Yesterday, we talked about the main body of Kent Kaiser’s long, scathing letter (provided in its entirety below the jump) to the judicial redistricting panel. In the first part, I covered his commentary about the map that “Draw The Line” and its “Citizens Commission” released.
Today – Kaiser’s comments about the commission, and about “Draw The LIne” itself. Emphasis is added.
Beyond my concerns about having only one, minimally critiqued map to consider, I have other concerns about Draw the Line, having to do mainly with the credibility and transparency of the commission’s products. As one of only two “known” Republicans (the other besides me being Anne Mason) on the commission of 15 members, I constantly stressed the need to verify that everything done by the commission was done in a nonpartisan way. Such verification was never made possible, and I really believe such verification was necessary in order to ensure the integrity of our deliberations.
And Kaiser pointed out exactly what I did a few weeks back; the “Citizens’ Commission” is nothing but a thin layer of astroturf on “Draw The Line”‘s leadership’s centralized push for a DFL-friendly gerrymandering job.
Kaiser brings up a number of points…:
My concerns about our commission’s credibility are grounded by several points and are shared by other commission members who have spoken with me individually.
• I believe the political leanings of some involved with and directing the actions of Draw the Line were problematic. The involvement of TakeAction Minnesota was of particular concern to me. TakeAction Minnesota is a liberal interest group that spent almost $200,000 on Independent Expenditures in 2010 against Republicans or in support of Democrats. The involvement of Common Cause was also of concern to me. While Common Cause supposedly stepped back from involvement with our commission once it was started, it is difficult to believe that there was no influence. Even the involvement of the League of Women Voters, with its liberal policy agenda, was of concern to me.
So Kaiser also notes the “commision’s” bias.
• There was a great deal of cross-pollination among these liberal special interest groups but no attempt to cross-pollinate with conservative groups. I do not believe that the appointment of a couple of known conservatives to the commission for the purpose of window dressing suffices in providing a balance or a cross-check.
As I noted in my earlier piece, on the Northern Alliance, and on “The Late Debate” – Kaiser and Mason are indeed Republicans and conservatives – and provided only the faintest waft of “balance” to a group, and a process, that was suffused in every other way with “progressives” and their agenda.
• In addition, I think it is problematic that the people doing the real work for the Panel’s consumption did not represent the political diversity of our state. David Wheeler, the program coordinator, is a former Duluth City Council member and is currently an elected member of the Minneapolis Board of Estimate and Taxation, who was endorsed for political office by numerous DFLers including Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, State Senator Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis), Duluth Mayor Don Ness and several Minneapolis city councilmembers. In addition, the mapping specialist who was hired at the last minute (Linden Weiswerda) and whom we originally thought was independent and nonpartisan turns out to have worked for President Obama’s campaign in 2008. Here, the staff clearly missed an opportunity to provide a sort of check-and-balance within our process—they easily could have found a Republican-leaning mapping specialist.
• While our mapmaker was a undoubtedly a hardworking individual, he ultimately had to make decisions on Draw the Line’s legislative map that the majority of our commissioners did not have time to examine, change, or weigh in on. Decisions about how to draw the map, about what criteria to emphasize in drawing the map, and about publicity and messaging about the map were determined heavily behind the scenes, by staff. Commission members were asked in a hurried way to consider and approve materials. Several of us had a “trust, but verify” attitude about the arrangement, thinking that there would be an opportunity to get independent verification that the numbers used to determine political indices of the final map were legitimate, yet there ultimately was no opportunity for verification of the work.
Remember – “Draw the LIne” and its apologists tell you that they are all about “transparency”. And yet the proof was in the pudding. And the process Kaiser describes is about as transparent as pudding.
Even when our map and report were set, they were “embargoed” until [Friday, October 21], the very last minute to send materials to the Panel, and thus they were not open to public comment, scrutiny, or criticism. This was especially problematic, I think, for a process that was billed as being transparent—it clearly was not transparent.
I also hope that the map put forward by our commission, as compelling and interesting as its pictorial nature might make it, does not have undue influence in the Panel’s deliberations, for it and the method by which is was developed deserve to be scrutinized in ways that they have not been to this point.
Again, I urge the Panel to reject the map submitted by Draw the Line because the map drawing process was secretive and flawed and ultimately resulted in a poor map.
So a “non-partisan” group “dedicated” to “transparancy” created a redistricting plan that was none of the above, and created a potemkin “commission” to reduce the stench of illegitimacy.
This whole charade should outrage anyone of either party who values genuine multi-partisan discussion of redistricting. .
Here’s Kaiser’s letter: