Sunday, October 31, 2010

Six Minnesota Senate races the DFL can't lose

Control of the Minnesota Legislature is in the balance in this election. While it's easy to focus on the top of the ticket, there are 201 other races that will collectively have as much influence on the way the state of Minnesota addresses its budget deficit (among other things.)

Since the beginning of partisan legislative elections in 1974, the Minnesota Senate has always been controlled by the DFL. But there is a real, though slight, chance that the GOP could ride a wave of voter dissatisfaction in 2010 and seize control of the chamber.

By my reckoning, there are 24 safe DFL seats, and 10 safe Republican seats, all currently held by each party. But there are 33 other seats that are at least theoretically in play. The GOP has the advantage in 17 of those races (5 currently held by the DFL), and 10 others I consider a toss-up (all 10 of these are currently DFL seats.) See the bottom of this post for my list of the races in each category.

There are six crucial contests that lean toward the DFL, that are currently held by the DFL. Losing any of these would seriously threaten the DFL's ability to hold the Senate.

hPVI is a measure of the partisan lean of a district. In all references to hPVI, I've drawn from Tony Angelo's work at his blog minn-Donkey (which you should go and read as soon as you are done here.)

SD2 (R) Dennis Moser vs. (D) *Rod Skoe

Rod Skoe is a two-term Senator who won his last election by 20 points. He’s also in a pretty middle of the road district (hPVI -2 DFL). Moser has raised nearly $11,000 in individual contributions, but Skoe is sitting on over $25,000 cash on hand. If he’s worried about Moser, he’s not spending commensurately. If Skoe is unseated, that would be a sign of a massive wave for the Republicans. As is, this is a pretty safe seat for the DFL.

SD8 (R) Michael Cummins vs. (D) *Tony Lourey

Tony Lourey is a one-term Senator, who replaced his mother Becky Lourey in 2006 when she ran for the DFL gubernatorial endorsement. He won his first try for the Senate by 15 points. The district is pretty favorable for the DFL at hPVI +6. His opponent, Michael Cummins, is very conservative for the district and has raised only $5,000 in individual contributions compared to over $12,000 raised by Lourey. That said, enthusiasm for Chip Cravaack in the southern part of CD8 could put wind in the sails of statehouse candidates. This is another seat to watch as a potential sign of a massive GOP takeover of the Senate.

SD23 (R) Peter Trocke vs. (D) *Kathy Sheran

In a normal year, this would go in the “solid DFL” category. The district is hPVI +2 for the DFL. Kathy Sheran is well-known and has raised over $20,000 in individual contributions, and is sitting on over $32,000 in cash. Her opponent, Peter Trocke has raised only $7,400 in individual contributions. Sheran, former Mayor of Mankato and daughter of Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Sheran, should win this race. But this year all one-term DFL incumbents have to be viewed as potentially vulnerable.

SD51 (R) Pam Wolf vs. (D) *Don Betzold

Sen. Don Betzold is a multi-term Senator first elected in 1992, but he’s clearly in a defensive mode. He faces the same opponent that he defeated by 9 points in 2006. He’s only raised around $6,000 in individual contributions, and has spent over $45,000 on his campaign. But his opponent, teacher Pam Wolf, hasn’t raised much more than than that. The district is hPVI -2 DFL, and while that’s not terrible for Betzold, he has good reason to be concerned as a long-term incumbent in a battleground district.

SD39 (R) Robb Soleim Jr. vs. (D) *James Metzen

I include this race in the “Lean DFL” category only because of concerns about the lingering effects of Metzen’s 2007 DUI conviction. Metzen won handily in 2006, defeating his opponent by 28 points. Metzen’s been Senate President since 2002. This is a swing district at hPVI +2 DFL, but Metzen is an institution, and his opponent appears to be running a boilerplate Republican campaign. Nonetheless, you can ask Jim Oberstar how much security he feels as an institution in 2010. A Metzen loss would portend a switch in control of the Senate.

SD50 (R) Gina Bauman vs. (D) Barb Goodwin vs. (I) Rae Hart Anderson

Once again, this is a race that in another year would be in the “Safe DFL” column, but the craziness in the DFL primary means I will list it here. Former Rep. Goodwin is well known in the district, having represented 50A for several terms and serving on the Columbia Heights School Board. She ousted incumbent Sen. Satveer Chaudhary, stripped of the DFL endorsement following revelations that he inserted special fishing regulations into a natural resources bill. This race might be closer if it weren’t for Rae Hart Anderson. Anderson was the 2006 Republican nominee, but is running on the IP ticket this time. Gina Bauman is a New Brighton City Council member, but has struggled with visibility.

In each case, these are seats the DFL needs to win. If any of these fall to the Republicans, it will be a serious blow for the DFL's prospects of controlling the Senate.

Senate in the Balance

Strong DFL: 24 (1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, 20, 27, 44, 45, 46, 54, 55, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67)
DFL incumbents in favorable districts, or with a track record of strong performance in their district (1, 3, 5, 6, 9, 20, 27, 44, 45, 46, 54, 55, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66)
Nonincumbent DFL in highly favorable district (7, 67)
Lean DFL: 6 (2, 8, 23, 39, 50, 51)

Tossup: 10 (10, 15, 30, 31, 38, 40, 43, 47, 53, 56)
Multiterm DFL incumbent in vulnerable district (47)
One term or special election incumbent in vulnerable district (10, 30, 31, 38, 40, 43, 56)
Nonincumbent seeking to hold current DFL open seat (15)
Lean R: 17 (4, 11, 12, 13, 16, 17, 18, 21, 22, 25, 26, 28, 37, 42, 48, 49, 52)
One-term/special DFL incumbent in highly vulnerable district (4, 16, 17, 25)
Currently DFL open seat (22, 28)
One-term/special GOP incumbent (11, 13, 26, 37)
Currently GOP open seat (12, 18, 21, 49)
GOP incumbent, but with weaker election track record (42, 48, 52)
Strong R: 10 (14, 19, 24, 29, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 41)
GOP incumbent, strong GOP district (14, 19, 24, 29, 32, 33, 34, 35, 41)
GOP open seat, strong GOP district (36)
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Drinking Liberally: Keith Ellison talks about voter suppression

When he came to speak to a large and enthusiastic crowd at Drinking Liberally on October 28th, one of the things Rep. Ellison talked about was the prospect of voter intimidation in the election on Tuesday.

Congressman Ellison on voter protection

The Congressman had a lot of good things to say; look for more video of his appearance.

Cell phone households and young voters

SurveyUSA shows Dayton with a one point lead, in the margin of sampling error. Public Policy Polling found a three point lead for Mark Dayton. Polls from Star Tribune/PSRA, St. Cloud State U. and MPR/HHH in the last week show much larger leads for Dayton. My hunch? This is a close race, with a narrow Dayton lead. But what stock should we place in the last two robopolls versus the traditionally dialed results that show a wider Dayton lead? And what about SurveyUSA including some cell phone users in their last poll?

Both PPP and SurveyUSA conduct automated recorded polls. The difference is that SurveyUSA included cell-phone only (CPO) households for the first time in their last Minnesota Governor poll. While including CPO households is an emerging best practice in the polling industry, inclusion of CPO households has significantly changed the demographic composition of the SurveyUSA sample. The biggest change? Age.

The most recent (10/24-27) SurveyUSA sample (including CPO households), showed 58% of likely voters under age 50, only 42% over age 50. This is a big shift from SurveyUSA 10/14 (excluding CPO households) which was 52-48 on the under/over 50 composition. If we go further back, in September (9/12-14) SurveyUSA's sample was 50-50 under/over 50. I doubt the electorate really has skewed from a dead even split at age 50 in September to a 16 point lead for under 50 voters near Halloween. Since SurveyUSA does not weight its landline only results to accommodate CPO users, a big chunk of this change can be attributed to the addition of these households.

Mark Dayton has done better among older voters. He focused his primary campaign on turning out seniors. Every general election poll has shown him leading older voters, going as far back as you care to look. That's part of what makes Minnesota a bizarre aberration in 2010 compared to the rest of the country. While national commentators have focused on the dropoff in young voters as a reason for waning Democratic prospects, in Minnesota older voters have been a mainstay of DFL support.

In terms of age, Emmer's support base has consistently been voters 30-50 years old. Depending on the pollster, you get very diverse results with young voters. For example, PPP shows a healthy Dayton lead among 18-29 year olds, SCSU shows strong Dayton support among young voters, but SurveyUSA and the Star Tribune show Emmer leading among young voters. There's no doubt that CPO households are younger, but the question remains whether these young voters lean toward Emmer or Dayton. That has to be a point of concern for the DFL.

This might explain, in part, another dichotomy between Minnesota and the nation as a whole. The widespread suspicion has been that polls that exclude CPO households understate support for Democrats.

CPO respondents in the SurveyUSA poll split evenly between Emmer and Dayton (35-35). But CPO's are also the most undecided voters; SurveyUSA respondents who were reached on a cell phone were 5 times more likely to be undecided (15%) than respondents reached on a landline phone (3%).

Despite the wonkish nature of this discussion, there are a couple of items to be attentive to in the last few days of the campaign and beyond. First, the polls have little or no agreement about the size and candidate preference of young voters. Whoever gets it right will likely win the polling contest. Second, the way these voters break at the end will be a crucial part of the post-election narrative.

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Ron Erhardt rocks ‘em at Drinking Liberally!

As half of the twin bill at Drinking Liberally on the 28th, nine-term Minnesota House member Ron Erhardt came and spoke to an enthusiastic crowd about the influence of the Christian Right in the modern Republican Party, the override of Pawlenty veto of the tax increase in 2008, and his support for the Kevin Staunton, the DFLer who is trying to unseat Rep. Erhardt’s replacement, Keith Downey.

Rep. Erhardt was informative and funny. Here’s just part of what he had to say. (There will be video of our other guest, Rep. Keith Ellison, in coming days.)

Ron Erhardt rocks ‘em at Drinking Liberally!

Thanks to our camera man for the evening, Ahmed Tharwat , producer of Bel Ahdan, a television program about the Muslim experience in Minnesota, shown on the "Minnesota Channel" on TPT on Saturday nights.

Friday, October 29, 2010


That was one of the messages from Keith Ellison, one of the guests at Drinking Liberally last night. That’s the number to call if you observe or experience voter intimidation at your polling place. Trained people will be there to talk to you and take the information about what you’ve seen or experienced. ELECTION PROTECTION, a non-partisan organization, is at the other end of that phone line.

The United States Attorney for Minnesota has also expressed concern about voter intimidation activities at the polls.

Until I can produce some video of the event, including some of the remarks of other guest, Ron Erhardt, here’s a still from the video. Note the edit to our banner for our practicing Muslim guest.

Keith Ellison at Drinking Liberally still1

Pick the winner

So, amateur handicappers, you've had more than enough time to sift through the polls. Now is the time to choose. In the comments make your guess on the Governor's race. For fun, let's add two congressional races, CD6 and CD8. (EDIT: KSTP /SurveyUSA just released polling from CD 8 - Oberstar 47, Cravaack 46, Other/Undecided 7. I made my prediction before I knew that, and I'm going to stick to my prediction.)

No big prizes here, but you'll get the honor, and I'll buy you a beer if you come down to Drinking Liberally at the 331 Club some Thursday. I'll lead off...


Dayton 43.6%
Emmer 42.3%
Horner 13.0%
Other 1.1%


Bachmann 49.1%
Clark 41.2%
Anderson 8.8%
Immelman 0.9%


Oberstar 56.3%
Cravaack 42.5%
Other 1.2%

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Congressman Ellison speaks out on voter intimidation

Rep. Keith Ellison held a news conference on voter intimidation efforts that are expected to take place in the upcoming election. Here’s The Uptake video.

Congressman Ellison on voter intimidation

Who will vouch for thee?

Call 1-866-OUR-VOTE, a non-partisan voting hotline, with any problems you encounter voting

voter-intimidation-is-also-_thumb[2]Vouching for a person registering to vote has been possible as long as I can remember. Conservatives have been complaining more and more vociferously about it in recent years, claiming that it leads to widespread fraud. They want photo IDs with a current address for everyone when voting as well as registering.

Of course, these same people would like to bring back the poll tax, a test on the constitution and English grammar before registration (only for some people, of course), and a return to the good old days of only property owners voting. I think in fact, the great thinker and civil libertarian Bradlee Dean proposed the latter requirement on the air just recently.

We’ll get to vouching in a moment, but first, here’s the briefest explanation of registration.

When you register to vote (which you have to do at the polls now; it’s too late to register ahead of the election), you have to prove who you are, and where you live. A driver’s license or a Minnesota ID with a current address are the typical (but not only) ways to do that; they fulfill both requirements. Note the photo requirement.

If you have one of these, but you’ve moved and the address is no longer current, it can still function as proof of who you are, but not where you live. This is where the subsidiary documentation of residence comes in: the current utility bill, for example.

Note that a passport can function as proof of identity, but not residence. Why? The address of the passport holder is not printed in the passport (unless you do it in pencil as the State Department suggests, so that it can be changed if you move), so you’d need the same subsidiary proof of residence as you would for a driver’s license with an old address.

The documents I’ve described are NOT an exhaustive list, but I just wanted to illustrate the two elements that must be proven to register. On to vouching.

If you are a registered voter in the precinct, you can vouch for someone seeking to register. When a registered voter vouches for another, the only thing they are affirming is the identity or residence of the voter, or both.

Vouching is not a statement of affirmation of anything else: not citizenship nor other disqualification from voting, such as a felony conviction, or a court-ordered guardianship. Part of the scare tactics employed by the voter suppressers to discourage people for assisting others to vote is the intimation that the voucher is guarantying everything about the qualification of the person being vouched for. Not true. The person registering makes affirmations about those things, and lying about them is a crime.

But a voucher is simply a substitute for identity and/or residence documents.

There are many situations where a voucher is the only way a person, constitutionally entitled to vote, will get the chance.

You have a family member who has moved back home after finishing school, because s/he lost a job (that one is common, these days), or lost her or his home for some other reason, and hasn’t gotten a new driver’s license yet. The voucher vouches for the current residence.

You have a new roommate, but the utility bills come in your name; again the voucher vouches for the current residence.

You live in a homeless shelter, or a shelter for battered women. In the latter case, you don’t even want your current address published where the abuser can find it. In cases like these, an employee of the shelter is usually designated to be a voucher for the shelter.

You live in a nursing home or a residential facility of some kind. Many of these people don’t have driver’s licenses or other picture identification. They don’t get utility bills, either.

If somebody you know, a family member, a new neighbor, the young person down the street who doesn’t drive, needs your help to vote, don’t be afraid to give it to them.

Update: One more quick point. If you registered to vote by mail, and you’re going to the polls for the first time since the registration, you will need an approved photo ID.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Minneapolis School Board: Anybody but Baker

Looking over the ballot for the two at-large seats for the Minneapolis School Board next week, there are four possible choices. Richard Mammen is the only one who is endorsed by the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, so he's the best choice.  T Williams doesn't have any anti-teacher or anti-teacher union positions on his website, and seems to have a good grasp of the district. Rebecca Gagnon doesn't seem objectionable, but she does mention difficulties with teacher unions on her website. Chanda Smith Baker comes from a background of charter schools, and is openly hostile to school teachers, except when seeking their votes. She is supported by Sondra and Don Samuels. So remember next Tuesday when voting for the Minneapolis School Board: Anybody but Baker - ABB.

More liberals eating their own: Chanda Smith Baker

A few weeks ago I received a mailer from Chanda Smith Baker, who is running for an at large position on the Minneapolis School Board. The mailer, like her website, touted Baker's endorsements from the labor union SEIU, Stonewall DFL, and something called Women Winning. Not included in the mailer, or on her website, was Baker's vicious attacks on public school teachers and their unions.

Earlier this year Baker, along with Don Samuels and his wife Sondra Samuels penned a poison letter to school teachers in the Star Tribune, filled with slanderous attacks comparing public school teachers to Bull Connor, saying the teachers were responsible for an "endless cycle of poverty and failure" in north Minneapolis. In a bit of projection, Baker asserted that hard-working school teachers are "cynical and morally bankrupt." Her co-author, Don Samuels, says he wants North High School burned to the ground.  Baker is decidedly NOT the kind of person we want running our schools. Why would SEIU endorse a woman who stands four-square against teachers' unions? Fortunately there are four people running for the two at-large positions on the school board, so no one need vote for this enemy of public education.

Reflections on Erik Paulsen

From the incomparable Tild comes this punch line to an illustrated poem of Robert Burns:

Erik and Michele


You’ll want to see the original image, and read the poem, too.

Erik Paulsen is the guy of whom I’ve said, “He combs his hair like Jim Ramstad, but votes like Michele Bachmann.”

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

And yet, they call it slander

The Tea Party, which is not a party, takes umbrage when its adherent are called “teabaggers” by President Obama and others. One wonders where people got the idea.

Democratic Visions pre-election cablecast

To my knowledge, DFL Senate District 42 is the only one with its own television network. The last program before the election, with host Tim O’Brien (who lives in SD41, but never mind), is running now. It has interviews and features about Jim Meffert, Tarryl Clark, Ron Case, Maria Ruud, Ray Daniels, Mark Ritchie, Kevin Staunton, Steve Elkins, Terri Bonoff, John Benson, Audrey Britton, Rebecca Otto and Mark Dayton. If you, or if you have friends, who want to know more about any of these candidates, tune in to the show. Here’s where you can watch it:

Comcast Channel 15 - Hopkins, Minnetonka, Edina, Richfield and Eden Prairie Sundays at 9 p.m. and Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m.

Bloomington Cable Channel 16 - on Tuesdays at 2:00 p.m. & 10:00 p.m., Wednesdays at 2:00 p.m.

Yikes! That’s tonight for those of you who are on the Bloomington cable system!

Just as a little teaser for the show, here’s Tim talking with Nancy Nelson about the DFL’s great candidate for the 3rd congressional district, Jim Meffert.

Tim O’Brien interviews Nancy Nelson about Jim Meffert

There are also video trailers for Nancy’s remarks about Mark Dayton, and there’s one of Two Putt Tommy telling Tim about some Republican hijinks.

But to see the whole show, you’ll have to watch on cable TV.

Minneapolis Foundation holds first board meeting of anti-teacher MinnCan

The Minneapolis Foundation's secret campaign against public school teachers is taking shape - they apparently held their first MinnCan board meeting on October 18th, according to the Twitter feed of Marc Porter Magee, president and founder of 50Can, a spinoff of ConnCan that is replicating the organization's "success" in other states. The only other board member I could find was Minneapolis Foundation grant recipient Sondra Samuels, who posted on a webpage that "I am most recently working with a high-level team to establish MinnCAN, (Minnesota’s Campaign for Achievement Now), the first statewide Education Policy advocacy group in MN, and will serve on the first MinnCAN board."

Monday, October 25, 2010

Section 11(b) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965


The Voting Right Act of 1965 is another of those pesky laws that the nullifiers would like to get rid of. Unless they do, however, (unlikely) here’s a bit of that statute they would do well to keep in mind when they’re out and about next Tuesday, trying to intimidate prospective voters:

No person, whether acting under color of law or otherwise [emphasis added], shall intimidate, threaten, or coerce, or attempt to intimidate, threaten, or coerce any person for voting or attempting to vote, or intimidate, threaten, or coerce, or attempt to intimidate, threaten, or coerce any person for urging or aiding any person to vote or attempt to vote, or intimidate, threaten, or coerce any person for exercising any powers or duties under section 3(a), 6, 8, 9, 10, or 12(e) [of the Act].

Voting Rights Act of 1965 sec. 11 (b)

If some one violates this section, here’s the penalty:

Whoever shall deprive or attempt to deprive any person of any right secured by section 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, or 10 or shall violate section 11(a) or (b), shall be fined not more than $5,000, or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

Voting Rights Act of 1965 sec. 12 (a)

This law protects the voters, but it also protects those assisting voters: people who provide transportation, vouchers, translators, and assistants to the disabled.

Minnesota has a similar provision, Minn. Stat. sec. 211B.07, which makes it illegal for any person to threaten, coerce or unduly influence another in order to compel another to vote for or against a candidate or ballot question. There are both civil and criminal penalties for violation of this section of Minnesota law, too.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The making of “Standing on the Brink”

I’ll be on the radio (AM 950 KTNF) tomorrow afternoon (Monday, October 25th) during the five to six hour with Tommy Johnson, Two-Putt Tommy. One of the topics of discussion will be the making of the video series, “Standing on the Brink of Insurrection and Treason.”

The 500 hats of Tom Horner

Modern political discourse is not, in the main, given to complexity.  Our gubernatorial race is characterized in bite-size ways by candidates and the media for easy consumption. Mark Dayton wants to tax the rich. Tom Emmer wants to cut spending. Tom Horner? He's a centrist, someone between the other two. Yes, local media sometimes goes into depth about who these candidates are, as human and political beings. But the overwhelming narrative is the simplistic, though not necessarily inaccurate, one described above.

The problem with listening only to narratives is that they lack specifics - what do they mean in practice? Sometimes the most important meaning for any stated policies are the implied effects. In the case of Mark Dayton his campaign's premise - taxing the rich - is more significant, politically, than any implied effect.  Tom Emmer's plan to cut spending is an appeal based in lower taxes, but the implied effect is much larger - a further deterioration of our investment in the common good.

For Tom Horner, who has positioned himself as "between" the other two candidates, the specific impacts of his proposals are less clear. He wants to broaden the application of sales taxes, but he will not say just what will be taxed. As one state analyst said when looking at Horner's vague proposal to lower the state's sales tax rate while expanding its applicability, "it gets real ugly real fast" trying to raise the amounts that the candidate has said he will collect.

That's the kind of obfuscation that comes naturally to Tom Horner, a professional spinner and a former Republican spokesman.  He has been expert at blurring both his past as a Republican partisan and the impacts of his economic proposals. The way he campaigns against Democrat Mark Dayton's plan to tax the rich, and has his own plan to eliminate the state corporate income tax, suggests the wealthy have no need to worry.

Thus trying to predict what Horner would actually do in the governor's mansion one feels a bit like a tarot card reader. The problem is figuring out which Tom Horner you're talking about: There's Tom Horner the former Republican political operator; Tom Horner the avuncular media figure; Tom Horner the proprietor of one of the state's most influential public relations firms; Tom Horner the civic figure who sits on the boards of various non-profits; and now, there's Tom Horner, the candidate for governor.

Horner, like Cyndy Brucato, is a new type of social/political operator, called a flexian, who floats effortlessly between roles at public institutions, and who works in a team fashion with other flexians, called a flex-net, that together comprises what author Janine Wedel calls a "Shadow Elite."  Horner is part of a group of old-line Republicans, partisans who have not been radicalized by the religious right or the conservative doomsday machine.

He is supported by GOPers of yesteryear like Wheelock Whitney, Dave Durneburger, George Pillsbury, Arne Carlson, Doug Kelly, and Al Quie - a veritable "Republicans for Horner choir," in the words of one commentator. Even the head of Hubbard Broadcasting, Stanley Hubbard, gave Horner $2,000 earlier this year. Horner also has the ear of, and inside information from, some of Minnesota's most prominent corporations, including Target, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the Minnesota Vikings and the Minnesota Twins. He sits on boards of non-profits, and helps to hire their leaders. He teaches journalism at St Thomas and sits on the board of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the U. Horner's influence is enhanced by his more than two decades of appearances on Minnesota radio and TV as a representative of the Republican Party. There might exist Minnesotans connected to as many elites as Tom Horner, but none of them are running for governor.

What are all those connections really like? What does Tom Horner know that most of us don't? When it comes down to it, who or what is Tom Horner really loyal to? These are the kinds of questions that flexians don't want asked. For example, the ultimate goals of public relations and journalism are mutually exclusive. A PR firm tries to get a message out for a paid client, spinning reality in a favorable way. Conversely journalists try to get the story right and not get taken in by spin. What does it say when the head of one of the state's most influential PR firms is intimately involved in the instruction of budding journalists? Local media blithely accept Horner's own descriptions of his roles, but which hat is he really wearing when he appears on TV, on the radio, or in the newspaper? It would take much longer than the length of those media appearances just to acknowledge his conflicts of interest.

After college Horner began his career as a reporter and editor at Sun Newspapers, a suburban Twin Cities chain of weeklies. He left his first media job to be a press secretary for Republican Senate candidate Dave Durenburger in 1978. After Durenburger's victory he joined the new senator's staff as press secretary and later as chief of staff.

Horner returned to Minnesota in the late 1980s and started a public relations business with former Republican state legislator John Himle. Since then his firm has represented top Minnesota corporations and at times even the state itself. Horner has refused to release a list of his firm's clients, but from public documents they include Target, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, pharmaceutical companies, dog and horse tracks, and the Twins and Vikings. His firm represented an association of hospitals in their labor dispute against nurses.

One clear case of Horner's divided loyalties hurting the state happened not long after the I-35 bridge fell into the Mississippi River.  Horner's firm represented FlatIron, a Colorado company, that was bidding to build the replacement bridge. Despite submitting a bid with the highest price - $57 million more than the low bidder - and a longer construction period - FlatIron got the contract. In the release announcing the award the Minnesota Department of Transportation actually cited FlatIron's contract with Himle+Horner as a factor in their winning the contract. Afterwards Horner's firm got a half million dollar contract doing PR for the new bridge. Since when does a bridge need public relations? The Star Tribune cited Himle+Horner's close ties to the Pawlenty administration as a key to FlatIron winning the construction contract. One of the reasons Himle+Horner's PR prowess was wanted by the state DOT is because it promised to help rehabilitate the image of the department itself.

One way Horner could alleviate concerns about his many roles would be for him to release the list of clients he worked for at Himle + Horner, but he has steadfastly refused. Undoubtedly many people know who those clients were - but no one seems to be talking, and local media and political opponents haven't cracked that egg, either. Internet searches for "Tom Horner client list" returns many results, all detailing how the candidate has refused to release such a list.  Local media seem to have accepted Horner's refusals and moved on.

Given Horner's announced positions on issues, and how those stands align with former Himle+Horner clients, there is cause to worry about undue influence. His budget proposal includes increasing taxes on tobacco and alcohol, even though current tax levels more than offset expenses to the state for their use. This position mirrors that of Himle+Horner client Blue Cross Blue Shield, which has run anti-smoking campaigns for many years. Lower rates of smoking would probably lead to lower expenses for the insurance giant.

Horner often invokes a moral justification for making smokers and drinkers pay for the things which comprise the common good. On the other hand, no morals seem to be in play with Horner's advocating for expanding gambling in the state to pay for a new Vikings stadium.

But why should the state encourage the vice of gambling to subsidize a plutocrat owner who doesn't even live in the state? One reason for such a proposal is that it represents a two-fer for Himle+Horner clients - the agency has represented various sorts of gambling interests, including dog and horse racing, and also represents the Vikings in their quest for a new publicly subsidized stadium. Horner's refusal to release a client list takes on more resonance in light of the few stated positions the candidate has taken aligning with the interests of his former clients.

One doesn't have to look very far to see how close personal relationships and allegiances can hurt the institutions that flexians work for. Just last month Karen Himle, the wife of Horner's former business partner, became embroiled in the attempted censorship of a documentary film produced in part by the University of Minnesota. Himle is the vice president for University Relations, the U's top PR person. Her husband John represents the Minnesota Agri-Growth Council, a group heavily invested in the kind of industrial agriculture that the film Troubled Waters indicted in the degradation of watersheds from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico.

The tale of Himle's backdoor political shenanigans involved in her initial killing of the film, and her dissembling  are still playing out. One thing that is abundantly clear is that opaque personal relationships have played a part in tarnishing the reputations of the University of Minnesota and its president, Robert Bruininks. Another is that flexians like Himle who harm the institutions they work for in pursuit of the interests of their own  narrow, private groups, are rarely held accountable for their actions. Despite her politically motivated, internal attack on academic freedom at the University of Minnesota, Karen Himle still works there, free to do more damage.

Tom Horner's political narrative, repeated in the media, is that he is a centrist positioned between the Democratic and Republican candidates. If centrist is taken to mean old-line Republicans who have strong personal connections to elites in government, business, education, the non-profit sector and media, then yes, Tom Horner is a centrist. Otherwise, he is just a Republican businessman who has the biggest and baddest rolodex in the state.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Tenther Dreams

In response to one of the several nullification videos and posts I’ve done, a reader called my attention to a video clip — apparently from a cable TV show — of Sue Jeffers and Minnesota Senate District 67 GOP candidate Krysia Weidell sitting down and grooving on the Tenth Amendment. It was so puerile and over the top; I couldn’t resist annotating it a little.

Sue Jeffers and Krysia Weidell grooving on the Tenth Amendment

Other than the inserted comments, the clip is unedited from the one appearing on YouTube.

Update: Here’s the ersatz legal learning photo that MNO refers to in her comment to the post:

k2 reads the dred scott decision

The Year of the Nutjob

That’s the title of The New Republic’s article on this election cycle’s most bizarre candidates and their beliefs.

emmer weirdYou will never guess who is nutjob numero uno in the article. Well, okay, if you’re a reader here, you might. Or if you just looked at the photo from the article.

TNR had this to say about our pal Stonewall:

Emmer is a “Tenther”—that is, he believes the Tenth Amendment (which reserves powers not granted to Uncle Sam for the states) should be used to nullify numerous Democratic laws. He’s also proposed some roadblocks of his own—like a state constitutional amendment that would prohibit any federal law from being enforced in Minnesota unless it’s ratified by supermajorities of the state legislature. [and also approved by the governor]

Gosh, where have you heard about that before? Over, and over, and over again?

TNR took a swipe at Emmer for his impaired driving legislative offerings, too:

So wary is Emmer of excessive government intervention that he’s come out for laxer drunk-driving laws, although it’s conceivable this position was partly inspired by his two previous arrests for DWI.

Emmer tops the heap in an article that lists Dan Maes, gubernatorial candidate in Colorado; Ken Buck, Senate candidate in Colorado; Bill Randall, House candidate, North Carolina; Tim Crawford, House candidate, Indiana (a man that TNR say is crazier than Dan Burton, who “memorably” shot a pumpkin in his backyard to prove that Vince Foster was murdered); Allen West, House candidate, Florida; Tom Mullins, House candidate, New Mexico; Andrew Raczkowski, House candidate, Michigan; and Ed Martin, House candidate, Missouri.

Well done, Stonewall.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pastor Brad’s big surprise

Andy Birkey of the Minnesota Independent broke the story of Pastor Brad Brandon’s announcement of several political candidate endorsements from the pulpit of the Berean Baptist Church in Hastings, Minnesota. In his announcement, he challenged the IRS to take away the church’s tax exemption. [correction] Pastor Brad may get his wish; the group Americans United for the Separation of Church and State filed suit complaint with the IRS Monday to accomplish just that.

Pastor Brad was undoubtedly thinking, “What does it matter, anyway; the church is hardly a money-making enterprise.” But the big sting for the church is probably not the income tax, but rather the property taxes it will have to pay on its church building.

Here’s the relevant provision of the Minnesota Statutes:

Institutions of public charity. Institutions of purely public charity that are exempt from federal income taxation under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code are exempt if they meet the requirements of this subdivision. [the statute goes on to list the requirements]

Sadly for Pastor Brad and his flock, the IRS exemption is a sine qua non to preserving a property tax exemption for the church building. If it loses the 501(c)(3), status, it also loses its tax exempt status for property taxes.

Nullification and Modernity

Here’s a little bit of the interview with Professor Bill Green that wasn’t in the video Standing on the Brink of Insurrection and Treason, but it well worth a listen.

Here’s a link to the last installment of the Standing on the Brink of Insurrection and Treason video. The first two installments are linked at the post.

Gee, ya think?

A report says that white supremacist groups are getting in on the Tea Party action.

obama the joker - information is a weapon

Gee, ya think?

According to The Washington Post:

The report, called Tea Party Nationalism, uses news articles, visits to white nationalist Web sites and observance of tea party functions to claim that tea party events have become a forum for extremists "hoping to push these (white) protesters toward a more self-conscious and ideological white supremacy."

Its findings cite that members of groups such as the Council of Conservative Citizens, which opposes all efforts to "mix the races of mankind," have become involved in tea party chapters, and that posters on the online white nationalist Web site have written of "inflitrating" tea party events.

The report was issued by the Kansas City, Mo.-based Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, which is funded, in part, by the liberal Firedoll Foundation. The paper was authored by Devin Burghart and Leonard Zeskind, both of whom have written widely about white nationalism.

The NAACP concurs.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Southwest Suburban Night at Drinking Liberally – the video

Ron Case (SD42), Jim Meffert (3rd Cong. District), and Kevin Staunton (HD41A) were our guests and spoke at Drinking Liberally on October 7th. Here’s a video of some of their remarks from the 331 Club stage.

The 331 Club can be a challenging place to take video, and the technical quality of this video is not as good as I would like. Neither the lighting nor the sound are optimal. Nevertheless, you’ll get a chance to see these three fine DFL candidates.

And if you haven’t seen it yet, here is Jean Nelson, Jim Meffert’s mother-in-law, introducing him that evening.

Update: I mention in the video that Jim Meffert has been to DL before. Here is his appearance in February before the endorsing convention.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

You don’t have to go to Delaware

To find a complete constitutional fool. We have one of our own.

But more on that in a minute. First, courtesy of several places on the ‘net, including Alan Colmes blog, here’s just a bit from the debate between Democratic candidate Chris Coons and Tea Party darling Christine O’Donnell:

In a law school debate before legal scholars, Delaware Republican U.S. Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell questioned where the Constitution calls for separation of church and state. O’Donnell either disagreed or didn’t know that establishing a state religion is unconstitutional.

…O’Donnell criticized Democratic nominee Chris Coons’ position that teaching creationism in public school would violate the First Amendment by promoting religious doctrine.

Coons said private and parochial schools are free to teach creationism but that “religious doctrine doesn’t belong in our public schools.”

“Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?” O’Donnell asked him.

When Coons responded that the First Amendment bars Congress from making laws respecting the establishment of religion, O’Donnell asked: “You’re telling me that’s in the First Amendment?”

An audible gasp was heard in the crowd.

Emmer_CSA Our own constitutional fool — also a Tea Party darling, a man described by Law Professor Jessica Mason Pieklo as “deeply cynical and misinformed,” is the Republican candidate for governor: Tom Emmer, sometimes known around here as “Stonewall Emmer.”

Although he’s undoubtedly been instructed to keep his mouth shut about the issue now, he has labored for some time under the misapprehension that states get to pick and choose which parts of the Union they want to participate in. You can learn quite a lot about the issue of nullification by watching the “Standing on the Brink of Insurrection and Treason” video series linked in the sidebar.

The third installment, especially, features a description of some of Tom Emmer’s legislative efforts to nullify federal law without the help of a federal court. That is an entirely unconstitutional and unlawful exercise, but that didn’t stop Rep. Emmer from offering bill, after bill, after bill.

Update: People are starting to notice. The New Republic reports on Tom Emmer in The Year of the Nutjob. Thanks to Stephen Cusulos for the link.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Why is Karen Himle still working at the U?

Karen Himle, the wife of gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner's (now former) public relations partner, is the vice president for University Relations at the University of Minnesota who recently tried to censor the showing of a documentary on water quality issues in Minnesota and the Mississippi River. Himle and the U have dissembled their way through this unethical attempt to silence research that partially indicts agribusiness. Now the Twin Cities Daily Planet has gotten hold of emails that circulated through the U's administration during this incident. One email in particular,shown below, sent by Himle on September 28th to two other U officials is notable for its invocation of right wing bogeymen like Michael Moore and Saul Alinsky. In another email Himle appoints herself the subjective arbiter on what is or is not propaganda - and presumably her right to censor it  -  declaring that  "I'll know it the next time I see it." That's some kind of scientific method there.

It's bad enough that an apparent right wing nut like Karen Himle is allowed to be the vice president for University Relations at the U. It is intolerable that she feels free to to use her authoritarianism and right wing ideology to silence academic free speech. There is no way the U can have any credibility as a place that welcomes academic freedom or has transparency in its governance as long as Himle is its public face. She should do the right thing and resign, or President Bruininks should fire her. Immediately.

* * * * * * *
UPDATE: Himle gets $250,000 a year from the U for her censorship duties, and it turns out her husband's firm "represents the Minnesota Agri-Growth Council… a strong proponent of ethanol and industrial farming, both of which are criticized in the film."

The Strib difference: "We have editors" - not fact checkers

How many times have we heard the refrain coming from traditional media aimed at bloggers "We have editors"? The Minneapolis Star Tribune has editors, but apparently not very good ones, or ones who check facts, or who even read their own paper, for that matter.

Over the weekend the paper gave an early endorsement to Tom Horner, a candidate they have frankly been pimping in the news and editorial pages for months. The editorial asserted that Horner "attracted an impressive list of bipartisan endorsements." But he hasn't. What he has amassed is an array of Republican and former Republican endorsements. Like I said, they don't even read their own paper.  It's getting pretty bad when you can't trust even the most basic statements of things printed in the paper. Note to Strib: In journalism things aren't true just because you say so, or you wish they were true.

Pastor Brad’s Chosen People

L.K. Hanson had another great cartoon in the op-ed section of the Strib this morning (although I cannot find it in the online edition):

Heinlein2jpeg cropped

Now consider this, from an article in the Minnesota Independent, again this morning:


You do have to wonder what apostasy Erik Paulsen has committed to be left off the list! But I digress.

Pastor Brad made these political endorsements from the pulpit yesterday; he is just one more knuckle-headed self-appointed spokesman for God. In the Minnesota Independent piece, he challenges the IRS to take away his church’s tax-exempt status. Perhaps Pastor Brad believes that the IRS is merely a temporal force that can’t touch him: he’s protected by a holy force field. The revenoors will bounce right off!

Time will tell.

Regardless of the IRS issue, Pastor Brad supplies a great example of why government should not be in the God business, and vice versa. Do you really want your government run by poisonous hacks — appointed and maybe anointed, with canola oil or whatever else is handy — like Pastor Brad? Or Terry Jones (who apparently went to high school with Rush Limbaugh)?  Or Fred Phelps?

If you do, you’ll wind up with political leaders like Dan Severson (endorsed by Pastor Brad), who uses “shining light on a hill” rhetoric in his speeches, but goes on to say that the United States is not a democracy, advocates making women pay for rape kits, and was the last Minnesota legislator to propose we adopt a capital punishment law. Electing Dan Severson would be Capitol punishment for us all.

Or how about the guy at the top of Pastor Dan’s list, Tom Emmer? A candidate who uses “sovereign citizen rhetoric,” pals around with the gay-hating Bradlee Dean (a self-proclaimed preacher with his own pipeline to God), opposes (along with that other Christianist saint, Michele Bachmann) anti-bullying legislation, wants to castrate sex offenders, thinks guns made in Minnesota should be exempt from federal regulation, and also thinks that licensed pharmacists shouldn’t have to dispense birth control pills if they don’t want to.

Perhaps next Sunday Pastor Brad will offer imprecatory prayers for the opponents of his Chosen People.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Jean Nelson introduces Jim Meffert at Drinking Liberally!

On October 7th, Jim Meffert, the DFL candidate in the 3rd Congressional District, came to Drinking Liberally; his mother-in-law came along to introduce him. You’ll have to wait a few more days for the video of Jim’s appearance, and that of candidates for the Legislature Ron Case (Senate 42) and Kevin Staunton (House 41A). In the meantime, I am sure you will enjoy this.

Jean did a campaign video responding to an attack at of Erik Paulsen; she’s done a second one since; you can see both of Jean’s videos at Jim Meffert’s campaign website.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Standing on the Brink – Part Three

Here’s part three of a three part video on attempts by states to nullify federal law and gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer’s record on the subject as a member of the Minnesota House.

Here’s a brief description of the three parts:

Part One – An introduction to and a general discussion of the topic of nullification with Professor Jessica Mason Pieklo.

Part Two – A discussion of the history of state attempts to nullify federal law with Professor Bill Green.

Part Three – A discussion with Professor Pieklo focusing of Tom Emmer’s legislative record on the subject of attempted federal law nullification by the State of Minnesota.

In case you missed them, here are Parts One and Two.

Update: People are starting to notice. The New Republic reports on Tom Emmer in The Year of the Nutjob. Thanks to Stephen Cusulos for the link.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Standing on the Brink – Part Two

Here’s part two of a three part video on attempts by states to nullify federal law and gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer’s record on the subject as a member of the Minnesota House.

Here’s a brief description of the three parts:

Part One – An introduction to and a general discussion of the topic of nullification with Professor Jessica Mason Pieklo.

Part Two – A discussion of the history of state attempts to nullify federal law with Professor Bill Green.

Part Three – A discussion with Professor Pieklo focusing of Tom Emmer’s legislative record on the subject of attempted federal law nullification by the State of Minnesota.

In case you missed, here’s Part One.

Star Tribune: hear no evil

More than a month ago stories hit the press about the US so-called "Stryker Brigade" and its hideous actions in Afghanistan. At the time I wondered whether the Star Tribune would ever report on the atrocities committed in our names. Today the Strib answered that question with a Washington Post report on the brigade's activities.

Okay - the report came only a month after everyone else in the world knew about it, but nevertheless, progress.  I wrote a terse comment to the story, taking note that while the US may be terrible at economics, we are the best in the world at one thing - killing other humans.

While that may be somewhat of an extreme comment, it is nevertheless true. An uncomfortable truth, to be sure, but an important and undeniable one. The US now spends double on its military what the entire rest of the world spends. We use soldiers sitting at computer consoles in North Dakota to kill people from 10,000 feet in Pakistan. I'd call that good at killing.

Only the Strib would have none of the truth. Believe it or not, my comment on the US being the best at killing was removed twice from the comments forum. Earlier I called the "journalists" at the Strib "authoritarians," and now they're just helping prove that.

So sorry about that rape, but here's your bill

I'd like Secretary of State Candidate Dan Severson to explain something to me.

As you recall, there was a bit of an uproar during the campaign when it was reported that while Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, Gov. Palin may have had something to do with a policy of charging rape victims the cost of the kit used to gather the forensic evidence usually needed for the investigation and prosecution of the crime. The kits generally cost between $500 and $1200. The cruel practice of making victims pay for the investigation of the crime committed against them seems to be unique to rape victims. It is also unfortunately far too common, even though it seems to run afoul of the spirit of the Violence Against Women Act. The Department of Justice FAQs on the law's requirements indicate:
Q: What is the new federal law regarding forensic examination?

A: The Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005 ("VAWA 2005"), 42 U.S.C. § 3796gg-4(d), provides that states may not "require a victim of sexual assault to participate in the criminal justice system or cooperate with law enforcement in order to be provided with a forensic medical exam, reimbursed for charges incurred on account of such an exam, or both[]" (the "VAWA 2005 forensic examination requirement"). Under this provision a state must ensure that victims have access to an exam free of charge or with full reimbursement, even if the victim chooses not to report the crime to the police or otherwise cooperate with the criminal justice system or law enforcement authorities. Prior to VAWA 2005, states were required to ensure access to such exams free of charge or with full reimbursement but could condition the exams on cooperation with law enforcement.
(Emphasis added.)

An exam is not exactly the same as a rape kit, of course, but you get the point. And this is where Candidate Severson and the questions I have for him come into the picture. Severson is currently serving as a state representative for House District 14A. His legislative proposals include such pressing issues as the use of embossed seals on certifications of premarital education and elimination the use of student IDs as part of what is needed to register to vote on election day.

But it's House File 517 that I'd like discuss. It was the first bill Rep. Severson introduced in the 2009-2010 session, and it would require those sexual assault victims not yet ready to fully "cooperate" with law enforcement to pay for half the cost of their own evidence gathering kits:
If the victim refuses to substantiate the assault and file a report with a law enforcement agency, the counties are liable for only 50 percent of the total costs of the examination as described under paragraph (a).
Although the bill never went anywhere and died a well-deserved death, questions remain for the man who authored the bill. Representative Severson, do you really believe that rape victims should be billed for the costs of investigating the crimes committed against them? Do you believe that a victim who is too traumatized to "cooperate" with law enforcement should forfeit the right to have the crime fully investigated? Do you really think that a rape victim who is in an abusive family situation and fears further violence doesn't deserve law enforcement services unless she pays money for them? What other federal laws designed to help victims of criminal acts would you have the State of Minnesota ignore? Or do you think rape is somehow different from other crimes?

Now I know that Mr. Severson is running for Secretary of State, not a county prosecutor position, but deeper questions arise. The Secretary of State is charged with assuring that state laws that provide for confidential addresses for victims of harassment and stalking are enforced. I don't know that I'm convinced that someone who would treat actual victims of crimes in such an insensitive manner would put much effort into protecting potential victims.

But the Secretary of State does have a great deal to do with both the federal and state laws in place that assure fair voting for all citizens. Given his willingness to push legislation that goes against the thinking behind the Violence Against Women Act, what about protections in the Voting Rights Act?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Standing on the Brink – Part One

Here’s part one (and not just another trailer!) of what will be a three part video on attempts by states to nullify federal law and gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer’s record on the subject as a member of the Minnesota House.

Here’s a brief description of the three parts:

Part One – An introduction to and a general discussion of the topic of nullification with Professor Jessica Mason Pieklo.

Part Two – A discussion of the history of state attempts to nullify federal law with Professor Bill Green.

Part Three – A discussion with Professor Pieklo focusing of Tom Emmer’s legislative record on the subject of attempted federal law nullification by the State of Minnesota.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Standing on the brink of insurrection and treason III

Here is the second video trailer for my upcoming video “Standing on the Brink of Insurrection and Treason.” It is a small part of my interview with Professor Jessica Mason Pieklo, an adjunct member of the faculty at the Hamline Law School, a writer, and a blogger, too. The complete video should be available sometime soon, perhaps this weekend. Look for it.

Here’s the first trailer, by the way, featuring an interview with Professor Bill Green.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Time for Extraordinary Measures

Two last chances to show progressive voters Democrats meant what they said about GLBT issues in 2008

Enough is enough. The relentless parade of suicides, violence, and hate must end. And in two different cases, one in Minnesota and one nationwide, there are two chances to make the choice between homophobia and civilized behavior clear. It's time for extraordinary measures. After watching the slow-motion mud wrestling match of the last 18 months, progressive voters are frustrated and often apathetic. While Democrats have so far failed to deliver promised changes on GLBT issues, there are two last chances to act.

The first is to support Sen. Scott Dibble's effort to pass the Minnesota Safe Schools for All Act during the upcoming legislative special session. This bill was passed by the Minnesota House and Senate during 2009, and was vetoed by Governor Pawlenty. The recent spate of suicides by GLBT teenagers, most visibly the loss of Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi, has highlighted the toll of bullying, harassment, and violence on GLBT youth. This legislation speaks to an issue that is of critical importance at a crucial time. As Dibble noted, as horrible as the floods were in southern Minnesota, there were no deaths. “We’ve got a whole bunch of kids who have died just this year as a consequence of being bullied,” Dibble said.

Pawlenty will do all in his power to prevent Dibble from introducing the bill on the floor. The DFL legislative leadership will be sorely tempted to quash Dibble's attempt to make the special session quick, uncontroversial and painless. There will be rational-sounding arguments like "we need to get back on the campaign trail," and "why risk angering flood victims by introducing unrelated legislation?" But it's well past time to make Pawlenty pay a national political price for his 2009 veto, and it's a perfect time to make Tom Emmer vote against the bill he says he will veto.

On a national level, the injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips that prevents the U.S. military from enforcing it's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. This starts a 60 day clock where the Justice Department will have to choose whether to appeal Phillips' decision that overturned DADT. As of Tuesday afternoon, the Justice Department was mum on the strategy going forward. Many media outlets noted that Obama is likely to order Justice to appeal the decision, because he's previously noted that he wants Congress to take action to end DADT.

Well, excuse me, but if you've been paying attention, Congress won't decide anything. There's never been more acceptance of the inevitability of the end of DADT. But leave it up to a lame-duck session of Congress? If you think that the same Senate that killed a DADT overturn provision recently will have a change of heart after the midterm election, that's silly. This is a recipe for yet another delay in ending this silly policy. As Judge Phillips noted, DADT hurts military recruiting and the loss of highly trained personnel while violating GLBT service members' constitutional rights.

Obama should instruct the Justice Department to not contest Phillips' ruling. The report on DADT commissioned by the Department of Defense is due on December 1st. It's well past time that Obama live up to his promise to repeal DADT. Unless something pretty dramatic changes soon, he'd better get used to using the tools of the executive branch to make change and stop relying on Congress.

If the Democrats want to pull themselves out of their self-dug hole of progressive voter disinterest, they need to do something. In this case, these two issues shift the frame from the bogeyman of marriage to fundamental issues of fairness.

In both cases, Republicans will find themselves squarely on the wrong side of history. The party of Carl Paladino needs to squirm alongside him. Let them justify why GLBT teenagers should be subject to harassment. Let them explain why GLBT soldiers should be prevented from serving their country with courage and honor.

With Congress in adjournment and the Minnesota Legislature out of session, these would be bold moves to take care of unfinished business. They also represent tactics that Democratic leaders have not shown a willingness to embrace. But the clock is running out, the need is great, and doing something to show progressive voters the value of showing up at the polls would pay dividends.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

Monday, October 11, 2010

Keith Ellison at Drinking Liberally on Thursday

Update: I have just been informed by Rep. Ellison’s office that he cannot come to our meeting. Both he and I are sorry about that, but I hope you will come for some lively political discussion anyway.

I will probably mention this week’s Drinking Liberally meeting – Thursday, October 14th - here a couple of times. That’s because our guest is Congressman Keith Ellison. I’ve been trying to get Rep. Ellison as a guest for a while, but we’ve never been able to mesh the schedules.  We certainly look forward to welcoming him to the 331 Club stage.

We expect that Rep. Ellison will arrive around seven for some remarks, to take some questions, and to visit with the crowd afterwards. It will be a memorable DL event.

Drinking Liberally in Minneapolis meets every Thursday from six to nine at the 331 Club in Northeast Minneapolis.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Of Quislings and Quistlings

Why Minnesota has Tom Horner, and Delaware has Christine O'Donnell

Tom Horner's strategy last week worries the Republican party. He rolled out a raft of endorsements from Republican former legislators. He declared the election will come down to "an outcome of either a Governor Dayton or a Governor Horner." Horner's strategy has shifted. No longer playing the role of "man in the middle," Horner's chosen to compete head to head with Emmer for Republican votes.

The reaction from Republican leaders was predictably sharp. Saying "there's a special place in hell for those quislings," RPM Chair Tony Sutton seemingly compared Horner's endorsers to Nazi collaborator Vidkun Quisling. Later he clarified that he only meant that they were "traitors." For a moment, I thought that Sutton was making a disturbing but sophisticated analogy. It turns out he'd just been playing with his thesaurus.

Between Sutton's other comment that these legislators were the unsuccessful "permanent minority" and Michael Brodkorb's characterization that they represent a "bygone era," Republicans sought to minimize the appearance of a fracturing Republican base. But Brodkorb's "bygone era" actually offers us some clues about how this might play out.

In many ways, the 2010 dynamic between Horner and Emmer harkens to the Republican battles of 1994, when incumbent Republican Governor Arne Carlson was denied endorsement by his party. Unlikely candidate Allen Quist's brand of evangelical Christian, pro-life Republicanism rode a wave of new delegates to a 70% endorsement win over Carlson. Subsequently, popular incumbent Carlson trounced Quist in the primary election, and thrashed DFLer John Marty to easily win re-election. In the next year, what had been named the "Independent Republican" party dropped the "independent," and Arne Carlson was the last IR Governor. This was more than a simple change in branding. Carlson was also the last significant Republican to be denied endorsement for a statewide office to defy the party process. And after Carlson's victory, the Quistlings continued to influence the party process, more often by pushing the eventual endorsee toward more socially conservative positions than by elevating their own preferred candidate.

Emmer's base resembles the Quistlings. Emmer rode a new wave of TEA party inspired delegates to a surprising Republican endorsement win over Marty Seifert. Years of party discipline that marginalized and punished any dissent has prevented any divisive statewide primaries since 1994. This process succeeded in clearing the primary field for endorsee Emmer in 2010. Contrast this with Republican primaries nationwide where TEA party dissatisfaction with establishment Republicans was channeled into insurgent campaigns outside the control of state party figures. In Minnesota, insurgent campaigns in the Republican party are confined to endorsing conventions. And while a wave of new activists can propel a candidate to endorsement, they can also struggle to make change inside of arcane and byzantine party structures. Keeping them involved in the everyday struggles of party governance after the initial burst of energy is another problem. Only time will tell, but it's difficult to build a lasting political movement fueled by anger and frustration.

Confining the dynamic process of party change to internal processes has benefits for Minnesota Republicans. It allows them to spend scarce election resources more efficiently, since there are never expensive primary campaigns requiring funding. It presents a smooth surface of unity. It keeps disagreements "in the family," only rarely escaping into the public domain. And messaging is more unified, since a standard bearer is chosen early in the process. DFL anguish over the increasing irrelevance of the DFL's endorsement process reflects a recognition of these advantages.

But the rise of Horner and the quislings in 2010 represent the return of the repressed in the Republican party. The presence of Neil Peterson among the quislings is notable, in that he was one of "Override Six" who were systematically drummed out of the party (excepting Jim Abeler, who is the lone survivor.) Nearly all of the quislings represented suburban districts now represented by DFL'ers. Brodkorb's characterization of them as part of a "bygone era" is apt in that sense.

Minnesota's unique political culture, particularly its long history of third party politics, is often cited in explaining the existence and relevance of Minnesota's Independence Party. But the IP's continuing relevance is its presence as an ideologically flexible umbrella for a diverse collection of candidates. Consider that Horner's brand of moderate Republicanism seems at home there, just months after Dean Barkley invited TEA party activists to take over the IP. The Republican purity putsch has left many well-connected Republicans of that "bygone era" out in the cold. And now comes Tom Horner who offers them a new home.

So in Delaware (and Alaska, Kentucky, etc.,) Republicans play out this process of party change in the spotlight of a primary campaign. In Minnesota, sixteen years of careful and at times brutal emphasis on party unity and party process have suppressed primary campaigns at the expense of creating a Republican third party candidate in the general election. No wonder Sutton and Brodkorb are so vehement in their denunciation. DFL'ers who pine for a more disciplined party where the endorsing process rules should take note.

Before Minnesota DFL'ers get too excited about these developments, keep in mind Horner's strategy shift last week is a last-ditch effort to get into the race. His campaign knows that he needs to pass somebody in some poll soon in order to be seen as viable. They've correctly identified Emmer's base as more easily split. If he can do that, he'll then turn to wavering DFL'ers.
Horner campaign manager Steve Imholte said that's his next job: "I'm confident we'll get DFLers. Our first step is to define the race as between Horner and Dayton."
This is a smart gambit by Horner, but a one born of weakness. He would prefer to continue to be a man of no party in an era where regard for both Democrats and Republicans has never been lower. His shift to compete directly for Republican votes is a more honest one and one he's better suited for. After all, he is a Republican. Maybe from a bygone era, but a Republican nonetheless.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

Jim Meffert’s visit to Drinking Liberally

Until I can edit the video of his appearance at Drinking Liberally last week, here’s a repost of the video of Jim on the stage of the 331 club in February before the DFL endorsing convention:

Friday, October 08, 2010

Cyndy Brucato, local flexian

In her excellent new book, The Shadow Elite, Janine Wedel talks about a new kind of social/political creature she calls "flexians," people who float in and out of  public institutions of all kinds, between government and business or media, for example.  The subtitle of her book is "How the World's New Power Brokers Undermine Democracy, Government, and the Free Market," so you get a feel about what she thinks about this new development.

One of the keys to flexians is that to survive they need to create a hive called a "flex-net" - a group of people who operate in a new social environment they help create. Because of the privatization of many government services, the "revolving door" that used to exist between business and government has turned into an "evolving" door, creating a habitat in which these flexians thrive. Wedel describes in her book how government has been so denuded of experts and managers that many times private contractors actually write the work requirements for the contracts they get, then get the contract, then evaluate their own performance after the fact. The prototypypical flex-net for Wedel is the "neocon root" - composed of people like Dick Cheney, Richard Perle, Ahmed Chalabi, and the rest of the group that took us to war in Iraq.

Wedel's book came to mind reading a handful of posts at by Cyndy Brucato, a woman perhaps best known as being a long-time and highly successful news anchor at KSTP TV in the Twin Cities. She began her career in Duluth, giving her a unique knowledge of and connection to the state. KSTP is the only locally-owned broadcast outfit, founded by the Hubbards, one of the most Republican politically active families in the state. The nexus of a local media empire and Republican politics makes the Hubbards a potent force. Now, KSTP is not a hack outfit like Fox, but they do lean to the right, sometimes assisting Republican candidates at strategic moments.

Brucato left KSTP for the first time in 1986, later joining the Republican Arne Carlson administration from 1990-1996. She was also communications director for Norm Coleman's successful senate run. After her time with Carlson, before another stint at KSTP, she ran her own "strategic communications" firm for eight years. CityPages wrote in 2004:
Brucato spun professionally for the likes of the Minnesota House Republican Caucus, the tobacco company Brown & Williamson, the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, and Koch Industries (a privately held company that made headlines a few years back when it received the largest environmental fine in state history for pollution at its Rosemount refinery).
Brucato returned to KSTP as a news anchor in 2004, for a six year stint that lasted until this past August, yet apparently continued her "strategic consulting" company. A page from her company's website with a 2007 date enumerates a partial [edited] client list :
  • Coalition of Minnesota Businesses
  • Coleman for Governor
  • Eden Prairie Chamber of Commerce
  • Eli Lilly & Co.
  • Koch Industries
  • MCI Communications
  • MediCon, Inc.
  • Minnesota Association of REALTORS
  • Minnesota Business Partnership
  • Minnesota Chamber of Commerce
  • Minnesota House Republican Caucus
  • Minnesota Independent Auto Glass Association
  • Minnesota Property Tax Reform Coalition
  • Minnesota Soft Drink Association
  • Minnesota WasteWise
  • Northern Metal Recycling
  • Northwest Airlines
  • Printing Industry of Minnesota
  • S&W Plastics, LLC
  • Scrappy's Recycling Express
  • Westar Properties, Inc.
Was Brucato doing "strategic consulting" with these companies while she was a news anchor? The company's website says it was founded in 1996; it doesn't describe any hiatus while Brucato was back at KSTP. [UPDATE: Brian Halliday says in the comments to this post that there was a disclaimer posted on the website from 2004 until two months ago, advising that Brucato was "no longer directly affiliated with Brucato & Halliday, Ltd."] It's reasonable to assume that she is probably now trying to reconnect in a more powerful way with those old and not necessarily former clients.

Ron Hubbard, the head of Hubbard Broadcasting, said in a press release announcing Brucato's departure from KSTP this summer that "...we hope she can remain part of the KSTP family in other areas." Uh-huh. Brucato herself was quoted in the release, proclaiming that " "I'll always consider myself part of the team." While the release probably refers to the KSTP news staff as the "team," it might as well refer to the flex-net Brucato belongs to.

Now, I don't know Cyndy Brucato or the state's Republican and corporate elite well enough to name their flex-net something catchy like "neocon core," but it's clear that it includes the Hubbards, the state Republican Party, Arne Carlson, Norm Coleman, and the people who run the companies and organizations listed above. Does it matter who Brucato is working for at this moment to know who and what she is always working for? One moment she is getting a paycheck from Hubbard, the next from a Republican administration, the next from Koch Industries, then from the Chamber of Commerce. Then it was back to the Hubbards at KSTP for another six years.

She just left KSTP for the second time, and shortly after she is publishing love notes to the Republican candidate for governor Tom Emmer and the Chamber of Commerce over at Her reappearance as an objective journalist shows Brucato's flexian skills in moving between media, politics and business.

In the media she presents herself as an neutral observer - a former broadcaster - but in between media stints she is an unabashed Republican partisan. Who is it that Brucato is representing at At journalistic institutions writers are commonly thought of as agents of readers. In reality they are also agents of the owners, although usually they are not allowed to freely flow between politics, business and the media. It is obvious that the reader is not the intended beneficiary of Brucato's MinnPost reports.

The timing of her appearance at is fortuitous for the Emmer campaign. After the candidate has made gaffe after gaffe, appearing as something of a  bullying state's rights fanatic who thinks waiters make $100,000 a year, he was desperately in need of softening his image. That is certainly the tack his new TV ads are taking. And now he's getting help from Brucato, whose reports have tried to humanize him. This is her contribution to the hive.

Though the chamber and the Emmer campaigns might not be paying her bills right now, it seems undeniable that she is merely playing her Republican-spinner role - serving her flex-net. Brucato occupies an enviable niche for a Republican campaign - clearly part of the Republican appart yet connected enough to media to get herself published in a respected publication. In previous times she wouldn't have been able to do this; for example, the Star Tribune, as bad as it is, would not have allowed her to publish three puff pieces on Emmer and then one on the Chamber of Commerce. But in the new era of not-for-profit media, writers are apparently not always subject to the same strictures, nor ethics, of traditional media.

If Emmer pulls off a miracle and wins, there might be a spot for her in his gubernatorial administration. If not, she can return to doing "strategic communications" for the businesses that are trying to get Emmer elected right now. Who knows - she could even go back to KSTP in some capacity.

Granted, the high-flying Republican flex-net is experiencing a rift as players like Arne Carlson have split off, provoking a political contest between two of its own wings. But you can be sure that if either Emmer or Horner win the gubernatorial race this split will be quickly healed and the flex-net will get along with its agenda of shifting income to the rich, disinvestment in the poor, and the freeing of corporate reins.

Wedel warns in her book that flexians actually have very little loyalty to anything or anybody besides themselves and their flex-nets, and many times end up hurting the institutions they roam in and out of, all the while avoiding any accountability for their actions. Brucato might be proving that in her diminution of what has become a good brand over at Minnpost.