tolerate us, too.


The “last courageous defense against a culture of death” or the “last vestige of a homophobic Jim Crow.” Stirring.

You know, come to think of it, you do read almost every day about how some gay person went out and murdered a straight person. Like that killer out in Wyoming, Matthew Shepard.

No — wait — Matthew was the one who got killed! That’s right. Like all of the gay men who where slain by the convicted killers in this documentary film.

Heaney’s got his culture of death backwards.

It borders on the absurd is absurd to claim that Kersten — I have a passing familiarity with her writing — was merely remarking about hard it was to be an opponent of gay marriage. No, the column in question was just another call to arms in the shabby little charade that Kersten, and the Strib, too, call opinion journalism.

Andy Birkey did a nice debunk job on the said column in question.

It is laughable when, well, bigots like Heaney try to paint themselves as oppressed and deserving of tolerance. Consider Heaney’s last two sentences:

Those of us who can never accept homosexual activity are weathering a worsening storm. Brittle courage keeps us afloat.

This is a guy with a HUGE persecution complex. But as an exercise, where Heaney writes “homosexual activity,” substitute: blacks, Jews, Italians, or Irish.

And when Heaney replies, “This different; it says so in the Bible,” remind him that the Bible sanctioned slavery and multiple wives. And remind him that some “Christians” have been quoted very recently as saying that the Jews killed Jesus, when taking some time out from hating gays, apparently.

Finally, gay marriage does not mean forced acceptance. No one is forcing Heaney to have a gay wedding, or attend one, or even send a place setting of flatware as a gift for one. He doesn’t have to go to a church where gay marriages are performed.

Heaney actually summed it up pretty well himself: the last vestige of a homophobic Jim Crow. I doubt I could have said it better myself.

Latinos are an invasive species

Lino Lakes, Minnesota, has bravely stepped into the future by becoming the first city in Minnesota to adopt an "English only" ordinance. According to proponents, this ordinance has nothing to do with prejudice or xenophobia, it's just a straightforward attempt to save money.

This is despite the fact that by all accounts, the city has never spent a thin dime to translate anything into a language other than English. Opponents of the change argued that if the budget justification is bogus, there must be political reasons for the change. Of course, advocates for the English only ordinance were shocked! shocked! that anyone would think that.

Jerry Berg, a Lino Lakes resident who spoke in favor of the ordinance, said:
"This whole subject is being hi-jacked by people who want to call it racist. We're not doing that. We're just looking out for the budget. I'm glad to see the council being pro-active. It's not costing them anything but it will in the future if they don't do this."
Oh, well, okay. Mayor Jeff Reinert thoughtfully extended this logic in his comments:

"Right now we have zero expense in the city for emerald ash borer. And yet we're spending all kinds of time, staff time, no doubt eventually money, for a problem that doesn't exist. But it's something in the future you can see."

Comparing immigrants to an invasive species? Oh, that's classy. And proponents of this change wonder why anyone would think this makes their community seem hostile and unwelcoming?

Actually, the news coming out of Arizona should give a clue that this is what it's really about - it's about putting up an "immigrants not welcome" sign. Or you could listen to what Lino Lakes resident Carl Elmquist said:

"And I'm tired of going to restaurants and hearing all the new families not speaking English. They speak whatever the native tongue is to their kids, and there doesn't seem to be any teaching the young kids in their families English!"

Lino Lakes' next initiative: building a fence. Then Carl Elmquist can eat his pancakes in peace, freed from having to hear a language other than his own.

(Image Credit - U.S. APHIS)

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

Monday, July 26, 2010

Show me the money!

Monday, July 26th was the filing deadline for campaigns to report 2010 fundraising totals to the Campaign Finance Board. While more complete information won't be available until tomorrow morning, the results released by the campaigns so far show lackluster fundraising for the endorsed candidates for Governor. Not only will there be plenty of details to pore over in the gubernatorial filings, there will be constitutional offices and legislative races to examine too. Expect to see a few posts here over the next couple of days as I get a chance to dig in.


I admire Margaret Anderson Kelliher's approach to releasing her totals at a Sunday presser and tying the release to a call for greater income disclosure requirements. It's pretty much pitch perfect, considering that the numbers are not pretty. I'd want to bury the story and pivot too, and that's exactly what she accomplished. Want proof? Check out the Polinaut headline "Kelliher targets Entenza and others on income." Like I said, pitch perfect.

The numbers aren't pretty, but they aren't fatal either. Kelliher raised a respectable $1.23 million since she began campaigning in 2009, and has about $365,000 cash on hand. One thing I'll be looking for is how much of that money has been raised recently and whether the numbers show her fundraising growing in the runup to the primary. The choice to release total numbers as opposed to 2010 numbers makes me suspect that there might be some weakness there.

She'll have GOTV help from endorsing organizations, unions, and the DFL which will stretch that money a bit further. But keeping up with Dayton and Entenza in the burgeoning air war will require her to accelerate her fundraising pace, which will be difficult as I suspect some money will stay on the sidelines until after the August 10 primary. Any independent expenditures prior to the primary will likely be negative ads against Emmer, such as the Alliance for a Better Minnesota ad about the tip penalty.

Entenza is self-financing, that's no surprise. But some of the numbers his campaign released today are eye-popping. He's already given $4 million to his campaign, and almost all of it has been spent on extensive television and radio ads, full color glossy direct mailings, and generous field spending. I think one telling number is that Entenza's raised $672,000 from "outside sources," which is more than half what Kelliher has raised.

If anyone thought that Entenza would go away after early poll results looked bad, they were wrong. He's demonstrated a willingness to spend lavishly and has closed the gap rapidly.

Dayton's campaign didn't release anything in advance of the official CFB release on Tuesday.


Emmer's numbers have to be disappointing for Republicans. There were already whispers going into the convention that Emmer has spent all of his money on hockey jerseys. To his credit the numbers his campaign released represent a respectable turnaround, but $300,000 is not a lot of cash in this election cycle. Remember, though, that Emmer's got time to raise funds and independent groups who will spend on television ads while he's raising the funds. Minnesota Forward has already raised over $600,000 on his behalf, including another $125,000 from Pentair just filed today.


If there was one big piece of news today, it is that Tom Horner is a dead man walking. The $190,000 he reported raising isn't terrible for an IP candidate, but the $27,500 cash on hand means he'll struggle to pay the rent, let alone enter the air war. He's still unknown to a wide swath of the electorate, and that will not change until he can afford to advertise, since he can't rely on a robust party operation or independent groups to supplement his meager bankroll. He's rapidly heading toward Peter Hutchinson territory.

Watch here for more detail on the gubernatorial campaigns and coverage of the other statewide offices as the Campaign Finance Board makes the official reports available.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

(Image Credit: AMagill on Flickr)

Famous political quotes

Harry Truman:

I just told the truth, and they thought it was hell.


When you can’t offer a correction, demand an apology:

Sen. Al Franken said this weekend that Republicans don’t want a jobs bill to pass before the election because it would help Democrats politically, prompting the state Republican party to demand an apology from the Minnesota Democrat.

According to Tony “Featherbed” Sutton, who had his own special jobs program when Pat Anderson was the State Auditor:

In a statement, the Minnesota GOP Chairman Tony Sutton said that Franken “crossed a line.”

It’s always bad for guys like Tony when the discourse veers into the truth. The path of the Republicans has been pure obstruction on this and many other issues. That may even be good politics, but it doesn’t bode well for good policy.

But then, nobody has ever accused Tony of being a policy guy.

The photo is from a MinnPost article about Sutton and Brodkorb (who holds down – and I use that term as generously as I can – a state-paid Republican caucus job while he serves as the Republican vice chair) complaining about Mark Ritchie.

Slytherins for Emmer!

Courting the dark wizard vote in Montgomery. The muggles look confused.

(h/t Bluestem Prairie - go there and help parse the message of the Emmer campaign.)

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Are taxes driving retired veterans out of Minnesota?

In his campaign's quest to pivot from the tip penalty debacle, The Big Red One visited Elk River last week for another "listening session." The purpose of this listening session seems to have been to provide a platform for Emmer to make some serious policy proposals and hopefully to turn the klieg lights of the media away from server wages and toward veterans.

I won't belabor the fact that one of Emmer's two proposals (A Minnesota GI Bill) is already law, was passed 127-7, and that Emmer (and his campaign manager Rep. Mark Buesgens) actually voted against the bill containing the Minnesota GI Bill.
Campaign spokesman Bill Walsh attributed the flub to “bad staff work,” noting that Emmer was reading from an overview of Pawlenty’s proposals. “I didn’t make it clear which things had passed and which things hadn’t passed yet. And obviously he forgot, because he voted on it. So that is a misspeak,” Walsh said.
This is more than sloppy staff work, it's legislative amnesia. I guess when you vote no on everything, those votes just kind of blur together. And as far as being clear about what had passed and hadn't passed, here's Emmer at the Elk River event:
"It's disappointing that we haven't passed at least one of these [Minnesota GI Bill and tax exemption for military pensions] already."
I do want to examine his other proposal, to exempt military pensions from the state income tax. Particularly, I want to take issue with one claim - that Minnesota is driving away military retirees because of high taxes. I've previously criticized Emmer's claims that we are losing the right kind of people because of taxes. As we'll see in a moment, it is no more true to say that taxes are driving away the specific group of military retirees as it is to claim that taxes are causing Minnesota to become a "departure zone."

Here's the relevant section of Emmer's comments starting at about 4:30 in MPR's audio recording of the Elk River appearance.
"We've got to, we don't have a military base in the State of Minnesota, so we have to do whatever we can to attract military servicemen and women, our great veterans back to Minnesota. We have to make Minnesota attractive for what I believe are the most disciplined, well trained business folks we could possibly have in the State of Minnesota. How do we do that? It's by having certain incentives . . ."
At 10:00, Emmer is fielding comments from Ralph Donais, Chairman of the United Veterans Legislative Council of Minnesota. (By the way, if you click through to their website, on the front page is a link for information about the Minnesota GI Bill. Maybe Mr. Donais should have said something to Emmer beforehand.)
Donais: "We're giving up about a half billion dollars a year into the state's economy by taxing the second career military because they're not coming to Minnesota, they're going to other states where there is very low tax or no tax and establishing their household."
Emmer's very interested in this figure, so he asks where Donais gets this figure of a half-billion dollars that Minnesota is losing by taxing military pensioners.
Donais: "It comes from the DOD actuary, anyone can go to that site and get it."
What does the Department of Defense actuary say about Minnesota? How does Minnesota, a state without a military base, compare to the national average when it comes to attracting and keeping military veterans?

The following figures are derived from the DOD Actuary's Statistical Reports from FY 2001 - 2009. They are available as .pdf files at the left side of this page.

Between 2001 - 2009, the total number of U.S. veterans receiving a military pension from the Department of Defense increased from 1,890,985 to 2,022,166, an increase of 10.9%.

Between 2001 - 2009, the total number of Minnesota veterans receiving a military pension from the DOD increased from 15,566 to 17,668, an increase of 13.5%, outpacing the national average.

Between 2001 - 2009, monthly DOD military pension payments to U.S. veterans rose from just over $2.7 billion to $3.85 billion, an increase of 42.5%.

Between 2001 - 2009, monthly DOD military pension payments to Minnesota veterans rose from nearly $17.6 million to just over $26.1 million, an increase of 48.6%, outpacing the national average.

One other set of statistics confirms that Minnesota is not repelling military retirees. US Census figures from the 2000 Census and 2006-2008 Census American Community Survey indicate that Minnesota is above the national median in the proportion of civilian veterans.

Expect to see the claim "taxes + gubmint = repel people" repeated endlessly by the Emmer campaign. At some point someone needs to push back and ask for real data to back up the claim, instead of accepting vague and fuzzy assertions that every non-welfare recipient in the state is fleeing for North Dakota. Like all people, veterans choose where to live based on a number of factors, and tax rate is only one of those factors. Quality of education, cost of living, quality of life, family ties, job availability, and others are all important in attracting relocating veterans. I'd guess that Minnesota's migration pattern of being a high sticky / low magnet state applies to veterans and persist regardless of specific tax incentives. And as I've previously argued, the migration hypothesis pushed by small-gubmint/anti-tax politicians lacks data to back it up. We'd be better at attracting residents by focusing on shoring up our education system and preserving our environment.

There are good arguments to be made for expanding the existing tax credit for military pensions. Minnesota currently provides a $750 tax credit for recipients of military pensions that phases out beginning at $30,000 in adjusted gross income. The fiscal impact (.pdf) of the current tax credit is estimated at $11 million annually. This approach of using a tax credit and capping the income of recipients means that the present approach provides a strong benefit for lower income military pensioners, and little to no tax benefit to higher income retired military personnel. If Ralph Donais is correct that "95 to 98%" of veterans are unable to take advantage of the existing tax credit, the Legislature should consider raising the cap on income to allow more veterans to do so.

It is a bipartisan sentiment that veterans deserve top quality health care, education benefits, and assistance from all levels of government. Emmer's proposal deserves consideration. But his belief that taxes are driving veterans from the state is plainly false.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

Let’s get Westover; he hates everything!

For a man of such intellectual sloth, Craig Westover manages to get a lot of ink as one of the go to guys for the gubmint = bad side of any argument. (I like Aaron’s spelling of the right wing version of government; I may recommend to the Board its inclusion in the next edition of the Cucking Stool stylebook.) Even if there is really no side.

Overhead at the Star Tribune op-ed editorial meeting:

We’re going to feature Margaret Anderson Kelliher this week in a piece on job creation in Minnesota. We need somebody to take the other side.

I’m not going to do it. You do it.

I’m not going to do it.

I know! Let’s get Craig; he hates everything!

Perfect. What didn’t I think of that?

Indeed he does hate everything gubmint, boys and girls, and he showed it off again in the Sunday Star Tribune. Apparently, seconded from the airless Pat Anderson campaign, where he is ordinarily employed writing airless press releases justifying the featherbed employment of Tony Sutton as the assistant state auditor when Anderson had the job before, Westover — our beloved Captain Fishsicks — repeats the central tenet of his belief system:

Gubmint cannot create wealth.

Craig Westover has a rosary with one bead.

He clacks the bead back and forth (although with a single bead, he may need to just whack it against his forehead repeatedly) any time he is asked to write something — and several times before retiring for the evening, too. It’s often accompanied by a gentle rocking to and fro.

However, having a one bead rosary makes a person — regrettably — prone to confirmation bias. Facts that seem to support the belief are accepted, while those that do not are rejected and, as the article at the link suggests, may even drive the believer further into belief, as a psychological defense mechanism.

It that Sticks, or what, Spotty?

Well, hello, grasshopper; you haven’t been around for a while! But yes, it does describe Westover pretty well.

Let’s consider this doctrinaire little riff from the Captain in his piece:

Demand for products at profitable prices motivates businesses to expand production (build more factories), hire more people, distribute greater wealth and thus increase general prosperity. Taxing the private sector to subsidize government-initiated projects funnels material, labor and capital into projects that only consume wealth.

The "demand" for light rail is predicated on a price (as is all economic demand). However, operating costs for the "highly successful" Hiawatha Line are about three times the revenue generated by the fare box. People demand light rail at approximately one-third the cost of providing it, but they are unwilling to pay the true cost of service.

The fifth-grade question is: "Given light-rail transit that operates at a 66 percent deficit, how many lines can we build before we run out of money?"

That’s the fifth grade question, all right, and the one that Westover would ask. But the follow up question to the fifth grader — or to Sticks — should be: we’ve been subsidizing the building and maintaining of roads since Roman times and continue to do it today; why didn’t that drive us into penury centuries ago?

That question is greeted with stony, huffy silence; somewhere down in a calcified little spot in his heart, even Westover has to recognize that transportation (just one facet of public infrastructure) contributes to the wealth of nations and the citizens that live in them.

The question above is one of the most self-revelatory things that Sticks has ever written; libertarians and fifth graders have an uncomfortably lot in common. Even King Banaian’s most hocus pocus economic models don’t come anywhere near telling us what the value of any investment, public or private, will be in the long term.

Thinking you can do it with arithmetic is so laughably ignorant, so fatuous and puerile that a proponent of the idea should be dismissed immediately and irrevocably from the public discourse.

But Sticks undoubtedly did very well on story problems in arithmetic in the fifth grade, because he just concentrated on the train leaving Cleveland and the one leaving Chicago and determining where they would collide, not stopping to consider the combination of private and public investments necessary to deliver the trains to their fate.

I’ll have more to say about this article, especially the part where Westover maintains that private expenditures are always good and productive, while public ones never are; we’ll call it Westover’s parable of the train and the salad shooter.

You know, Westover’s rosary may actually have two beads.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Mark Dayton’s visit to Drinking Liberally

If you click on the photo, it will take you to The Uptake’s Craig Stellmacher’s video of Mark Dayton’s remarks on Thursday night.


On running a railroad

The big news out here in Edina this week was the announcement that departing City Manager Gordon Hughes would receive approximately $229,000 as a separation payment, about $120,000 in cash, and the balance being paid into the city’s Heath Care Savings Plan on his behalf.

This news was not greeted with uniform delight. There was an extensive article in the Star Tribune about the payment on Thursday, July 21st. Since I was quoted in the article, I want to discuss the issue at greater length.

Let me say first of all, this isn’t about Gordon Hughes, the departing city manager. You can’t be a city manager, and the assistant city manager before that, and the city planner before that, without accumulating some dents and scratches from your interaction with the residents, but Gordon Hughes is held in high regard by the citizens of Edina and by his peers, too.

So that isn’t the issue.

The issue is paying a city manager, or a school superintendant, or any number of other managerial public employees in a way that is transparent (that’s a fancy word for open and understandable) to constituents. So they can gripe about it if they are so inclined.

This contract was negotiated under a different council and mayoral régime and with a different city attorney than Edina has now. But it is clearly a situation that has come back to haunt the people presently in charge.

I commend the article for a description of the contract, but in summary, it provided that on retirement, the city manager would receive 100 percent of all accrued (that is, unused) sick leave and vacation going back to the beginning of this manager’s employment over thirty years ago (he wasn’t the city manager when he started, of course), without limit as to hours, and that the hours would be paid at the effective hourly rate of the manager at the time he retired, regardless of how long ago they were accrued. Gordon Hughes tallied some 2,700 hours of accrued sick leave.

You really do have to wonder if the people who negotiated this deal thought through the implications of it, or of the budget hole that the city would step into in 2010. Edina’s entire, and declining, operating budget is about $28 million. This single payment is roughly one percent of the annual operating budget. Moreover, for 2009 and 2010, the city budgeted each year the sum of $130,000 for separation payments for all city employees.

Clearly, this is a budget buster.

There are some good reasons to pay an employee for (usually just a part) of their unused vacation and sick leave. This is especially true when a substitute — as for example a teacher — has to be hired as a replacement when the employee is out sick. The replacement labor can be more expensive (overtime), and there is the administrative hassle of obtaining it and putting it in place.

It’s better to provide some incentive to keep the employee on the job when s/he might otherwise stay home — unless s/he spreads contagion to everyone else, but that’s another story.

That is exactly the rationale that the City of Edina used when it adopted a policy of compensating retirees for half of their unused sick leave up to 960 hours; a policy that was adopted a year after the current city manager was hired on the contract just described.

When you think about it, it makes less policy sense to compensate city managers or superintendents for unused sick leave, because nobody hires a substitute city manager or superintendent for an occasional illness. But you ought to do it, if you do it for other employees, on a comparable basis; that’s just equitable.

But when it turns into a compensation method for managerial employees that’s much larger than for other employees, and it isn’t apparent, or accounted for, or accrued somehow on public books, that’s a problem. It’s just paying double time; it has nothing to do with the raison d'être for the policy in the first place.

The questions arose in the minds of some people as to whether the city manager became subject to the same policy that covered everyone else when it was adopted. I don’t know the answer to that; the mayor say “no.” And it is a fact that city managers are sui generis: in a category by themselves. (They are the only employee in a class B city hired by the council; the city manager actually hires the rest.)  But in view of the amount, and the outcry that it has raised in some quarters, proceeding cautiously and on the basis of a written legal (and perhaps accounting) opinion seemed desirable to me.

Speaking of accounting, it is another reason why a contract that requires determining illness events (or the lack of them) in personnel files that go back thirty years is a bad idea. Illness events are also something that employees want and employers need to keep confidential, but by the explicit terms of the data practices statute that covers personnel, data that are used to determine compensation are public data.

Original documents (such as time records for employees) in Edina are retained for six years, after that the physical records are destroyed, and only summary data in digital form remains. The calculation cannot be audited; there is no paper trail that extends back anywhere near that far.

And that is regrettable in a public setting. It’s regrettable for everybody: the city manager, the mayor and the city council, and the resident of the city.

If the offer of some kind of severance package over and above the contributions to the public pension plan, PERA, and other benefits that city managers are often offered, is required to attract or retain a qualified city manager — and it may be; I don’t have a view or understanding of that either way — it would be far more desirable to have the calculation of any amount payable determined by, for example, years of service. That would be transparent and easy to audit. It could be “audited” by citizens out of council minutes or even the archives of the community newspaper.

Steve Timmer

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Even making budget into hockey pucks can't help Emmer balance it

On last Friday's Almanac, Tom Emmer was given 100 hockey pucks, and The Big Red One was asked to divide them among budget categories and build a budget. Even the use of hockey pucks as a metaphor for the budget couldn't help hockey dad Emmer, although he did demonstrate some facility in juggling them at several points during the segment.

During the show, Mary LaHammer led two gubernatorial candidates through the budget exercise she called "Budget Slapshot." Similar to previous elections, this exercise asks candidates to allocate money in the categories of the general fund as they would like to see it if they were elected. Leading off this segment was Tom Emmer. You'd think this would be right up his alley, what with the zero-based budgeting and the hockey pucks! Unfortunately, for Emmer, it simply provided an object lesson in his absolute lack of understanding of the state budget while demonstrating his intent to gut health care, education spending, and local government aid.

First, here's a pie chart that represents the actual budget as of the end of the 2010 budget (from Minnesota Management and Budget - .pdf)

And here's what Tom Emmer came up with after nearly an hour of hemming, hawing, caveating, and explaining. I've highlighted the differences with red for categories that Emmer would reduce, and black for those he would increase. Transportation is green for a reason I will explain in a moment:

The first thing that leaps to my attention is that Emmer has no understanding of the biggest parts of the budget. 76% of the real general fund budget goes toward health/human services and education. In Tom Emmer's budget, they represent only 52%. This represents a cut of one-third across all health care programs, aid to school districts, etc. The best part of this is that Emmer represents this as "no big deal" - we'll find "efficiencies" and do it smarter. Local government aid? Emmer's budget would chop it in half. Transportation as a line item is a "gotcha" in my opinion, since nearly all transportation spending happens in a separate fund, so I've excluded it from my analysis. But even if you reallocated the 9% elsewhere, it wouldn't really change the thrust of Emmer's budget problems, they are that extreme.

The second thing is that Emmer consistently overstates the amount that is spent on the relatively small parts of the state budget. I simply can't believe that Emmer would quadruple the amount spent on environment, or increase the amount spent on state government agencies, or increase agriculture/veterans spending by more than 10 times the present levels! I can, however, believe that he'd quadruple economic development spending. But the central lesson here is that Emmer profoundly fails to understand how the budget works.

I'm usually not too enthused about these kinds of simulations, but in this case this might be the most concrete manifestation we get of Emmer's increasingly fuzzy assertions that he'd balance the budget by "redesigning" government. Just watching him squirm as he's forced to actually demonstrate the impact of his priorities is worth the investment of a couple of minutes of your time.

And here's the kicker - LaHammer then asked where he would cut an additional 10% from the budget, and Emmer went right back to the categories of spending he'd already eviscerated.
Health Care -5%
Local Government Aid -1%
Bonding Debt -2%
Economic Development -1%
Agriculture / Veterans -1%
While it's nice to see that he'd take back a bit of the tenfold increase in agriculture and veteran's spending and trim his quadrupling of economic development, mostly he just extends his dystopian fantasy of completely gutting health care for Minnesotans.

If Emmer understands anything, he should understand that you can't talk a hockey puck into the net. In this case, all the hemming and hawing and excuses in the world can't change the hard fiscal reality of what it would mean to balance the Minnesota general fund budget without considering any new revenue.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Business doesn’t create jobs

After I read Aaron’s post A Tale of Two Economies, I read a some other others things that I thought resonated with it.

First, a site named The Business Insider published a series of eye-popping graphics on the distribution of income and wealth in the United States. Here is the first one:

The gap between the top 0.01% and everyone else hasn't
been this bad since the Roaring Twenties


The graphic is a little difficult to read, but the top chart shows average income of the top 1% as a multiple of average income of the bottom 90%, starting in 1912. The bottom chart shows the top marginal federal rate tax rate on income at the same times.

Wealth, as opposed to income, tells the same story.


That’s right: the bottom half of the people in the U.S. own 2.5% of the wealth; the top ten percent owns over 70% of it. (corrected per proofreader Aaron)

I commend the rest of the graphs to you; they show income stagnation for just about everyone except the rich, the wealth and income disparities compared to other OECD countries, the income disparities by state (Minnesota currently does better than most, but it still isn’t anything to brag about), etc.

The second thing that caught my eye was Paul Krugman’s column on the return of voodoo economics, and the fact that Congressional Republicans who have been howling so loudly about the federal deficit and, on the other hand, want to make the deficit-busting Bush tax cuts permanent:

For a while, leading Republicans posed as stern foes of federal red ink. Two weeks ago, in the official G.O.P. response to President Obama’s weekly radio address, Senator Saxby Chambliss devoted his entire time to the evils of government debt, “one of the most dangerous threats confronting America today.” He went on, “At some point we have to say ‘enough is enough.’ ”

But this past Monday Jon Kyl of Arizona, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, was asked the obvious question: if deficits are so worrisome, what about the budgetary cost of extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, which the Obama administration wants to let expire but Republicans want to make permanent? What should replace $650 billion or more in lost revenue over the next decade?

His answer was breathtaking: “You do need to offset the cost of increased spending. And that’s what Republicans object to. But you should never have to offset the cost of a deliberate decision to reduce tax rates on Americans.” So $30 billion in aid to the unemployed is unaffordable, but 20 times that much in tax cuts for the rich doesn’t count. [italics are mine]

The next day, Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, confirmed that Mr. Kyl was giving the official party line: “There’s no evidence whatsoever that the Bush tax cuts actually diminished revenue. They increased revenue, because of the vibrancy of these tax cuts in the economy. So I think what Senator Kyl was expressing was the view of virtually every Republican on that subject.”

Of course, as Krugman observes, this is horse puckey:

Ronald Reagan said that his tax cuts would reduce deficits, then presided over a near-tripling of federal debt. When Bill Clinton raised taxes on top incomes, conservatives predicted economic disaster; what actually followed was an economic boom and a remarkable swing from budget deficit to surplus. Then the Bush tax cuts came along, helping turn that surplus into a persistent deficit, even before the crash.

The third thing that caught my attention was a story in the New York Times that even the rich, alas, are cutting back:

The economic recovery has been helped in large part by the spending of the most affluent. Now, even the rich appear to be tightening their belts.

Late last year, the highest-income households started spending more confidently, while other consumers held back. But their confidence has since ebbed, according to retail sales reports and some economic analysis.

“One of the reasons that the recovery has lost momentum is that high-end consumers have become more jittery and more cautious,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Analytics.

Why, if the only people who have any money won’t spend it, the economy will surely tank! The only rational thing to do is give the rich additional tax cuts as a balm for spending some of their money in this trickle-down economy!

Or — mon Dieu — we could put some money into the hands of the other 90%, because they would surely spend it. Consider things like an extension of unemployment benefits, jobs programs, additional economic stimulus, foreclosure assistance, and public works.

The fourth thing that caught my attention was a nameless, fungible commentator on NBC News (okay, you caught me watching television news) telling Brian Williams not to worry, that the top 500 businesses were sitting on the on $180 trillion cash, (the same mountain of money that Aaron mentions in his post), and they’d undoubtedly start spending it soon and hiring people.

Why would they do that? If nobody has any money to buy anything from these businesses except the rich, and they aren’t buying, who’s left?

So here’s the point: businesses don’t create jobs. Demand creates jobs. Demand comes from people with some money and the confidence to spend it.

You can write that down. In fact, you should.

This is where The Republicans, Stonewall and the Emmerbots, Tom Emmer’s witch doctor economist, and Tom Horner, too, have it so thoroughly and tragically backwards and upside down. It doesn’t do a restaurant any good to shave a couple of bucks off the server’s pay if there aren’t customers who will come in to buy the food.

There may be another post on two on this topic in coming days.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

And now for some horserace coverage

Tuesday night marked the release of the latest poll on the race for Governor, a new Rasmussen Poll commissioned by Fox 9. I've made my point before on the deficiencies of the Rasmussen methodology (one day, robo-call), but since Rasmussen has done two other polls using this same method there are interesting trends to track. Rasmussen is skewed toward the GOP - I finally saw one Rasmussen Poll showing a D in the lead, and that was Hickenlooper leading McInnis in the Colorado Gov race. Sure, it was a two point lead within the margin of error after a week of McInnis getting hammered for plagiarizing, but with Rasmussen you take what you can get.

And this makes the topline results very rosy for the DFL - both Dayton and Kelliher lead Emmer by a 4-5 point margin, right around the 4.5 percent margin of error. Entenza leads by one, and that's a statistical tie.
Dayton 40
Emmer 36
Horner 10

Kelliher 40
Emmer 35
Horner 11

Entenza 37
Emmer 36
Horner 12
This poll was conducted on July 19, so this is on the heels of Emmer's Waitergate debacle, which the Emmer campaign must be eager to put behind them. The problem for Emmer is that his approval numbers continue to deteriorate.

In my last post on Rasmussen polling, I started tracking the "Approval Index" and the "Dunno Index" for the candidates. The Approval Index is the number you get when you subtract the "strong disapproval" percentage from the "strong approval" figure. Since we are still early in the race, this index gives you an indication of voters who have already made up their minds on a candidate. The Dunno Index is the percentage of voters who answer "not sure" to the favorable question.

Approval Index

The striking thing about these numbers is twofold. First, Emmer has gone from a fuzzy "not sure, but positive" approval index to a strongly negative one. He has only 7% strong positives, by far the lowest of all the candidates but Horner, who nobody seems to know. Three times as many respondents have a strongly negative opinion of Emmer than have a strong positive opinion. Second, Kelliher has squandered her advantage in favorability ratings in a short time, while Dayton has improved slightly.

For context, consider that President Obama rates a -6 on the Approval Index, and Tim Pawlenty sits at -8. I guess one way of seeing it is "a pox on all of their houses." With that environment, you'd think Tom Horner would be getting some serious traction, but you'd be wrong.

Dunno Index

Entenza's finally closing the gap on the Dunno Index, but after spending hundreds of thousands on television ads and direct mail he'd better. Horner is still an unknown quantity, but another question asked in this poll must be concerning for Horner. When asked if they were "more or less likely to vote for an independent candidate" this election - 22% said they were more likely, and 47% said less likely. This is horrible news for Horner, since you'd expect that in this supposedly anti-politician and anti-incumbent environment that people would be more amenable to a third party candidate. Not only have his topline numbers not budged, but Horner's not seen as a real alternative. He needs to get in the television game soon or risk being completely written off by voters.

The rightyblogger spin has already begun - claiming that the DFL lead is in the margin of error (with the exception of Entenza, it's right on the border), claiming that Emmer's combined unfavorability rating is lower than the DFL candidates (true, but Emmer's soft support, relatively high dunno numbers and negative favorability trend are more salient features.) The key message I take out of this poll is that Emmer has squandered his opportunity to float by through the primary season with a vaguely positive voter opinion. He's being defined by the tip penalty issue, and the lack of enthusiasm on the part of GOP voters is the most damning thing for Emmer. Seriously, in this election cycle? If the GOP standard bearer in Minnesota doesn't excite an excitable base, there's a serious problem afoot. The "not ready for prime time" whispers risk becoming a chorus with just one more mistake on the part of the Emmer campaign.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

Monday, July 19, 2010

Emmer's Campaign Manager: Sell the State Parks

It's another beautiful summer in Minnesota. Perhaps nothing is more Minnesotan than enjoying the outdoors, maybe visiting one of our beautiful state parks and doing a little camping. Lots of people like that, right? Do you enjoy the state parks in Minnesota? Which one is your favorite?

Personally, my favorite is Split Rock Lighthouse State Park; incredible campground, beautiful river valley, and the historic lighthouse. I wonder how much it would cost to buy it? If Minnesotans elect Tom Emmer, Minnesotans may find out what our state parks will fetch on the open market.

Representative Mark Buesgens is an atypical choice for a campaign manager, it's pretty uncommon to see a legislator run for re-election while managing a gubernatorial campaign. But in choosing Buesgens, Tom Emmer sent a clear message that he means to radically cut government. I mean radically - Buesgens is well-known for being a lonely voice on the libertarian fringe of the GOP, speaking out against all manner of government services that Minnesotans take for granted.

One example of Rep. Buesgens' vigorous and indiscriminate fight against gubmint is his belief that we should sell off all of the state parks. This issue came up on March 23rd this year as the House considered HF2786, a bill that made minor technical changes to the board of Spirit Mountain Recreation Area Authority. It wasn't controversial.

Rep. Buesgens then rose with an amendment. Rep. Buesgens is known to occasionally offer an amendment or two, and in this case he proposed selling Spirit Mountain and dissolving the Spirit Mountain Recreation Area Authority. Rep. Tom Huntley from Duluth rose with a question:

Representative Huntley: Representative Buesgens, would you then support closing all the state parks, selling them off?

Madam Speaker: Representative Buesgens.

Representative Buesgens: Madam Speaker, Representative Huntley. Yes.
Really, you should see the video - the "Yes" at the end is delivered with Buesgens' unique combination of resignation and indignation. The video evidence is on the House of Representatives website (it's at 1:32:34), or you could just go to the website of Rep. Buesgens' Republican primary challenger, former Rep. Tom Rees. It seems that even for Republicans, Buesgens and Emmer's government-slashing ways have gone too far when they threaten institutions that Minnesotans hold dear. Lest you think that I'm simply tarring Emmer by association here, Emmer stood with Buesgens and 8 other Republicans in symbolically voting against HF2786 after Buesgens' amendment failed to attract even 15 votes.

Buesgens tried to back away from his desire to sell the state parks in a subsequent newspaper article, but only succeeded in describing a more nuanced kind of privatization:
. . .[Buesgens] supports private vendors taking over park land management, he explained. “I’d do that in a heartbeat, you bet,” said Buesgens. “They’re a wonderful amenity — we shouldn’t get rid of them,” said Buesgens of state parks. “But we do need to look at different models when it comes the entire cost and burden of state government nowadays,” he said.
That's right, Representative Buesgens, let's turn Lake Itasca into Jellystone Park. Let's manage our state parks' forests for profit! Nobody will miss a few trees. Maybe we could dam up the lower Cascade River for some hydropower revenue?

Minnesota state parks are more than an "amenity," they are the common heritage of all Minnesotans. They preserve for all, including those yet to come, scenic and historical resources that are part of our identity as a state and as a people. They are not in need of a "different model."

When you hear the shapeless "reinvent government" rhetoric come out of Tom Emmer's campaign, remember this is what it means. And go camping in one of your Minnesota State Parks!

Update by Spot: MNO posted a comment that should be its own post. She makes some great points about the skulduggery that is afoot when many of these privatization schemes are proposed.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

Mark Dayton comes to Drinking Liberally

331-front-split-toned-with- This Thursday, July 22nd, Mark Dayton is featured as our guest at Drinking Liberally. Mark is a contender — and by most reckoning a strong one — for the DFL nomination for governor in the August 10th primary.

Mark will offer some remarks, stand for some questions, and spend some time greeting members of the audience afterwards. He is expected around seven. There will be a crowd, so you’ll want to come early to get a good seat.

As always, we’ll be at the 331 Club in Northeast Minneapolis; we start getting together around six PM.