There’s Gambling Going On In This Establishment…

I’m not “Minnesota Nice”.

Partly it’s because I’m not from Minnesota.  I’m “North Dakota Dour and Taciturn”.   Minnesota is a South Beach conga line dance compared to North Dakota. 

And when I hear “Minnesota Nice”, what I think is “Minnesota Passive-Aggressive”. 

Bill Salisbury – one of the deans of Minnesota political reporting – and Don Davis, who fills the same bill with the Forum News Service, noted over the weekend that the ”Governor race could be ‘Minnesota nice’”. 

And my impression is proven correct.

That, and my belief that too many journos either think Minnesotans are stupid, or are actively trying to make them that way, as in this featurette on our two major gubernatorial candidates.

You can read the whole thing – but here’s the part that got my attention:

The Hennepin County commissioner and former legislator from Plymouth [endorsed GOP candidate Jeff Johnson] is an affable guy who shuns angry attacks on political opponents. That description also fits Dayton.

Sounds hunky-dory! 

Except that Governor Dayton doesn’t have to attack anyone.  He’s got his boss’s ex-wife’s group, “Alliance for a “Better” Minnesota”, to do that for him. 

You know – the group that ran the epic, toxic sleaze campaign against Tom Emmer in 2010; the one that called Jeff Johnson “evil” over Christmas last year. 

The Democrats could run Shirley Temple against a Republican Beaver Cleaver; we’d soon hear see a commercial with Eddie Haskell complaining that Beaver bullied him as a child.

Junk Science, Junkier “Journalism”

In recent years, this blog has made great sport of criticizing the MinnPost‘s coverage of Second Amendment issues, noting that much of their coverage has been both anti-gun and comically poor, and pointing out they are sponsored by the Joyce Foundation, which actively sponsors many anti-gun groups (including Protect MN here in Minnesota, and the national-scoped “Violence Policy Center”, or “VPC”). 

On the other hand, Joyce has sponsored the work of reporter Mike Cronin, who is three parts into a series on America’s gun culture (check out his installments so far on his introduction to shooting, attending a permit training class with Andrew Rothman, and his conversations with violence victims).   The series, thus far, is genuinely fair and balanced; I’ve talked with Cronin, and he seems interested in keeping it that way.  That’s all to the good. 

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PRSure

I work in the software business. 

And among people who work in the business, the word was going around well over a year ago; “MNSure” was going to be a Bulgarian Goat Rodeo.  At the very least.

The word was more than right; in fact, according to Deloitte Consulting, it sailed past Bulgarian Goat Rodeo, and is more of a Hungarian Cluster Cuddle

This is the point of the blog post where I’d find one or more excerpts from the report that summed up what a complete FUBAR the whole project has been. 

But there is just too much in the report.   If I quoted everything damning in Deloitte’s report, I’d be driving a tank over the “Fair Use” laws. 

So I urge you to read it. 

(Remembring, of course, that Deloitte was one of the firms that was beaten out by “Maximus”, the firm that actually “built” MNSure.  Now, a smart state government IT operation would have engaged Deloitte as a disinterested third party to serve as a reviewer on the condition that they not bid for re-development work, to avoid conflict of interest.  I don’t actually know if the state was that smart.  Any bets?)

But in any case, read it.  And then take a look at the Strib’s piece on the subject, which carries nothing but the Messinger Dayton administration’s spin on the top-level issues.

Lucking: “So Stupid You’re Not Acting Stupid…”

Carrie Lucking may be the second most powerful person in Minnesota.

She’s the “Executive Director” of “Alliance for a Better Minnesota” – meaning that when Alida Messinger says “jump”, Lucking tells “Governor” Dayton how high, and off what, he’s to leap. 

She is, in effect, the real “Lieutenant Governor” of Minnesota.

But beyond that, she is in charge of ABM’s endless campaign to disinform (or as they used to say, “lie to”) the people of Minnesota – or, more accurately, to the low-information voters that are the DFL’s most important constituency. 

And she unleashed a howler yesterday:

State Senator Dave Thompson portrays himself as an unabashed conservative: a vocal, passionate defender of liberty at all costs.

Given this image, it’s notable that the former conservative talk radio host hasn’t published a blog or posted his legislative newsletter online since 2013. Whatever happened in 2013 that would make Thompson go mum in 2014? Hmmmm….

Could it be politics?

Well, duh.  Of course it’s politics. Specifically, the politics of making yourself “opposition-researcher proof”.  If you’re considering running for office, you take down your blog; you stop Tweeting; you hide your Facebook page.  All of your messaging goes through your campaign; it’s all vetted, measured and slept on before it’s put out in front of the public and the media, to avoid ”ready-fire-aim” moments like Judi Dutcher’s “Ethanol” flub, or any of Michele Bachmann’s history of PR botches – because the media is always looking for a good political flub, and ABM will be there to make sure the media don’t miss any such flubs. 

Or even non-flubs. 

So when Lucking breathlessly purrs…:

Thompson announced his campaign for Governor in the summer of 2013, a few months after he stopped publishing his From the Senate Floor blog and Senate newsletter

Thompson has gone mum

online.

Posting snafu? New legislative aide who forgot to put the newsletter online?

…she’s being disingenuous.  She knows as well as anyone that every candidate, GOP or DFL - at least every smart one – locks down their commentary when they’re getting ready to go on the trail. 

One thing is certain, though. Dave Thompson the radio host sure had a lot more to say than Dave Thompson the politician running for Governor.

Well, duh. 

Now, Carrie Lucking is a terrible writer and a breathless apparatchik – but she knows her audience; people who don’t know any better.  People who don’t have the time, inclination, or resources to check the story behind the “stories” ABM shovels to them.  People who only follow politics for the day, or days, or week or two before elections, people who make up their minds about elections over gut reactions and visceral responses to chanting points and sound bites, as well as the self-lobotomized droogs that wouldn’t know how not to vote DFL. 

Behind everyone who doesn’t really know the facts and doesn’t want to or know how to find them out for themselves, is a potential DFL voter. 

But that’s what Lucking gets paid to write.

The real question; will Rachel Stassen-Berger at the Strib, or Tom Scheck at MPR, ever point out to the less-informed in the audience what a facile bit of rhetoric this is?  Will MPR’s “Poligraph” give this statement the “Oh, Hell No” it deserves?   Will anyone in the Minnesota mainstream media ever tackle the Alliance’s endless, cynical campaign of disinformation, not to mention probe their deeply incestuous relationship with the Governor’s office and the DFL?

Place your bets.

The Great Crisis

First, some history.

Untangled:  Back in 2010, when the DFL last controlled the Legislature, the media credentialling system was a shambles.  The Senate Rules specifically listed the media outlets that had permanent credentials – the major metro newspapers, the state’s various TV and major radio stations, MPR, the Legal Ledger and a few others.  You could count them on your fingers and toes, if I recall correctly (and I may well not).  However, any Senator could vouch for any “reporter” they wanted, and give them essentially a “day pass” to get into the gallery, the press room, and onto the floor (at a table reserved for the media between gavels, and out on the floor proper outside the session).

It was never much of an issue until the mid-2000s, with the growth of an alternative media.  Suddenly, new media – blogs, talk radio, and video and audio streams – began demanding a place covering the Legislature.  Being part-timers and hobbyists, most of us only needed credentials on a situational basis – but others, flush with activist budgets, had the time and manpower to make it a full-time “job”.

In 2010, the DFL made a hash of things; they credentialed “The Uptake”, a stridently progressive video-blog, but denied a day pass to Saint Cloud conservative talk host Dan Ochsner.

After the legislature flipped in 2010, the 2011 session began with tat following tit, with the GOP initially getting payback and ejecting the Uptake from the Senate.

Michael Brodkorb, brand-new in his job as Senate GOP Comms czar, took matters into his own hands.  While Michael’s a polarizing figure even inside conservative circles these days (and someone I still consider a friend), he undertook a really superlative project; give the Minnesota Senate the best, most open, transparent media credentialling process in the United States.  Period.

With that in mind, he enlisted left-leaning journo David Brauer, a few capitol comms staffers (including Senate DFL comms guy Beau Berendson and, briefly, then-House-DFL communications person Carrie Lucking, in her last gig before becoming Alita Messinger’s propaganda minister) and yours truly to craft a new Senate media credentialling rule.

I chronicled the process leading to the new news credentialing policy, from conception to passage into the Senate’s permanent rules, in a series of blog posts.

One of the rules was as follows (and it reads this way in the Senate’s permanent rules today):

Organizations owned or controlled by registered lobbyists, political parties or other party organizations (defined as organizations registered with the Campaign Finance Board or the Federal Election Commission) shall not be granted credentials.

It seemed pretty clear at the time.  In fact, it still does.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t controversy.

The Point Being:  the issuance of press credentials, and the (limited) access they give you to Senators on the floor, is non-partisan.  Utterly, utterly non-partisan.

So when the Strib’s  Baird Helgeson notes in a story about a credentialing tempest in a Senate teapot that…:

Republicans have questioned Senate press credentials for the left-leaning Uptake, while Democrats are critical of press credentials for conservative blogger Mitch Berg.

…that everyone – the Republicans questioning Uptake, the “Democrats” who bagged on me [1] , and I suspect Helgeson himself – misses the point.

Anyone can get credentials – provided they aren’t “owned or controlled by registered lobbyists, political parties or other party organizations”.

Credentials are issued by the non-partisan Sergeant At Arms – the eternal Sven Lindquist, who’s been there close to thirty years, through every possible combination of political power.

Seems simple, huh?

Muddied:  Shawn Towle is a Saint Paul would-be pundit.  For years, he ran the website/protoblog Checks and Balances.

More recently, he’s “famous” for reportedly having tweeted a link to an anonymous photo of a former Minnesota legisator – a female conservative, naturally – in her underwear, apparently while doing a little galavanting, as they used to say.  Did Towle publish the photo?  Let’s assume it fell out of the sky and hit him on the head, for all I care.  Either way, the episode was one of the more disturbing bits of “gotcha” “journalism” I’ve seen, part of a wave of (and I say this with all due respect to Towle as a journalist) prurient panty-sniffing from Twin Cites left-leaning alt-media, thinly disguised as diligent reporting (about the private and semi-private lives of female conservatives and, it seems, nothing more).

But that was last year,  We have a new controversy.

Helgeson  notes that Towle has been paid nearly $40,000 in the past few years by the DFL, including money just before the current session:

DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk’s “failure to disclose political payments he made to a member of the credentialed press is dishonest and damages the integrity of the Senate,” Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, said Monday. “How can the public trust what’s going on at the Capitol if the reporters are being paid by the politicians?”

There are really two points here:

  • Why does the DFL feel the need to pay Towle – who, according to sources in the Capitol, apparently shows up at GOP Senators’ press conferences acting like a Reagan-era Sam Donaldson?  They don’t have enough mainstream media to do the job for free?
  • I’m not sure that this story affects the public trust in the Senate – there are bigger reasons, like a $90 million office building and three years worth of lies about property taxes to do that.  But one might certainly wonder what Shawn Towle’s angle is.

Helgeson:

Hann is demanding that Bakk have Towle’s press credentials revoked. The press passes allow journalists to get on the Senate floor during debates, but they do not grant any special access to members.

It’s a little more complicated than that – it allows access to the press gallery, to press office handouts and info and – when space is available – to a small table on the floor (limit: 6) during the debates, with precedence given to the permanent press corps members that rent space in the basement.

But it’s not much more complicated than that.

An Aside:  Helgeson’s piece has this curious interjection:

Despite Hann’s insistence, Bakk had no role in getting Towle his press credentials.

Helgeson is talking for Bakk?   I mean – according to whom did Bakk had no relationship with Towle’s credentials?

Of course, it’s irrelevant, or should be.  You don’t need connections to get press credentials anymore.  That was one of the goals of the rules we passed in 2011!

And while Bakk needn’t have had any more role in Towle getting his credentials than in me getting mine, Bakk most certainly knew and had plenty to do with the fact that…:

  • The Senate paid Towle
  • The arrangement broke the Senate rules.

Dwelling in the Irrelevant:  Helgeson:

Towle said he actually got his Senate credentials when the Republicans controlled the body and Hann was an assistant leader.

Around that time, Towle was also on the payroll of the Republican Party of Minnesota’s payroll. The state GOP paid Towle a combined $15,000 in 2010 and 2011, records show.

Towle, in many forums (including in a phone conversation with me, over the winter when this story first came out) keeps repeating that he’s been paid by both sides.  The DFL is leaning on the same point:

DFL Senate Caucus Communications Director Amos Briggs points out that Towle has “been credentialed under DFL and GOP majorities, although you will notice that the credentialing authority named in the rule is nonpartisan.”

All of it is true – and it’s irrelevant.

When Towle was first credentialed, up through the beginning of the 2011 session, there were no formal rules against paid lobbyists or affiliates of lobbying organizations or parties being credentialed.  That restriction began in 2011, well into the session.

The partisanship – or even the bipartisanship – of Towle’s contract employment isn’t the issue.  It’s the fact that under the post-2011 Senate rules, he’s getting paid by any political organization.  Period.

And some observers get this.  The City Pages’ Aaron Rupar spoke with the Senate’s sergeant at arms, Sven Lindquist – the non-partisan staffer whose office is in charge of issuing press credentials.  Lindquist notes…:

“In the case of Towle, if he is working for one or both political parties — and I would have no knowledge of that — the rule does state that he should be responsible [and let us know about] any change in his reporting status,” Lindquist said. “What I’m hearing now about this, it will have to be looked at further… we’ve never had to go down this path before.”

Lindquist said the one significant thing a Capitol credential allows reporters to do is to “have access to the Senate chamber, and with God as my witness I’ve never had [Towle] attempt to gain access to the Senate floor, and he’s been credentialed since perhaps ’99 or 2000.”

During most of which time, up to 2011, partisan affiliation wasn’t an issue – or, rather, it was as much an issue as the party controlling the Senate wanted to make it.

So To Sum Up:  Does Shawn Towle get paid by the DFL?  So it seems.  Hey, a guy’s gotta earn a living.

But the problem is in Tom Bakk’s office.  Bakk either thinks “rules” are for mere mortals, or he isn’t in control of what his staff is doing.

I’m dying to find out which.

[1] I’d like to challenge Mr. Helgeson to show me a single Republican since 2011 who’s given a rat’s ass about The Uptake.  As to Democrats and yours truly?  The only Democrat I’m aware of who’s whined about my credentials was Mark Gisleson, one of the DFL’s intellectual thought leaders and former blogger and current “where are they now”-fodder.

Nope, No Media Bias At All

The DFL controls both chambers of the legislature, as well as the Governor’s office.

They passed four billion dollars in total tax hikes last session, for a net two billion dollars in increases, without a single Republican vote.

But now the DFL needs GOP support to change tax policy? 

That’s what this piece – “GOP senators refuse to be rushed on sweeping tax-relief measure” – would have you believe.

No, really:

Dayton and DFL leaders have rushed to pass the measure to ensure the largest number of Minnesotans can take advantage of more than $50 million in retroactive tax relief by April 15. Senate DFLers used a rare procedure to try to speed passage by a day, but Republicans in the minority used their limited muscle to delay the vote until Friday.

Earlier in the week, Dayton chastised Senate DFLers for not passing the measure swiftly enough. On Thursday, Dayton and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, joined together to direct their wrath at Republicans.

Look – this bill was never intended as anything but an election-year bandaid for the DFL – allowing them to say “We cut taxes! (to some favored classes of Minnesotans, for a total of a tiny fraction of the tax hike we unilaterally jammed down two years ago)” in an election year when the MNSure flop and the 2013 tax and spend and gun grab orgy looks certain to cost the DFL dearly. 

Baird Helgeson is, in short, carrying the DFL’s narrative water:

“There is no good reason for Senate Republicans to block the bill’s passage,” Dayton said. If Republican legislators force any further delays, “they will be solely responsible for denying income tax cuts to thousands of Minnesotans.”

The measure is nearly certain to pass Friday because Republicans are out of options to block it.

Ahem:  the DFL doesn’t need one single Republican vote to pass the “tax cuts”.  Not One. 

Why is Baird Helgeson and the Strib carrying the DFL’s water? 

Will Rachel Stassen-Berger, Tom Scheck and Bill Salisbury catch the Strib on this fairly egregious bit of journalistic partisan narrative-fluffing?

The Media/Non-Profit Racket

In past months, I’ve showed you how not only big-media-alum group-blog MinnPost, but “No Rant, No Slant” Minnesota Public Radio are on the take from the Joyce Foundation – which funds “Protect MN”, the anti-rights group run by Rep. Heather Martens.  I speculated that it might be the reason that MPR has been so incurious about Martens’ astroturf group, and why the MinnPost - with all its pretenses to legitimate journalism – spent the past year giving Martens a public tongue bath.

I asked – does this involvement go any higher in the Twin Cities’ “progressive” political world?

I asked, and Bill Glahn answered – ten months ago.  Joyce is a huge financial backer of “Take Action MN”, a non-profit that verges on being a political party in its own right, a descendent of “Progressive Minnesota”, which had its own unseemly connections with “non-partisan” institutions.

Glahn:

The Joyce Foundation of Chicago, Illinois, was founded by Iowa lumber heiress Beatrice Joyce Kean.  This $760 million foundation has been involved with TakeAction since near the beginning of the Minnesota non-profit’s existence.  Joyce’s 2006 Annual Report (p. 25) shows a grant of $350,000 to be paid out to TakeAction over two years, “To develop and promote a political reform agenda focused on campaign finance, judicial, and voting rights reforms.”
Joyce’s 2009 IRS Form 990 reveals that the $350,000 grant to the 501(c)(3) TakeAction Minnesota Education Fund was renewed in 2008 for two additional years, “for ongoing efforts to reform and strengthen democracy in Minnesota.”[12]
Joyce’s 2011 IRS Form 990 reveals that, yet again, the $350,000 grant to the TakeAction Education Fund was renewed in 2010 for two additional years, “For advancing a political reform agenda that encompasses election administration, voting rights, campaign finance, redistricting, and judicial independence.”[13]

The Joyce Foundation’s website indicates that the TakeAction Education Fund received an additional $150,000 in 2012 for one year, “For advancing a democracy reform agenda using legislation, community organizing, movement building, coalition work, and unexpected alliances.”
Unexpected alliances?  In any event, the seven-year total of grants from the Joyce Foundation to TakeAction equals $1,200,000.

So let’s break this down:  The Joyce Foundation heavily sponsors “Progressive” non-profits, including “Take Action MN”, “Protect MN”, and (I strongly suspect) “Common Cause MN”.

And they pour money into at least two “non-profit” Minnesota media outlets that have pretensions to respectability; Minnesota Public Radio and the MinnPost.

I’ve sought comment from both organizations in the past, without success.  I’ll try again.

All of this carefully obfuscated money going to support “campaign finance…reforms” is one thing.

Going to buy friendly media coverage?

And finding willing takers, in an industry whose “code of ethics” tells journalists who avoid financial entanglements in their “journalism?”

Pulling The Strings

Bill Glahn has been doing the work the Twin Cities media hasn’t won’t in covering the big, unseen unreported-on force in Minnesota politics:  Take Action Minnesota.

Even among people who know that TAM exists, I think few know exactly what they’re into, and how the organization works:

Charity Status—whether legal or not, I object to TakeAction’s abuse of its tax-exempt non-profit charity status. Unlike the traditional political party—whose role the group is increasingly displacing —TakeAction can accept tax-deductible contributions from anonymous donors. Despite my best efforts at discovery, we really do not know who contributes the millions of dollars that fund TakeAction’s operations.

Quasi-Party Status—although TakeAction operates much like a political party—recruiting and financing candidates, conducting campaigns, and getting out the vote—it does not have to abide by the same laws on transparency and accountability. It acts as a closed political machine—answering to its (unknown) donors, but not to voters and taxpayers in the same way that the Democrats and Republicans must answer.

They also sit among a warren of offices for similar “progressive” “non-profits” – “ProtectMN”, “Wellstone Action” and others – in the Griggs Building, in the St. Paul Midway.  This isn’t just a happy accident, or entirely the product of the Griggs’ very low rent.  The network shares much more than just an address; phone banks, lists, staff, know-how.

You should read Glahn’s entire series on the subject:

My latest “Who Is TakeAction?” Series:

·         Part 1—Political philosophy
·         Part 2—TakeAction takes over city politics
·         Part 3—All the cool kids went to this year’s Progressive Prom

My original TakeAction Minnesota Series:

  • Part 1–Intro and the 2010 election for Minnesota Governor
  • Part 2–Follow the Money, as it spins around inside the TakeAction network
  • Part 3–Tracking down the money to its sources
  • Part 3A—More donor names and dollar amounts
  • Part 4–The lobby machine
  • Part 5–The 2012 referendum on Voter ID
  • Part 6–Updating Part 5 with final 2012 money figures
  • Part 7–TakeAction Goes to Washington

The entire series is excellent.

Although Glahn also observes:

[S]imply from a journalistic viewpoint, the rise of TakeAction as a political force is a major story—one that has received almost no coverage from Minnesota’s legacy media. In contrast, oceans of ink have been spilled over the Tea Party and its relationship to the Republican Party. There is a man-bites-dog story waiting for an enterprising reporter to pick it up.

This is not an accident.  It’s a case of Berg’s Seventh Law in action.

And most of the Twin Cities media shares TAM’s mission, whether they admit it or not (and whether their friendly coverage/non-coverage is being purchased by some of the same donors or not).

The Voice Of The DFL, And A Brilliant Plan

The “Alliance for a Better Minnesota” – the attack-PR drones financed by Alida Messinger and a group of plutocrats with deep pockets to make toxic, sleazy attacks on their opposition – stepped in it last night, to the point that even the Twin Cities mainstream media had to report it (with emphasis added):

The DFL-supporting Alliance for a Better Minnesota took its mockery of a Republican candidate a step too far, it admitted on Thursday.

In a Halloween-themed blog post, it suggested that Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson should dress as Patrick Bateman, a serial killer in American Psycho, because he is “seemingly nice but actually pretty evil inside.”

Carrie Lucking tried to bury the evidence – but the Internet sees and knows all:

Leaving aside the obvious question – what should Alida Messinger and Carrie Lucking dress as? – it appears as if the smooth-running messaging machine at ABM is trying to break in some new amateurs.

But have no fear.  Lucking explains it all (again, emphasis added):

Carrie Lucking, the group’s executive director, said within 10 minutes being alerted to the post they took the image down, removed the reference to Bateman and changed what it said about Johnson.

Instead of calling Johnson evil, the site says that he is “seemingly nice in public, but actually the policies he supports are pretty evil. It also appended an apology to its post. 

Ah.  Disagreement is “evil”.  That’s much better.

How very Alinsky.

“The original image and text for Jeff Johnson was removed and the costume changed because it was an inappropriate reference to a fictional character. We apologize for this error. It will not happen again,” the web site said.

Yes it will – because every time ABM writes about Republicans, they’re writing about “fictional characters”.  Alinskyite “framing” is all about turning real people and real ideas into characters and catch phrases that have little or nothing to do with reality.  ”Tom Emmer is angry”.  ”Jeff Johnson is evil”.  ”King Banaian is Arab”.  Little bits of mental chaff that ABM is hoping – indeed, paying big bucks to prove – will stick in the minds of people who don’t think that hard about politics come election time.

It’s dishonest.  It’s also how the Democrats do politics.

But I Promised A Brilliant Plan, Didn’t I?:  Watch ABM’s coverage this past couple of days.  Their flailing at Johnson was only the tip of the iceberg; I wrote earlier today about their calling Julianne Ortmann a “Genie”, with video of a blonde, jiggly Barbara Eden helpfully added in case you thought Lucking was referring to the “Djinn” of Arab mythology.

The election is a year away, and the attacks are already…

…unhinged.

And it occurs to me – maybe that’s a good barometer for the GOP races?  Whichever candidate is drawing the most unhinged, scabrous “coverage” from ABM can be presumed to be in the lead?

A look at ABM’s front page this morning shows two weak-gruel attacks on Jeff Johnson.

That’s probably good news for the Johnson campaign.

The challenge for the Thompson campaign is obvious.

Because Racism

Earlier this week, the Joyce Foundation collected another installment on its payment for the MinnPost’s PR services in pursuit of disarming the American people – in this case, a “Community Voices” column by by Rebecca Lowen and Doug Rossinow, who are listed as “history professors at Metro State”.

Those who fail to learn from history, it’s fair to say, teach history at Metro State.

And if this reflects the current state of the victim-disarmament movement, it’d seem their strategy has shifted to “ad homina” and “making things up”.

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Rant And Slant

A few weeks ago, I pointed out that not only does the MinnPost appear to be selling news to the highest bidder (or, more accurately, biggest contributor), but that MPR News appears to have done the same.

The Usual Bona Fides:  Let me give you my usual disclaimer; I’ve always – or at least for the last ten years or so – believed that MPR News made a fairly credible effort at appearing, from an institutional level, to be fairly balanced and to keep its individual staffers’ biases firewalled away pretty well.   I know some people at MPR News, and I believe they operate with a level of integrity (although some of them also believe they’re above criticism by the hoi polloi; after I asked questions about MPR News’ “Poligraph” segment’s oddly incurious coverage of the Betty McCollum/Tony Hernandez debates, I got an email from a senior MPR News exec to Catherine Richert advising her “not to engage with that guy”.  He’d fumble-fingered and sent it to me, too).

All that aside, I’ve always believed MPR News – the news department, as opposed to NPR, or non-news programming, like Garrison Keillor – does an adequate job of compartmentalizing bias.

Or I did, until fairly recently.

The Shakedown We Pay For:  As noted above, I wonder why MPR News is covering Second Amendment issues under the direct sponsorship of the Joyce Foundation, the nation’s largest funder of gun-grabber organizations.

Bill Glahn covers some of the same ground in a piece about MPR’s “Daily Current” show, hosted by the bias-sodden Keri Miller.  The “Daily Current”, a look at their website notes, is a production of MPR News.

The hour was hosted by MPR’s Kerri Miller. Panelists included Denise Cardinal, the founder of Alliance for a Better Minnesota (ABM), Ben Golnik, a political consultant, and Kathryn Pearson, a professor of political science at the University of Minnesota.

Cardinal is, of course, a major liberal mover and shaker and, as Glahn points out and I reported endlessly in 2010, architect of Alida Messinger’s epic, toxic sleaze campaign in 2010, which bought Mark Dayton barely enough votes to win.  Golnik is a fixture in MN GOP politics.  Pearson is Larry Jacobs’ understudy and contender for his title of “most over-quoted person in the Twin Cities media”.

 Let’s turn to MPR’s Kerri Miller for a moment.  As the show’s host and moderator, her chief means of controlling the narrative are by asking questions and controlling the show’s flow…As for flow, by my count, Miller interrupts the Republican Golnik at total of thirteen 13 times.  During one 56-second stretch alone [08:26 to 09:22] MPR’s Miller interrupts Golnik seven times to challenge his facts.

Not only do such constant interruptions throw off a guest’s rhythm, they telegraph to the audience that the “neutral” host believes the guest to be untrustworthy or evasive.

On the rare occasions Miller speaks during Cardinal’s or Pearson’s time, she never interrupts and stops the flow.  Rather, Miller will say a word or two to clarify or to reinforce a point—never to challenge or dispute—as can be heard at the 17:47 mark with Cardinal and the 25:52 mark with Pearson.

I urge you to try to find the recordings of Miller’s performance in the 2010 Governor’s race.  I listened to both interviews, and wrote about ‘em back then.   Her interview of Tom Emmer was harsh, acerbic, combative, laced with hostile interruptions.

Which is fine – journalists should ask questions, right?

But in contrast, her conversation with Mark Dayton was chummy, clubby, a rhetorical warm fuzzy blanket with camomile tea.  It sounded like they may have been painting each others’ toenails.

Miller hasn’t changed much.

Conflict Of Interest:  But here’s the part I wanted to draw your attention to; I’ll add emphasis:

The host’s interruptions of the token conservative are not just to challenge facts or opinion.  On two occasions, MPR’s Miller interrupts Republican Golnik to defend Democrat Governor Dayton—on the Vikings Stadium [30:22] and on MPR News’ sponsorMNsure [32:15].

Her defense of the Democrat Dayton during that latter exchange reveals volumes about the host and the outlet.  While the disastrous debut of Obamacare was makinginternational news, and the problems with the local MNsure rollout again on the front pages, Miller dismisses the problems with her corporate sponsor as mere “glitches.

Her defense of our liberal Governor is so over the top that she has to catch herself at one point [32:42 mark] with the walk back “not to speak for the Governor here,” played to laughter from the panelists.

That Miller is a shill for the DFL is not up for question by anyone paying attention.

That MPR News is taking money to produce the news is one thing; all commercial news operations have to work to create the impression there’s a high, thick wall between the money and news sides of their operations.

That MPR News is not only having its news coverage directly sponsored by advocacy groups, but is having its non-news, opinion programming – Miller’s show – sponsored by the government that MPR News is supposed to be covering?

How is this not merely a conflict of interest, but an undercutting of the integrity of a news operation that has always publicly wrapped itself in the flag of journalistic ethics (whatever they are?)

Tom Scheck?  Mike Mulcahy?  Rupa Chinoy?  Bob Collins?  Anyone?

Anyone?

The Strib: Keeping The Boogeyman Alive

The Strib ran an editorial from the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch over the weekend, entitled “A senator, scrutinizing ALEC? How dare he.”.

The headline sounds like it was written by Eric Pusey.  The rest of the editorial isn’t much better.  And the fact that the Strib runs it – ergo folds it under their own editorial umbrella – is something we need to highlight. 

The “Senator” involved is Dick Durbin – the guy who wants to bring back the “Fairness Doctrine”, among his many other atrocities. 

And it shows the Democrats, and the Strib’s, hypocrisy on many levels.  Pardon, as always, the redundancy.

Selective Indignation – Yet Again.  The “scrutiny of ALEC”, as we’ve noted in the past, is itself intensely hypocritical – but we’ll come back to that.

On Aug. 6, Durbin sent a letter to about 300 current or former corporate members of ALEC to ask a couple of simple questions. The assistant minority leader wanted to know whether the organization or corporation was still a supporter of ALEC and whether they backed “stand your ground” laws (“For Minnesota think tank, ALEC haters’ witch hunt hits home,” Aug. 14).

Now, just think for a moment what’d happen if, say, Mitch McConnell sent letters to companies asking if they supported Planned Parenthood? 

Think about it for a minute. 

The Strib editorial board would lose bowel control from the sheer anger.  Keri Miller would devote a week of her “Daily Buzz” or whatever they’re calling “Mid-Morning” these days.  It’d be one of those “Chilling Effects on Democracy” that seems to accompany any conservative activity in the minds of the media, only worse. 

Dance, Boogeyman!  Dance! – And why is Durbin so concerned about ALEC? 

In September, Durbin plans to convene a subcommittee hearing to study ["Stand Your Ground"] laws in light of the Florida verdict acquitting George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin. Inasmuch as ALEC’s support was critical to Florida’s 2005 decision to pass the nation’s first stand-your-ground law, it seems reasonable to ask ALEC’s members and funders whether the Trayvon Martin case changed their minds.

The bad publicity ALEC received after an unarmed Martin was shot dead by Zimmerman led many corporations to withdraw their support for ALEC.

I’m not sure – and I can’t find the data at the moment – but I’m going to say this is likely BS; I doubt they lost any significant revenue, at least not for long  Maybe I’ll find out more soon. 

But what Durbin is doing is trying to is…:

ALEC and the groups are right to tell Durbin to stick his request from whence he got his “Fairness Doctrine” proposal. 

Proof That the Strib knows DFL Voters are Incurious Lemmings Who Are Content To Let Others Do Their Thinking For them – The Pospatch, via the Strib, does the “Wizard of Oz” schtik for the low-information NPR-listening voter:

The group creates cookie-cutter legislation with the primary goal of enriching the corporate bottom line.

As opposed to the National Education Association, or the Teamsters or SEIU or AFSCME, which create cookie-cutter legislation to enrich their leadership.  Or the “Violence Policy Center”, which creates cookie-cutter gun grab legisaltion for state legislators – like the bills Representatives Paymar, Martens and Hausman wasted four months introducing in this past session, all of which were to one degree or another copied and pasted from laws in New York and California.  Or the Joyce Foundation, which not only supports gun control groups like the VPC and “Protect Minnesota” (which provide cookie-cutter legislation on Second Amendment issues to ignorami like the Metrocrat Caucus) but also partisan media outlets masquerading as “objective” media, like the MinnPost, to carry Joyce’s proxies’ water in the public information sphere. 

“They May Be An Untransparent Hack Pressure Group, But They’re Our Untransparent  Hack Pressure Group!”   – This next part is comedy gold, provided you have the capacity to laugh at the bald-faced  disingenuity of the media.  I’ll be adding emphasis:   

This is what makes this war of words so interesting. The real purpose of ALEC is to allow corporations and wealthy benefactors to avoid state ethics disclosure laws. As the nonprofit group Common Cause has meticulously noted in its complaint to the Internal Revenue Service, ALEC pretends it’s a nonprofit charity when really it’s a highly sophisticated lobbying organization that allows corporations to launder their donations without showing taxpayers which lawmakers they are buying and selling.

As opposed to “Common Cause”, which – in deep contrast – pretends it’s a nonprofit charity when in fact it is a highly sophisticated lobbying organization that allows liberal plutocrats and “progressive” advocates and groups to launder their donations without showing taxpayers which lawmakers they are buying and selling. 

That’s how the corporations want it, and that has nothing to do with freedom of speech or other constitutional protections. It’s deceit, plain and simple, and it has a negative effect on the legislative process.

Catch that?  The media – it’s the Pospatch, officially, but this editorial is no less cookie-cutter than a Lori Sturdevant article or an AFSCME-sponsored bill, let alone the ALEC bills it yaps about – is leaning on the purported “deceit” of “ALEC”, which acts, in every way, exactly like every group like it anywhere in American politics, but has been selected as the boogeyman by the Big Left, to draw media attention away from groups like…

…Common Cause, for one, which actually is everything that this editorial claims ALEC is, with comprehensive dishonesty about its own motivations thrown in for good meaure.     

“Corporate America has the right to express its opinion,” Durbin said in an interview. “The difference here is this is a secret operation and they’ve become a major political force.”

Unlike those plucky outsiders at Media Matters.  Or the Joyce Foundation.  Or AFSCME.

Or the “Alliance for a “Better” Minnesota”. 

The sooner the Strib goes out of business, the sooner Minnesota has a chance – slight though it may be – of learning the truth about what’s going on around them.

For the real story, go here and read this.

Sturdevant And “Battered State Syndrome”

Lori Sturdevant has a mission.

The DFL – and the PR machine that includes bodies as inseparably-”diverse” as the “Alliance for a Better Minnesota”, the Joyce-Foundation-funded MinnPost and theStribeditorial board (which has close links to all three of the above) worked tirelessly to try to make Minnesota “Happy to Pay for a Better” state. 

The dim and querulous gave them the Legislature and Governor they dreamed about and paid for. 

But the parts of this state that actually produce the wealth that Our Better Government needs to siphon (and siphon, and siphon some more) are showing signs that they’ve had enough.  That the snapping sound that the fat, lazy, over-entitled riders upon the camel of state enterprise have been hearing is the sound of camel vertebrae giving up the ghost.

And Sturdevant’s apparent mission is to try to shame the camel for all that wobbling.

Our Innumerate Overlords – Sturdevant’s old club-mate Nick Coleman once famously declared that journos were better than bloggers because they “know stuff”, by dint of having written about “stuff” down the long, lonely, ink-smeared decades. 

Sturdevant, like Coleman, continuously show what a low bar “stuff” turns out to be, when it comes to the realities of business and economics:

The numbers always seemed screwy to me. If congressional action allowing all states to apply their sales taxes to online purchases would net Minnesota a cool $400 million a year, as the state Revenue Department keeps saying, why was the new “Amazon tax” only slated to bring in about $5 million per year?

Because – as anyone who followed the Vikings Stadium funding fiasco, or the course of any sort of cigarette or sin tax in history, can tell you – the figures that bureaucrats give when they’re trying to sell a tax are always higher than what you actually get.  Because people and companies modify their behavior, their purchasing, their lives if need be to try, try, try to keep more of their hard-earned income and profits. 

Oh, of course Sturdevant won’t report it that way:

The answer became obvious last week. Amazon unkindly cut off its Minnesota-based advertising affiliates with a bare two weeks’ notice to avoid collecting sales tax on Minnesota purchases starting July 1.

Right. 

And why would they do that?

Two possible reasons:

  1. Because acting as an unpaid tax collector, in addition to shaving money off their own top line, hits their bottom line as well; it involves building systems and hiring people to not only do the collecting, but to handle dealing with the inevitable squabbles over collections with the state governments involved.  As only a small minority of states tax revenues on online sales, it’s just not worth it.
  2. They’re big nasty ugly meanies.

Sturdevant wants the Strib’s readers – which is a synomym for “low information voters”, these days – to pick “2″.  Emphasis added:

The state’s tax collectors allowed that they were not surprised. They’d been expecting as much from Amazon, said Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans. It’s what the tax dodger, er, online retailer has done in at least seven other states. Hence the measly forecast for tax collections from online sellers with Minnesota affiliates.

And there you go; the left’s most noxious conceit; that productivty and its consequences – profit – belongs to government first and foremost; that trying to keep more of it for yourself, having done all the actual work to produce it and all, is a thoughtcrime. 

To avoid having to deal with the administrative and fiscal overburden, not to mention lending legitimacy to a tax that may well be unconstitutional, isn’t good business; it’s a moral offense.  Or so Sturdevant will keep chanting.

And chanting:

(The official name for the new sales tax provision is “affiliate nexis.” It’s not a new tax, but a new requirement that when an online seller has a Minnesota affiliate, the tax on its Minnesota sales must be collected by the seller at the time of purchase, rather than being reported and paid later by the consumer — as all consumers faithfully and fully do every year, right?)

Dunno, Lori.  Do you?

“Atlas!  Knock Off All That Damn Shrugging!” – Up next, an irony that provokes a chuckle every time I see it, which is every time Sturdevant writes about the relationship between government and the people who pay for it, which is every other column; she rails against choice – when it’s The People doing the chosing:

The Revenue Department had been urging enactment of the Amazon tax since DFLer Mark Dayton became governor, even though it was known to be tricky to forecast and fairly easy to dodge.

Truth be told, much the same can be said of most of the $1 billion or so in annual tax increases enacted by the 2013 Legislature.

And after thirty-odd years, Sturdevant still hasn’t figured it out; when you build a spending plan based on making other people - “the rich”, entrepreneurs, businesspeople, the “haves” – pay for your stuff, those other people might just get other ideas. 

Ms. Sturdevant?  Your Institutional Hypocrisy Is Showing – Sturdevant avers that there might be some PR issues with the DFL’s / Alida Messinger’s (pardon the redundancy) “Happy To Make Other People Pay For Our Minnesota” plan: 

For example, the howl that went up from the warehouse industry about a sales tax that will start applying next April to its business-to-business transactions was accompanied by credible threats that warehouses would move to Hudson, Wis.

Right.

Even before the session ended, tax planning seminars popped up offering to coach well-heeled Minnesotans about ducking the new 9.85 percent income tax rate…Then there’s the $1.60-per-pack boost in the cigarette tax [which] might be the easiest to dodge of all. Cigarette sellers just across the Minnesota state lines — and on Minnesota’s Native American lands — can prepare for land-office business after July 1, when Minnesota smokes will become the most expensive in the region…The kind that involves spending six months and a day in no-income-tax Florida? That’s evidently tolerated.

And yep.

Was there another tax “for a better Minnesota” that elicited a howl of protest from a Minnesota institution?  One that threatened to put a 5.5%-to-6.75+% ding in an industrly that’s already shrinking by several points a year? 

One that pays Sturdevant’s paycheck, maybe?

You’ll search Sturdevant’s column in vain for any sign that she’s called her bosses “tax evaders” for having acted in their own enlightened fiscal self-interest.  

Guess the Strib – whose editorial board and occasionally newsroom shilled tirelessly for DFL candidates – doesn’t want A Better Minnesota, unless someone else is paying for it either. 

Keep that in mind in the next section.

She’s Head-Slappingly Ignorant Of Economics And Business – But I’ll Bet She’s Got History Down Cold! – Sturdevant next wraps herself in the flag.

I don’t think she knows it’s the Soviet flag:

…I’ve observed that in the rest of Minnesota, tax avoidance within “perfectly legal” parameters is socially acceptable behavior — so much so that people brag about it to their friends. Those who engage in it count themselves as patriots, and by today’s lights, they may well be. But they don’t think like the fellows in 1776 who pledged to their new venture “our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

Further proof – were any needed – that the Strib not only caters to low-information voters; they’re trying to create more of them.

The American Revolution was about much more than taxes! It was about defining a new relationship between the Individual and Government – one where the Individual and the fruits of their labor had worth, merit and standing every bit as important as that of government’s; one where government was afree association of equals, not a petty noble demanding tribute of cringing vassals. 

And that whole “STOP FUSSING WITH YOUR SELF-INTEREST, KNAVE!” thing is something you yell at someone you want to have acting like a cringing vassal.

(Speaking of history, Sturdevant adds “In 1933, Farmer-Labor Gov. Floyd B. Olson [Oh, Lord, here we go again - Ed.] made Minnesota a tax outlier. He pushed through a Depression-shocked Legislature the state’s first income tax, one of the few in the country. It was based on ability to pay and dedicated to education, which was struggling just then”.  Does Sturdevant wonder why Minnesota continued to lag the national economy for the next thirty years, until the “Minnesota Miracle?”  No?)

This Batter Doesn’t Go On Fish – No, Sturdevant casts her lot with George III, and the generations of petty self-appointed nobles that have spent the past five decades trying to roll back the relationship our founders fought to create:

They don’t even think about taxes in the way that their parents and grandparents did, economist Stinson noted.

“People who lived through the Depression knew that bad things could happen to good people. They knew that government is necessary when that happens,” he said recently.

Cry us a river.

The state had the whole “help people when times are tough” thing licked by the mid-seventies.  Everything government could do that it should be doing was being paid for, with plenty left over, before Ronald Reagan took office. 

No, the current growth in Minnesota’s spending – and the DFL’s tax and spend orgy – has nothing to do cushioning good people from Bad Things.  

  • It’s about making sure government employee union members can retire at 55 – even if the rest of us have to work ’til we’re 70 to pay for it.
  • It’s about giving billions of dollars to billionaires, to pay for other peoples’ entertainment.
  • It’s about making the parts of this state that work hard, save their money, and pay their bills pay for the parts of this state that don’t. 
  • It’s about paying for an “education” system that educates less, abjectly fails vast swathes of our state society (although it mostly fails black and brown kids who don’t look like the editorial board’s kids, so that gets politely ignored), indoctrinates more, and more and more seems to act as a money-laundering mechanism for the teachers union and Big Administration.
  • It’s about paying chits back to the people who paid for the DFL takeover in Saint Paul. 
  • It’s about enabling the continuing abuse of the state’s productive class.  Battered Spouse Syndrome depends on the victim knuckling under not only to abuse, but to the emotional manipulation that make it possible and keep going on.

In a state where the media is arrogantly and completely in the bag for the Tax and Spend party, where the big institutions are all in bed with and get paid by the Taxers and the Spenders, where elections themselves look to any intelligent person to be rigged to keep the Taxers and Spenders in power, how else are those who actually produce supposed to register their opposition?

With our feet – figuratively, and sometimes literally.

Like any other battered spouse, the only way to end the abuse is for the victims to realize that they have to break it off, and keep it broken off, no matter how hard they berate, belittle and attack you. 

No means no, Lori.

Strib: “2+2=38 Billion, Winston!”

The Star Tribune Editorial board, in a piece that reads like Lori Sturdevant, holds forth on the DFL budget proposal, such as it is - and illustrates the Strib’s deep institutional hypocrisy along the way.

The editorial is stupid, hypocritical, and awash in institutional self-interest disguised – like all of Sturdevant’s work – as populist dooo-goodism:

No sales tax on clothing or haircuts. No alcohol tax hike. No income tax increase for 98 percent of filers. On Sunday, after four months of launching a flotilla of tax ideas, the Legislature’s DFL majorities and Gov. Mark Dayton unveiled a final 2014-15 state budget outline that, on the revenue side of the ledger, is more notable for its omissions than its contents.

Well, no.  It’s notable for about two billion of its contents.  Nowhere in the Strib’s editorial does the number “$38,000,000,000″ occur.

The Strib doesn’t want to give its few readers who actually follow numbers a nasty sticker shock.

There’s plenty to like on the spending side of their balance sheet. The DFL plan pumps an additional $725 million into public education from preschool through graduate school. That’s enough to reverse the deep higher-education cuts of the past two years; ease the squeeze that has some of the state’s public schools operating only four days a week; pay for all-day kindergarten, and offer preschool scholarships to low-income families.

Read:  It’s a big kickback to Education Minnesota; they paid good money for that Governor and Legislature, it’s time for them to get their piece of the action.  

The plan also includes measures to close a nagging $627 million budget gap, the residue not only of the Great Recession but also of a dozen years of legislative failure to balance the budget in a lasting way.

Further proof that  Lori Sturdevant wrote this.  Remember 2010?

Six Billion Dollar Deficit?  

The Strib editorial board is rewriting history for the benefit of the smug and the stupid.

But remember – they have their own self-interest at heart:

But the plan’s tax features are a disappointment. They raise revenue in a way that puts Minnesota’s economic competitiveness at risk.

Particularly worrisome is a new marginal tax bracket that will apply to the state’s top 2 percent of incomes. The rate attached to that bracket remains to be set by a House-Senate conference committee, but it is almost certain to be among the nation’s highest, especially after an anticipated temporary surcharge for top earners “blinks on” to get state aid payments to schools back to their normal schedule…While that decision is true to Dayton’s 2010 campaign promises, it comes at an economic price. Making Minnesota an income tax outlier among the states won’t be helpful in attracting and sustaining private-sector investment.

Especially the next round of investors the Strib will need to stave off bankruptcy.

Right?

It gets worse:

In addition, like a bad penny, a bad tax policy idea that disappeared two months ago turned up again Sunday. Applying the state sales tax to some currently untaxed business-to-business purchases will be part of the plan, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk announced. He was not specific about which items or services would become taxable, nor about how the revenue thus raised would be used, other than for “significant economic development.”

Oh, well, then.  Good enough for me!

The Strib is worried that taxing business to business purchases – which could include advertising, as well as pretty much anything in the supply chain – is going to hit their bottom line.  It’s a legitimate worry; businesses of all size, from the Strib all the way down to lil’ ol’ me, are going to see some arbitrary percentage come out of our revenues; we can pass it along and hope that our goods and services continue to get purchased, or we can eat a percentage – 5.5%?  6%? – lopped out of our revenues and try to ride it out.

Or move.

Regardless of how the money would be used, taxing business inputs is not sound policy. It layers hidden taxes into the cost of goods and services and takes a toll on wages and job creation in the affected industries. Those costs will affect low- and middle-class Minnesotans as surely as a clothing sales tax would. But the spurned clothing tax would have had the virtue of transparency, and could have been offset for low-income earners by a refundable tax credit, as the Senate tax bill provided.

Waaaah.

In for a bad penny, in for a poo-streaked pound, Strib.  This is the government that you wanted.  You did whatever it took to get this government; you served as an adjunct PR firm for the DFL, you covered up their transgressions, you whinged about “ALEC” while laughing over cocktails with “Alliance for a Better Minnesota”, you did whatever it took to get them into power, and you do your best to cover up the train wreck that is Mark Dayton.

To be sure, businesses will benefit from some of the property tax relief measures that total a hefty $400 million over two years in the DFL plan. But low- and middle-income homeowners and renters ought to be favored as the tax conference committee allocates that sizable sum.

This is Minnesota’s source of information.  Good lord.

Where does the Strib think that “relief” comes from?

It’s money that’s redistributed from the parts of the state whose votes the DFL doesn’t need, to the parts whose votes they need to protect.

Who do you suppose that is, Strib?

Republicans have offered no alternative budget plan this session, evidently preferring to stand aside and criticize DFL decisions.

Further proof it’s Sturdevant.

The DFL offered no alternative budget in 2011.  The Strib editorial board had not a word to say about it.

They should know that if they scuttle a bonding bill, they will deserve to be seen by this session’s critics as part of the problem.

And the Strib will do its’ level best to make sure they do.

I can not wait for the Strib to go bankrupt again.

Doug Grow, Narrative-Fluffer

I was down at the State Capitol yesterday for a press conference, as Representative Deb Hilstrom (DFL Brooklyn Park) introduced the gun bill/s we talked about yesterday.

The bills, as we noted yesterday, would exert the state to solve actual problems – close gaps in the background check system, add mandatory penalties for using guns in crimes or possessing them illegally…

…y’know.  Controversial stuff.

At the presser, I saw a big group of legislators from both chambers and both parties lining up to support Hilstrom’s proposal.  Reps, Senators, Democrats, Republicans – it was probably the most bipartisan assembly I’ve seen that wasn’t in the lounge at the Kelly Inn after hours.

Not just legislators; guys in uniform.  They weren’t just there for the fun of it – guys in uniform never are.  No, they were from the Minnesota Sheriff’s Association.

And I saw media.  Oh, lord, did I see media.

And Heather Martens was there, naturally; where there is truth about the Second Amendment, Martens will be there.  To lie.  And lie and lie and lie (note to the media who bothered to speak to her; she has uttered not one substantial word of truth in her years at the capitol.  Ask me).

And the “groups” she represents put out a call for their “membership” to turn out in force to oppose this bill – probably remembering the hundreds of Second Amendment supporters who turned out daily to oppose the DFL’s gun grab bills a few weeks ago.

We’ll come back to them.

One person who was not there was Doug Grow, from the MInnPost.

To be fair, I haven’t seen Grow in person in over 20 years; I might not recognize him.

But judging by the story he wrote about the conference, and the bill itself, even if Grow was there, his story was pre-written, and would have appeared in exactly the same form had Mothra emerged from the Supreme Court chamber shooting flame from wherever Mothra did whatever he did, since I never watched the movie.

Rep. Debra Hilstrom, DFL-Brooklyn Center, has discovered again that there is no comfortable middle ground when the subject is guns.

At noon at the Capitol, Hilstrom, standing with Hennepin County Sheriff Richard Stanek and Rep. Tony Cornish, the gun-toting legislator from Good Thunder, introduced a gun bill that she said “can bring people together’’ on the volatile subject of guns.

“Gun-toting”.

Scare quotes.

No, no bias here.

The Astroturf Consensus

Grow, like most of the Twin Cities mainstream media, labors under the delusion that there’s a large, organized mass of people supporting gun control, and that they were out in force yesterday.

Her words were still echoing in the Capitol when critics, who had hoped for much stronger actions from the Minnesota Legislature, lambasted the effort of Hilstrom and a bipartisan group of 69 other legislators to “close gaps’’ in current state gun law.

“This is just a band-aid over a huge problem,’’ said Jane Kay of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, an organization formed in the days following the mass shooting of school children in Newtown, Conn.

Only in America can a two-month old pressure group with fewer members than there were legislators standing behind Hilstrom get the breathless adoration of the media.  Which is what “Moms Demand Action” and “Protect Minnesota” both are; astroturf checkbook advocacy groups funded by liberal plutocrats with deep pockets – with “membership” numbers in the single digits.

Provided they share the goal of fluffing the left’s withering narrative on gun control.

Of course, Grow wasn’t the only offender; Pat Kessler of Channel 4 asked Hilstrom why the bill included no universal background check which, he asserted, “70% of Minnesotans oppose”.

The correct answer – the polls ask people about background checks without explaining the consequences of those checks as the DFL and Governor Messinger Dayton currently propose them; they will result in a de facto gun registry, which is a necessary first step to universal confiscation.

More on gun-related media polls in another piece soon.

The Pre-Written Story

But Grow himself is the real problem here.  His piece, while short on the sort of insight that actually engaging people on both sides of the issue might have given it, is long on  evidence that Grow wrote the story long before yesterday’s press conference.

There’s the inflammatory reference to every leftymedia member’s favorite boogyman:

 The bill has the support of the National Rifle Association, presumably because it does nothing to require background checks on all gun sales and because it does nothing to restrict sales of military-style weapons or even the quantity of rounds in ammunition magazines.

Well, no.

The bill has the support of gun-rights organizations because instead of wasting time and effort putting niggling restrictions on the rights of the law-abiding that didn’t affect crime in any way the first ten years they were tried, they actually address the real problem; criminals, the insane, the addled, and the holes in the data the state sends to the Feds for the background check system.

(And while the NRA makes a nice, recognizable, stereotyped boogeyman for the lazy propagandist, the NRA actually has very little to do with the day to day heavy lifting of the gun rights movement in Minnesota.  It’s the Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance that turned out 500 or more people a day to attend the gun grab hearings a couple of weeks back.  Grow either doesn’t know that, or doesn’t want people to know that.  You know where my money is).

More evidence that Grow wrote the story entirely off of DFL and “Protect Minnesota” chanting points?

Despite the fact that it’s a bill that authors hoped would unite people, it seems to be dividing. Yes, there was a mix of Republican and DFL representatives standing with Hilstrom, Cornish and Stanek. But there were no law-enforcement organizations represented at the news conference where the proposal was unveiled.

That’s false.

Here’s the video of the press conference: 

 

See all those guys in uniforms?

Scroll in to 1:12.  That’s Sheriff Rich Stanek, Hennepin County Sheriff, speaking on behalf of the Minnesota Sheriff’s Association.

Either Grow is lying, or he wrote the entire story with no knowledge of the facts of the story.

Short On Fact, Long On Jamming Words Into Peoples’ Mouths

Grow follows by saying…:

There also were no DFL senators, though presumably the bill will be as attractive to outstate senators as it appears to be to many outstate DFL representatives.

Grow throws that in there as if it’s a substantive fact related to the bill itself.  It’s not.  While most outstate legislators no doubt remember the DFL debacle of 2002, it’s also more than plausible Tom Bakk wants to keep his powder dry.

In other words, presence of no DFL senators is a non-factor, unless you’re a low-information reader.

Grow next swerves through fact – and in so doing, undercuts his own premise.  I’ll add emphasis:

Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, and the chairman of the House public safety committee, has indicated he has no desire to have the bill heard by his committee. Paymar is pushing a bill that would require purchasers of guns at flea markets and gun shows to go through background checks.

Yet, given the large number of co-authors with Hilstrom, there likely are ways for the bill to weave its way through the legislative process.

Yes.  There are a large number of co-authors; so many they had to submit it not one, not two, but three times to get them all on.  Over half of the House is signed on as authors of the bill.

Michael Paymar wants to thwart the will of the representatives of over half of Minnesota’s voters?

Putting Thirty Shots From An AR15 Into A Strawman

Finally, Grow takes his whacks at some of the legislators who’ve violated the DFL’s narrative:

[Representative Tony] Cornish, usually a lightning rod in the gun debate, said he was taking a different role regarding the fate of this bill.

“Several of my statements (in the past) have been controversial,’’ he said. “Today my role is to be a peacemaker.’’

No sooner had he said that than he uttered a statement that raises the hackles of those hoping for stronger gun measures.

“I want to thank the NRA for helping (on the bill),’’ he said. He went on to say that the bill “contains nothing for gun owners to fear.’’

Er, who’s “hackles” got “raised”, here?  And why?

Was it the involvement of the NRA?  Your dog whistles aren’t our problem.

Or was it the quote about gun owners having nothing to fear?  Is that the actual goal, here?

Hilstrom, in her seventh term, refused to talk about her true feelings of the bill. Rather, she kept speaking of the importance of “passing a bill that will solve real problems.’’

She did point out that she never has sought the endorsement of the NRA and that in the past she has received a “C,’’ “D,’’ and “F’’ from the NRA.

OK.

So what?

If she’s doing the right thing – which, for a majority of Minnesotans, is “solving problems”, rather than attacking the law-abiding gun owner – then I don’t care if she’s a life-time “F” rating.  And I don’t care about her true feelings; I don’t care if she’s being used as an escape hatch by the DFL to get out of the embarassment of the Paymar/Hausman gun grab bills.

Guess Who!

Finally:  I owe the Twin Cities media an apology.  I’ve said that Larry Jacobs is the most over-quoted person in the Twin Cities media.  And he is.  David Schultz is right up there.

But in the “single-issue” category, Heather Martens – “Executive Director” and, near as we can tell, one of less than a half-dozen members of “Protect Minnesota” (and de facto representative of House District 66A) and a woman whose entire body of public assertions is lies, dwarfs them all:

Heather Martens, executive director of Protect Minnesota, derided the bill as “NRA-approved.’’

Boo!  Boogeyman!  Hiss!

Listen, MinnPost-reading dogs!  There’s your whistle!

“Any bill that fails to address the gaping holes in our background check law falls far short of the public’s demand for the right to be safe in our communities,’’ Martens said in a statement.

And there’s another lie.  The bill does address the gaping hole that exists in the background check laws.

No, not the misnamed “gun show loophole”, which is another media myth.   The real gap is  the data that the state isn’t sending to the feds; the Hilstrom bill fixes it.

GOCRA’s Mountain, Grow And Martens’ Molehill

Leaving aside the fact that Grow got pretty much everything in this story wrong – and wrong in a way that suggests not only that he wasn’t at Hilstrom’s press conference but that he wrote the whole thing straight from chanting points long before Hilstrom took to the microphone – the most pernicious thing about Grow’s story is that it tries to create the impression that there’s a genuine battle between two titanically-powerful sides to this debate.

There’s not.

In terms of legislators?  A bipartisan sample of over half of the House is on board co-authoring Hilstrom’s bill(s).  A thin, runny film of metro-DFL extremists is backing the Paymar/Hausman/Simonson gun grab bills.

In terms of the public?  Last month, GOCRA put out a call for people to come to the Capitol.  And they did.

No, really:

“Protect Minnesota” and “Moms Demand Action” put out a call yesterday for people to come out and protest against Hilstrom’s bill.

Here they are:

 

Well, not literally.  But no, other than Heather Martens, nobody showed up.

There are literally more DFL legislators co-authoring Hilstrom’s bill than there are members of “Protect Minnesota” and the “Moms Demand Action” put together.

Sturdevant: The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves, Part II

In her column over the weekend, the Strib’s Lori Sturdevant does what she’s paid to do; paint the DFL’s toenails.

Yesterday, we noted the highly selective set of “facts” she used to praise Governor Messinger’s Dayton’s budget proposal.

Sturdevant’s column echoed the DFL’s current regimen of happy talk for the people, in obligingly noting that the current plan cuts the sales tax from 6.874% to 5.5% (before the local taxes that your city, like mine, may have larded on top of it all) while extending the sales tax to other goods and services.

Lots of other goods and services.

The DFL has to “Pay” for a half a billion dollar pay-off to renters, as well as a shopping list of goodies for Governor Messinger’s Dayton’s other lienholders constituents.

What Sturdevant doesn’t tell the reader:  the “broadening” will take a lot more money out of the state economy.

Page 10 of the “Budget for a Better Minnesota” shows that the net result of the changes to the sales tax will forcibly extract 2.1 billion more dollars from the “economy” (because apparently cranking up taxes on “the rich” isn’t enough to pay for A Better Minnesota.

Slide Ten from the “Budget for a Better Minnesota”, Click for a full-sized version.

In terms of specific changes to specific taxes?  That’s on Page eight of the “Budget for a Better Minnesota”:

From the “Budget for a Better Minnesota”, page 8. Click for a larger view.

The Democrats’ big chanting points – “fairer” income taxes, the cuts in state property taxes – are farts in the wind.

The two big sources of revenue to pay for all of that”Better Minnesota” are, according to the slide above…

  • $4.2 Billion in new sales tax revenue (offset by $2.1 Billion from the rate cut), for a net hike of $2.1 Billion
  • $370 million in cigarette taxes which, as we showed on Monday, will most likely not be collected.

So the sales tax “rate cut” is a smokescreen to cover the fact that the state will be exacting much, much more from this state’s economy (and more still, once the cigarette tax inevitably flops).

Governor Messinger Dayton phrases this as something inevitable – and Sturdevant, like any good stenographer, passes it on that way:

But Dayton wouldn’t consider asking households to pay a tax when they hire a lawyer or tax accountant unless he asked businesses to do the same. Fairness demands as much, he argues.

“This is going to be a tough decade,” Dayton told the Star Tribune Editorial Board last week. “If people understand that we’ve got a fair system, they’re going to be a lot more accepting of what we’ll have to do” to meet a rising demand for government services while federal help shrinks.

Notice how “leaving more money in everyone’s hands and cutting spending” never crosses anyone’s minds, even obliquely?  Even though that’s plenty fair?

The DFL’s had a standard dodge for that for the past forty years; “yes, you pay a lot of taxes, but they’re high quality taxes!”

He’s right: Tax fairness is important in a democracy. But competitiveness matters, too, in a place that aspires to be a player in the global economy — doesn’t it?

“Yes, but that needs to be measured in terms of value, not just taxes,” advised economist Art Rolnick, late of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve…the 50-year Minnesota success formula has been to invest in high-return “public goods” like a well-educated workforce, transportation and public safety. “We offer a great public environment,” Rolnick said. “That’s our edge.”

That’s been the DFL’s line – and, at the risk of sounding redundant, Sturdevant’s – for those entire fifty years.

But the world has changed a lot in those fifty years – and so has the upper Midwest.

In 1963, when the DFL was developing the tax policy that Mark Dayton just re-introduced with a huge arthritic groan last week, the Twin Cities were the unquestioned economic, political, educational, educational and social center of the upper Midwest.  And the United States was the world’s only functioning economy; Japan and Germany were still rebuilding; China and India were third-world nations in the middle of disastrous socialist experiments; South Korea was ravaged by war and underperforming the communist North.  Ours was the only economy that had the resources to both innovate and produce and export anything of value.   We could afford to give union workers a wage double the going rate and a lifetime defined-benefit pension!

And Minnesota was an industrial, financial and educational hub of an agrarian region.  The U of M was a big, powerful land grant research university surrounded by teacher colleges and ag schools.

Today North Dakota is kicking our ass economically – and even before Big Oil, Fargo was out-growing the Twin Cities based on medical and high-tech development.  Wisconsin’s growth (especially after adjusting for Milwaukee) is better than ours (more later this week).  And the education system in North Dakota has always rivaled and by some measures beaten Minnesota’s fabled system, at a fraction of the cost, while the University of Minnesota has become both a money vortex and a mediocre participant in the education price bubble.

And last week’s budget has more than a few businesses eyeing the environment across the borders – or around the globe.

So when Lori Sturdevant writes…:

When business folk come to the Capitol, they would do well to acknowledge that their competitive edge depends not only on how Minnesota ranks on taxes, but also on what those taxes buy.

…she, and the DFL for whom she shills, should not be in the least surprised if people start asking that.

They might not get the answers she and the Strib and the DFL have spent the last fifty years programming people to give.

Sturdevant: The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves, Part I

The fact that Lori Sturdevant is a relentless shill for the DFL is one of those things that Minnesota conservatives have come to accept as background noise.

Her column from this past weekend – it’s entitled “Mark Dayton — A Man With A Plan“, and it paints Governor Messinger’s Dayton’s toenails about as much as you’d suspect from the title – almost serves to give you context as to why she’s such a DFL up-sucker.  Sturdevant is apparently too innumerate and ignorant of basic economics to even pass as a moderate Republican.

Give Gov. Mark Dayton this much: He’s found a way to raise taxes that the business community appears to hate more than an income tax hike for the rich.

Dayton’s proposal to impose the state’s sales tax on the services businesses buy — legal, advertising, accounting, computing and the like — had by week’s end become Competitiveness Enemy No. 1. In volume and vitriol, business condemnation of that proposal was outstripping the reaction two years ago to Dayton’s unsuccessful bid for a new income tax bracket for top incomes.

(“Vitriol” has apparently become “any criticism of any Democrat”)

Sturdevant’s propaganda piece column faithfully passes on what have become the DFL’s big rhetorical bludgeons in this campaign:

  • Blame “the rich” who aren’t named Dayton, Messinger, Opperman, Mondale, Cramer…
  • Lie about the economy – those of Minnesota and other states
  • Give people a misleadingly incomplete picture of their own proposal
  • Promise wondrous things someday in exchange for metric poo-tons of your money now.

It’s Those Darned Indecisive Rich Businesspeople!: Sturdevant starts by trying to portray Minnesota’s small businesspeople as flighty petty tyrants who just can’t decide what it is they want.

What keeping up with the competition requires of a state, it seems, is a changeable, eye-of-the-corporate-beholder sort of thing.

Sturdevant would have you believe that the business community can’t make up its mind; while two years ago Governor Messinger Dayton’s entire message was a class-war-baiting tax assault on “the rich”, Dayton has broadened the attack to every business, everywhere.

Sturdevant writes:

Dayton’s new plan still raises the income tax by about $1 billion on the top-earning 2 percent of filers. But the marginal rate he proposes now, 9.85 percent, is down from 10.95 percent two years ago. Instead of tied for highest in the country, it would be fourth-highest, up from eighth-highest today.

Sturdevant misleadingly presents this as an either-or.  It’s not.  Both taxes were burdens on business, especially small businesses.

On the one hand, Dayton’s “fourth tier” tax would have had a huge impact on a massive swath of small businesspeople, especially successful small entrepreneurs running “Subchapter S” corporations who may have had incomes over $250,000 – dentists, consultants, salespeople, and a fair number of high-tech recruiters of my acquaintance (while not affecting liberal plutocrats like the Dayton family, most of whose income isn’t earned).

On the other?  This round of increases hits nearly every business at every level; it combines a piddly decrease in business tax rates…:

Dayton seemed to be responding to some of the business lobby’s old anticompetitiveness complaints. He offered to reduce the state’s corporate tax rate from 9.8 percent to 8.4 percent, taking it from fourth in the nation to 12th.

…with a 5.5% increase in many of the costs of doing business and, for many service-related businesses, a 5.5% decrease in business (which is what adding a 5.5% tax hike does to any good or service, all other things being equal).

“Be happy to pay for a Better Minnesota”, Sturdevant says, “and shut up about it”.

“The Dakotas Do It Too!”:  Liberal water-carriers have been painstakingly scouring Google for examples of taxes that the Dakotas have that Minnesota doesn’t yet, but that Governor Messinger Dayton is proposing.

And they’ve gotten the chanting points to Sturdevant, who throws on a little unearned contempt:

“It’s the most damaging thing we could do for competitiveness,” Minnesota Business Partnership exec Charlie Weaver said of taxing sales of business-to-business services. Minnesota would join just five other states — including South Dakota — in tacking the sales tax on so wide a range of business inputs…For 46 years, apparently, there’s been a Minnesota tax policy that this state’s businesses liked better than South Dakota’s version. Before Dayton flushed that out, who knew?

Sturdevant should leave the snark to Sally Jo Sorenson.  Not that it’d improve her point, but Sturdevant trying to go Jon Stewart is a little like Judi Dench donning a “Hollister” hoodie and a sideways baseball cap.

Oh, she’s wrong.  It’s one of many disconnected factoids that the left has been passing off this past week; “SoDak has business service taxes!”  ”North Dakota taxes clothing!”.  Yes, both are true; but those taxes are parts of overall tax burdens that are much lower than in Minnesota.

According to the Tax Foundation, as of 2010, Minnesota had the seventh-highest overall state and local tax burden in the US.  South Dakota was #49.  My native North Dakota was #35 – more on that later – and is, as of the 2013 session, working on slashing state  taxes.

Sturdevant niggles and nit-picks and snarks with all the grace of a German jazz band about individual taxes to dodge the real point; both the Dakotas have lower overall taxes than Minnesota.  And better economies.

Focus On The Luxuries, And The Necessities Will Take Care Of Themselves!:  One of the left’s most damning and damnable conceits is that all economic economic activity, the “fruits of all our labors” – both of them fancy-schmantzy ways of saying “the money all of us work for” – are first and foremost government property, for government to use, and use as much, as it sees fit and then leave what’s left to the rest of us.

No, really:

The governor has come around to the realization that compared with other states, Minnesota underutilizes its sales tax.

Or, put another way, the Governor Messinger Dayton sees that there is productivity in the state that could be further sapped.

 He endorsed extending it to services when he saw that doing so would permit a drop in the overall sales tax rate from 6.875percent to 5.5 percent. That would move the rate from seventh-highest to 27th among the states, to the benefit of businesses and consumers who buy already-taxed goods.

Yay, a tax cut.  It amounts to about a 20% cut to the sales tax rate.  That’s a good thing, right?

Sure – but only if if you’re not getting…

An Incomplete Picture: Just as Governor Messinger Dayton sold the state bills of goods with electronic pull tabs, the “repayment of the school funding shift” and the cigarette tax, he’s doing it again.

So what does that mean?

It means Sturdevant is abetting Governor Messinger Dayton in yet another lie.

 More tomorrow – including slides from that noted conservative tool, the State of Minnesota.

Not So Happy To Pay For A Better Minnesota

Minnesota newspapers, largely, supported Governor Messinger Dayton and the DFL.  They largely not only bought the “Alliance For A Better Minnesota’s” bill of goods hook line and sinker, but most of them worked tirelessly to propagate it, and to squelch dissent from it.

They studiously avoided, almost completely, any reporting that would have impeded the DFL’s rise to power.

The Minnesota media, at large, were among the DFL’s most valuable players this past two electoral cycles.  At the highest levels - the Strib, the PiPress, and at least the programming arm of MPR – they serve as the DFL’s Praetorian Guard.

But now?  Now that the governor is tacking 5.5% sales taxes (for starters) onto print services, advertising and retail newspaper sales?

Not so much:

Business groups and retailers complain that the proposal would cost jobs. As he spoke to the Minnesota Newspaper Association, several editors and newspaper owners complained that a sales tax on newspapers would hurt their industry.

Tom West, the managing editor of the Morrison County Record in Little Falls, spoke about his concerns during a question and answer session.

“We are the ones who cover local government and state government, and we are wondering why you would think it would be a good idea to have less information about government and what government is up to,” West said.

(Cynical answer: “Because you’ve served your purpose”.  See also The Minnesota Independent).

(Slightly less cynical answer: “While your contributions to DFL hegemony were vital, you don’t have the same political clout as AFSCME, the SEIU or MPR).

(Cynical and partisan but realistic answer: “How about not just “covering local government”, but turnin a critical eye on the DFL?  For once?”)

Others said that expanding the sales tax to newspaper ink, paper and advertising would result in job losses. Dayton said he understood the concern but did not back away from his plan.

Job losses only matter if they’re union.

Small papers aren’t union.

Big papers are – and we’ll see what happens there.

As to the rest of you newspapers?  You got the government you mostly worked for, largely shilled for, and for the most part operated as in-the-bag PR agents for.  Most of your editorial stances praised Dayton and the DFL’s return to power.

So now you’re saying you’re not Happy To Pay For A Better Minnesota?

Suck it.

BONUS QUESTION FOR DFLers: What do you think happens when you tack 5.5% onto the price of something?

All other things being equal, people buy 5.5% less of it.

Ponder losing 5.5% of your business overnight.  Ponder hard.

Klobuchar And Franken Have Always Opposed The Medical Device Tax, Winston!

Right in the nick of time as even non-political Americans start to get concerned about tax hikes and the “fiscal cliff”, some good news from the Strib!

Yes, Senators Klobuchar and Franken both oppose the Medical Device Tax!

Minnesota’s two senators sought Monday to delay a tax on medical devices that was expected to add $28 billion over the next decade to help pay for health care reform.

Democratic Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken pointed to thousands of high-paying jobs that device companies support in Minnesota, headquarters to such giant devicemakers as Medtronic and St. Jude Medical. The industry has painted the tax as a job killer that would hurt innovation.

“The delay would give us the opportunity to repeal or reduce that tax,” said Klobuchar, co-author of a letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid seeking the delay.

So that means the Senators will join 3rd CD Congressman Erik Paulsen and support his bill in the House to repeal the tax, right?

Franken is among the letter’s signers who would not support Paulsen’s plan. “I felt the offset in the Paulsen bill would have undermined the architecture of the Affordable Care Act,” Franken said.

Oh, don’t bother us with details!  Franken and Klobuchar – and say, doesn’t she just look stunning in the photo the Strib opted to use? – are coming out strongly in favor of delaying the tax!

So what’s missing from the Strib story, bylined to Jim Spencer?

Look it over.  Carefully.  Carefully…

How about any mention that both Senators voted for the tax initially?  

Both Franken and Klobuchar participated eagerly in jamming Obamacare down the American people’s collective throat; both have timidly objected via friendly media in the least obtusive way possible; never bucking their caucus, never ruffling the Administration’s narrative, never standing up for the thousands of constituents that are already being harmed by the tax in any way that would bring them any risk whatsoever.  Both of our Senators have invested facile lip service to delaying or repealing the tax – but neither of them have ever put a vote, or any substantive political capital, on the line.

Spencer’s loathsome Strib piece is what we call “public relations”.  It’s what the Strib and most of the rest of the Twin Cities media is there for.

 

Paging Major Renault

Over at MPR, Tom Scheck brings us the latest DFL chanting point; the “links” between two GOP legislators (Rep. Gottwalt and Sen. Hann) who pushed a healthcare privatization bill in the last session, and the insurance industry.

 State Rep. Steve Gottwalt, R-St. Cloud, led the GOP effort to cut spending in the state’s Health and Human Services budget when the Republicans controlled the Legislature. Now, both he and his Senate counterpart [Hann] have business links to the insurance industry, which has some other lawmakers asking whether the arrangement violates ethics rules.

This is a chanting point that the DFL’s been working up for a while here.  The DFL’s beef is that…

…some Democratic lawmakers are raising questions about the arrangement.

“I can see why the owner of the business was pushing for the bill. It’s more business for him,” said Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville. “The fact that [Gottwalt] is now working for him, I’m disappointed in that.”

Health insurance brokers backed the legislation, championed by Gotttwalt’s counterpart in the other chamber, state Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie.

The incoming chairman of the House ethics committee, Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, said: “If these are payoffs, then the ethics committee needs to look at it.”

And if there are not payoffs – and there aren’t – then will Huntley, Marty, and the idiot leftyblogger chanting point bots apologize to Hann and Gottwalt?

Read Scheck’s piece for the details.

But I have a few questions, here:

Who else are you going to have working on healthcare finance policy? A bunch of lawyers and social workers?  Who knows the financial side of the healthcare industry better than people who, y’know, work on the financial side of the healthcare industry?

Aren’t we cherrypicking the outrage we choose to feed to the media, DFL?  Shouldn’t we bar teachers from committees on education appropriations?  .  Union activists oughtta be at least recusing themselves from votes on Right to Work and unionizing daycare and personal care workers!   Do we want lawyers writing laws?  And don’t be trying to hide, there, Erin Murphy; I’m told you were the executive director of a nursing lobby group, and became the ranking DFLer on the Healthcare Committee.  Or Ryan Winkler, who is employed (heh) at Ted Mondale’s government-data-mining software company, sounding off about legislation that’d involve another data-mining company?

Of course, the DFL finds these kinds of non-corrupt “corruption” all the time, while practicing it themselves.

If only we had some institution – maybe with printing presses and transmitters, and people whose job it was to run down little facts like this?  Perhaps those people working for that institution could think of themselves as a holy, truth-seeking monastic order?  Call themselves “high priests of gatekeeping”, perhaps?

Just a thought.

By the way – lost in the contrived, DFL-agenda-driven “hubbub”:  the program that Gottwalt and Hann developed has been a huge improvement for the Minnesotans it was intended to serve.  ”Healthy Minnesota” gives its participants vouchers enabling them to buy a standard insurance plan on the open market; it’s cheaper than UCare, and the participants get better, more personally-focused coverage than provided by the state. There are gaps – every insurance plan has ‘em – but it was, as advertised, a huge improvement over UCare at lower cost.

In other words, it’s a government program that does what it’s supposed to do, and saves money to boot.

But “big business” is invovled, and that thought apparently gives DFLers explosive diarrhea.

Media Lip Prints on Mark Dayton’s Butt, Part III

Yesterday and Monday, we went over the chronology of the last-minute negotiations and back-and-forth leading up to the State Government shutdown, which started seventeen months ago last night.  The abbreviated time-line:

  1. On June 29, the GOP made an offer.  It traded giving some ground on revenue for some movement on social issues.
  2. On the morning of June 30, the DFL leadership – Dayton, Senate minority leader Bakk and House minority leader Thissen – demanded $1.4 billion in new revenues.
  3. Much discussion ensued.  It ensued under the “cone of silence”; the participants really didn’t let on much about what was going on.
  4. At noonish on the 30th, Dayton – without Bakk and Thissen – made an offer that dropped most of the revenue demands, and was pretty close – almost dead-on – with the GOP’s letter.  The letter mentioned no social issues – because they were off the table at this time.
  5. More discussion.  More cone.
  6. Mid-afternoon, the Legislature sent its counteroffer, including revenue from the “school funding shift” and the tobacco bond money.  This should have settled it – and indeed, was substantially the same as the offer that Dayton finally accepted to end the shutdown.
  7. Late-afternoon, the DFL ratcheted back to their morning demands.
  8. More cone.
  9. At 10PM, the Governor essentially claimed that he was shutting down the government because the GOP had rejected the offer in 7, above, and was unwilling to compromise.

And that was that.

———-

In the hour or so after the shutdown, the GOP Caucus released the contents of the letters that had transpired on the 29th and 30th.  The release included pages 2-4 of this document here:

All Offers

No mention of social policy in there.  it was not an issue.

So the government shut down.  DFL and media narratives aside, it was a disaster for the governor.  Government actually saved money; hardly anyone outside of government missed it; the people largely were apathetic, as the Governor learned on a tour of the state to attempt to rally support that drew nothing but dispirited SEIU goons.   He returned to the  Capitol, and returned to the GOP’s last offer.

And not long after, he gave this talk in WCCO-TV with Esme Murphy – which we’ve featured a time or two:

Dayton lied:

I was unaware on June 30, in fact I was clearly aware to the contrary, that all these social policy issues, from banning stem cell research and everything else, and just really reactionary social policy, was taken off the table.

Esme Murphy let that line pass without comment – as, in fact, she always does, as her mission seems to be to make sure DFL pols get a nice massage on the air.

But nobody else noted the contradiction; of course he was aware.

  • The GOP mentioned no policy issues in its June 30 proposal!  As we noted above, it was nearly identical to the governor’s previous offer, differing on a few fiscal tweaks!
  • His rejection of that offer mentioned no social policy issues.  Because they were off the table.
  • Read the speech he gave as the shutdown started.  Nary a peep about social issues.
No, “social issues” only came up well  the shutdown was settled.

Mark Dayton was shot down completely on the shutdown.  And yet the media have allowed him to carry on with the “social policy” canard.

Why?

If I were a cynic, you’d think it was because the media was in the bag for Dayton, and wanted to give him cover.  You’d also think the media were even more in the bag for the DFL – and chanting the governor’s version of the shutodwn is a key part of the DFL’s attempt to retake the legislature, which a good chunk of the media (at least at the management and editorial-board level) clearly wants.

And I am a cynic.

Because the alternate explanation is that the media just isn’t as smart and attentive to details as I am.

And that just beggars the imagination.

So when will the media start “fact-checking” Dayton’s story?  Or their own, for that matter?

Media Lip-Prints On Mark Dayton’s Butt, Part II

Seventeen months ago yesterday, in the midst of negotiations about the budget, the GOP-led Legislature sent Governor Dayton a proposed budget.  It offered some concessions on revenue, and asked for some ground on social issues.

First thing the next morning, June 30 – 17 months ago today – the DFL came out with a counter-offer.

Labeled the “Dayton-Bakk-Thissen Compromise Budget Proposal”, it demanded $1.4 billion in new revenues.  It was a further negotiation, just like the Legislature’s letter the day before.

And – this is important – it had all three DFL leaders on board.  Governor Dayton, Senate minority leader Bakk and House minority leader Thissen all signed off on this proposal.

We’ll refer to this as “The Morning Letter” from now on.

And as the government coursed toward the midnight shutdown, that apparently was where things stayed.

The rest of this article uses this Scribd file, originally from Dayton’s chief of staff Bob Hume, as its source.

All Offers

It’s been popping up around the Twin Cities media off and on ever since the shutdown.

The Morning Letter

Now, much of what went on over the next 6-7 hours is shrouded in mystery; it took place in off-the-record conversations and phone calls and communications that aren’t available to the general public if they’re recorded at all.

Noon: Dayton’s Offer

But the upshot of those conversations – whatever they were – was that at 3PM on the 30th of June, the Governor – alone, without Thissen or Bakk – released a proposal that dropped all tax increases.

There were three significant things about this letter, which we’ll call “Dayton’s Offer”.

One was that Dayton dropped demands for tax increases, in return, Dayton proposed a 50% shift in school funding to the following biennium – the “borrowing from the children” that the DFL and media have worked so hard to pin on the GOP this past year.   It was a major concession by the Governor.  According to sources on Capitol Hill familiar with the negotiations, this was seen by the GOP majority in the Legislature as a key step toward reaching a “lights-on” agreement to prevent the shutdown.

But the other two significant things were actually things missing from the proposal:

  1. Bakk and Thissen:  Their names had been on the Morning Letter – but were absent at 3PM.   Sources at the Capitol indicate that that’s because – well, Bakk and Thissen didn’t support it!
  2. Any mention of GOP policy proposals:  The Dayton Offer includes no reference to GOP “Social Policy” proposals – because Dayton knew at noon on the 30th that the GOP had taken them off the table.  This is an inference, both by my sources and myself.  It’s also the only logical conclusion.

So as of a little after lunch on 6/30, the Legislature and the Governor – but not Bakk and Thissen – were in basic agreement; no tax hikes, no social policy concessions.

The 3PM Letter

A couple of hours later, at 3PM, the GOP sent a counter-offer.  It involved two tweaks to Dayton’s proposal:

  • Cutting the size of the education shift (at the recommendation of Dayton’s Education Commissioner)
  • Making up the difference with tobacco bonding

This letter – we’ll call it “The 3PM Letter” – involved accepting the concessions in The Dayton Offer with a few on the GOP’s part.  Otherwise, the two offers were just about identical.

As of 3PM, then, it looked as if the Governor and the Legislature were in agreement, and the shutdown could be averted.

The 4:06PM Letter

Dayton responded about an hour later, at 4:06PM.  Dayton accepted the changes to the education shift – it was his administration’s idea, after all – but tossed the tobacco bonding proposal and renewed the demand for new taxes…

…that he himself had taken off the table earlier in the afternoon!

The GOP’s response expressed dismay at the sudden – I believe the term of art in the Age of Obama is “unexpected” – flip-flop on Dayton’s part – and proposed a “lights-on” bill.

So To Recap…

Just to make sure we’re clear, here:

  1. The DFL – Dayton, Bakk and Thissen – demanded $1.4B.
  2. Negotiation ensued under the “cone of silence”.
  3. Dayton offered to drop the tax demands, and by omission showed that the GOP had dropped their social policy demands.
  4. The GOP accepted this proposal, with a few fine tweaks, including one from Dayton’s own administration.
  5. Dayton spun on his heels and rejected that offer – ignored it, really – and countered with a flip-flop on taxes.

The “cone of silence” remained in effect for the next five or six hours.  Nobody exactly knows what transpired on the way to Dayton’s big speech at 10PM.

Dayton’s Presser at 10PM

Just in time for the 10PM news, Dayton called a press conference.  Here’s the transcript.

It’s full of prevarications, and one outright lie:

  • Therefore, a $1.4 billion gap remains between our last respective offers.”  But the GOP’s proposal on the 29th offered to compromise with the DFL on revenue.  The conservative base – myself included – would have howled at this, but the GOP was clearly looking to keep the government open.
  • Republicans have offered only to forego their $200 million tax cut and add that amount of spending. While welcomed, $200 million is only a small step toward resolving a $5 billion deficit.”  The 3PM Letter shows that the GOP was willing to go along with some sort of revenue hikes.
  • Today, Representative Thissen, Senator Bakk, and I made two proposals which contained revenues to be raised by increasing taxes only on people who make more than $1 million per year. The Department of Revenue reports that there are only 7,700 of them, less than 0.3% of all Minnesota tax filers.”   Well, no.  Dayton made two offers; Bakk and Thissen only participated in the first one.

The Administration started out demanding tax hikes; the GOP expressed a willingness to compromise.  The Administration then flip-flopped and went back to their first set of demands, ignoring the GOP concessions (for purposes of presenting the media a narrative), with Dayton contradicting himself in the process.

And Here’s Where The Media Tush-Smooching Comes In

The Governor contradicted himself and rejected a proposal that was one minor tweak removed from his own, Bakk-And-Thissen-less offer (“Dayton’s Offer”), leading directly to the government shutdown.

And yet today, 17 months later, the DFL’s PACs and pressure groups refer to it as “the Republican shutdown”.  It’s a Big Lie.  But nobody’s countering it.

I’ve often wondered; what if our society had an institution, maybe even an industry, with printing presses and transmitters, staffed with people whose job and training involves checking up on things that government officials say – and maybe even holding them accountable for the things they say and do?  Heck, even allow this institution to see itself as an aescetic elite who “comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted”, in exchange for, you know, actually comforting and afflicting.

We could use this in Minnesota.

Remember where we started yesterday – with Esme Murphy giving Mark Dayton her usual deep-tongue-kiss on her Sunday Morning Show:

Notwithstanding the contradictions in Dayton’s own proposals that are part of the public record timeline of the negotiations on June 29-30, Dayton runs with the “Social Issues” canard.

The Strib also served, then as now, as Dayton’s de facto stenographer in their “coverage” of the chain of events.

The Star-Tribune also bought Dayton’s line – that the “requested concessions” brought on the shutdown – completely uncritically, without noting the evolution, and then abrupt de-evolution, on Dayton’s position.  The Strib mentioned not a word about the “flip-flop”.

Tomorrow – appropriately, Halloween – the way the shutdown went down, and conclusions about “journalism” and Governor Dayton.

In Which I Paint Mark Dayton’s Gubernatorial Portrait

Mark Dayton gave a speech the other day.

John Gilmore at MN Conservatives heard the audio.

And we’ll get to that.  But first, the review:

Gov. Dayton’s first two years have been abysmal. What was it he wanted to do as governor anyway? Wouldn’t a house and senate controlled by republicans offer him the perfect opportunity to lead? To show compromise? To get things done as these political types like to pretend they can? If one was a real leader instead of a lost soul looking for external housing to shore up the inner, yes. But a leader is not who Gov. Dayton is and it is not who he will be in the coming two years, either.

John’s a good friend of this blog.  But I’m not sure whether he’s overestimating Dayton, or underestimating him.

On the one hand, the entire body of evidence that Mark Dayton has ever been that kind of politician is…the body of Mark Dayton’s spoken record claiming it.

On the other hand?  Mark Dayton, his beliefs, his “ideas” and “ideals” and “policy initiatives” – are about as relevant as mine are to the job – because Mark Dayton isn’t really the governor.  Indeed, when they paint Mark Dayton’s official gubernatorial portrait – hopefully in two years – it should look a little like this:

It’s an intercom speaker.  Dayton occupies a seat with the sole mission of repeating, like that intercom speaker, what Alita Messinger and Elliot Seid and Javier Morillo and Tom Dooher to say.

And when he doesn’t have electric cables tied to him, figuratively, to carry their messages, he may as well be that intercom speaker; he’s about as fluent a public speaker as a disconnected intercom.

Back to Gilmore:

Last week the Governor, sounding like a vaguely fascist mandarin, simply insisted without any intellectual depth or sustained engagement that taxes must increase because of his perceived need of all that government must do. His idea of the size & scope of government is not open to discussion. There is no opting out from it because he knows best. What’s that called again?

He made his statement at what, until just yesterday, I had been led to believe was simply a speech reported on by the press. Instead, as MinnPost reported the day before (as did the Pioneer Press), it was a University Lecture. MinnPost polished the knob by saying that the title “university lecturer” could be added to Mark Dayton’s resume. No, really.

Yet what shocked is that this was a lecture grandly titled: “Minnesota’s Future: Challenges and Opportunities” given to the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs Policy Fellows (there’s more intellectual diversity among supporters of Ron Paul by orders of magnitude; the Fellows are the stuff of David Mamet’s nightmares). This was a liberal/progressive/left confab with Little Lord Fauntleroy in attendance.

Now, listening to Mark Dayton speak is, to this speech teacher’s kid, a singularly masochistic thought.  The guy has the diction of Michael Stipe circa 1984.  He’s not a monotone – he’s got two or three tones, really.

And that’s just style points:

I listened to the audio of the Governor’s 25 minute speech. It is appallingly bad. To learn only after the fact that it was a university lecture proper for a set of fellows was mind boggling. He spoke from notes as best from what I could tell. Meandering, at times pointless, at others a non-sequitur minefield, his speech revealed that there is serious trouble with our Chief Executive.

Here’s the problem:

But wait there’s more! The event was closed to the public.

Pardon? Is this possible? Is Common Cause Minnesota on it? From whence shall our help come? Surely the event was taped and surely I will get my hands on it. Try making it private. The entire speech and question and answer session should be posted on the Humphrey School’s website without delay. This event was not a private function.

Huh.  Odd, that.

Where are Common Cause?  The ACLU?  All the usual watchdogs?  MPR’s “Poligraph?”

But here’s the real question:

Why would the press acquiesce in this? Access? Or just the usual hot dish politics? Both?

That’s easy.  For some of the media, it’s access.

For others, it’s that they see themselves as the DFL’s Praetorian Guard.

Remember – after over a decade of hearing about the Governor’s history of alcohol abuse and treatment, of mental illness and concomitant prescriptions for various psychotropic medication, the sum total of the Twin Cities mainstream media’s coverage of Candidate Dayton’s chemical and psychological history was one, single, solitary piece in the Strib by Rachel Stassen-Berger, in January 2010 – roughly nine months before anyone outside the wonk class gave a crap about the election.

Our Governor’s visual performance at this public event is what is being deliberately withheld from the public. What an odd thing to say about Minnesota politics.

Nothing odd about it.

Nothing new, either.

It May Be An Idle Question…

…but I wonder if any of the major-media “fact check” operations are going to go the new ad from “Alida Buys The Legislature” “A “Better” Legislature” that claims…:

  • The Republicans shut down the state government (it was Dayton)
  • Republicans protected tax breaks for the wealthy (it was for everyone)
  • The GOP “passed a law that raised taxes for 95% of homeowners” (property taxes are local government’s job, and the 95% number reeks of fakeness)
  • The GOP blocked a job bill (Er, no – they blocked a Dayton bonding proposal that was nothing but a bone for the public employee’s unions that we couldn’t pay for).

Here’s a job for Minnesota’s “professional fact-checkers”; do a story on Alida Messinger’s entire attack-PR operation.

No, I’m not holding my breath either.

Soros Cried

Democrats who a few months back were praising Chief Justice Roberts for his judicial restraint in respecting the intent of Congress are sniveling like stuck cats that the Supreme Court of Minnesota (SCOM) didn’t find a penumbra emanating from Alida Messinger’s visage forcing them to accept their masters’ complaints without question.

The lawsuits by the ACLU, the League of Women Voters and Alida’s Cause Common Cause  claimed on the one hand that the Voter ID law was just too complicated and not clear enough for public-educated Minnesotans to understand, and on the other than Mark Ritchie had the right to make both measures more complicated and less clear.

I may be a cynic, but I’m frankly amazed the judges disagreed.

And now, the pro-gay-marriage and pro-vote-corruption forces need to do something neither has been able to do:

  • The anti-Marriage-Amendment forces need to show the voters a case for changing the definition of traditional marriage a little more convincing than “vote no or you are teh bigot”.
  • The pro-fraud forces need to convince Minnesotans that while buying cigarettes or getting a job or buying ammunition or starting a bank account requires that we know someone is exactly who they say they are, exercising our supposedly-precious franchise does not.

It’s a good day.

I’ll await the usual logic-free liberal arguments on both.

UPDATE: Mir. D has an excellent piece on the subject at True North and over at the Neighborhood:

I’ll be honest with you — the Photo ID amendment matters a lot more to me. We’ve been round and round on gay marriage and as I’ve written before, this is a battle that ultimately conservatives are going to lose, mostly because young people are being taught that it is a civil rights issue, especially in the public schools. While I don’t agree with that, the view will prevail and most of the constitutional amendments that are passing in the various states will eventually go away, probably within 10-20 years. At that point we’ll begin the unwitting longitudinal study that will eventually reveal, years after most readers of this feature are pushing up daisies, whether or not gay marriage is a good idea or not. My future grandchildren and great-grandchildren (God willing) will get to suss that one out.

The Photo ID amendment is much more important, because it goes the integrity of elections. Voter suppression is the usual charge you hear, but as a practical matter the real issue is multiple votes and illegal votes. The challenge is getting local election officials and prosecutors, who are partisans, to take such things seriously. Minnesota Majority identified 1,099 cases of felons voting in the Franken/Coleman election and over 200 cases have been either adjudicated or are in the process of being investigated. The rest aren’t going to see the light of day because the local prosecutors can’t be bothered. Franken won the election by on 312 votes…Now the amendments go for a vote. I expect Photo ID to win easily. The marriage amendment will be close. Opponents of both amendments will have ample opportunity to state their case. They just can’t depend on Mark Ritchie to keep his thumb on the scale this time.

And there’s the victory for real justice.

And I never believed the SCOM or Minnesota law had it in ‘em.