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.


blogspotdog said...

Once again, Rob demonstrates the difference between him and me. I do a 250 word drive by; Rob conducts an autopsy.

Cameron Obert said...

Nice job Rob! If there ever was a conservative chameleon, Brucato is it! Lots of contradictions and edging on political ethics in her career!

MNObserver said...

But let's remember, transparency for the riffraff is required.  Ms. Brucato just tweeted about how great it is to part of the MinnPost tema because:

<span> <span></span> <span>“@cyndybrucato: Really enjoying the feedback from readers They have to use their names so at least they keep it clean.”</span></span>

DiscordianStooge said...

Republican Arne Carlson

Arne Carlson was never a republican. Just ask Emmer supporters.

Rob Levine said...

This Republicans' loud disdain for Arne and crew actually show how much they love them.

Brian Halliday said...

As president of Brucato & Halliday, I would like to point out a number of errors, some trivial, some significant, in this posting. First, Cyndy was born, lived and educated through graduate school (Northwestern University) in Chicago. She lived in Duluth for two years.

Secondly, this notice was posted on our website during her leave-of-absence: "In 2004, Cyndy Brucato was hired by Twin Cities' television station KSTP-TV and is currently anchor woman for the 6:00-7:00 pm news. Ms Brucato is no longer directly affiliated with Brucato & Halliday, Ltd." The statement was removed from the web site two months ago after her announced departure from KSTP.

The regurgitated reference to Koch Industries is pretty silly. Our work was to help publicize the annual Children's Festival,held in Rice Park in conjunction with our principal client, the Ordway Theater.

Keep reading,

James K said...

I would more argue that the Emmer supporters saying that Carlson was never a Republican is all the proof required to show that the Emmer supporters and Emmer himself aren't Republicans.

blogspotdog said...


blogspotdog said...

Stoo, Alan Quist doesn't think so either.

Rob Levine said...

Brian - thanks for chiming in. The reference to Cyndy's birth is from her Wikipedia page - it is apparently wrong there. It's an error I might have caught if there was any biographical information for you or Cyndy on your website. I appreciate that you say - although it is not on your website - that Ms Brucato was "no longer directly affiliated" with Brucato & Halliday while at KSTP. I see that you and Brucato are married, so she wasn't too far from the company. As far as working for Koch, well, look at the rest of the list. I've removed the born in reference from the story - thanks for correcting that.

Phoenix Woman said...


Phoenix Woman said...

How Calvinist of her.   Or how Randian of her. 

Comes to the same thing, really.