Piling On Penalty

Question:  What’s the best way for a Republican to get an op-ed printed in the Strib?

Answer: Throw a rhetorical urine-soaked balloon on the GOP.

I can’t say anything about Joe Repya that others haven’t said better; notwithstanding the fact that he’s spent the last three years telling anyone whose ear he could bend but mine that “every time Mitch Berg opens his mouth, someone leaves the GOP” after a falling-out with the editorial staff at True North (proving that he has me confused with someone with actual power), Repya’s a great living American who’s served in three wars and contributed immensely to his country and his political worldview.

Would any of that get him a plum spot on the op-ed page in the Strib?

Perhaps.  But he is reading out the GOP.  And that gets anyone kicked to the front of the queue:

For the Republican Party of Minnesota (MNGOP), 2011 may have ended with a thud, but 2012 is shaping up to be a very bad year indeed. Will the MNGOP survive the one-two-three punch it has taken since the beginning of the year? Some within the party leadership are unsure.

“Some…” people should form a fifth literary perspective; like First Person Omnisicent, only using unnamed-yet-omniscient Third Persons as the actual agents of the perspective.  ‘Some People”, listed without any other context, can support just about any stance imaginable.

Within the party leadership?  I’m sure “some” are feeling pretty pessimistic now.  “Some” are also feeling hopeful.  “Some” more still are no doubt just hoping to carry on.

And it’s irrelevant.  We’ll come back to that.

First, the party of fiscal responsibility found out that its trusted and twice-elected party chairman, Tony Sutton, resigned after over-spending nearly $2 million the party did not have.

We talked about this last week; the “Tu Quoque Ad Hominem”; “Oh, look!  You claim you stand for fiscal responsibility, but you’re behind on your rent!”.  It’s the shortest of all short-bus insults.  Leaving aside that institutions, like people, learn more from their mistakes than from their successes, it’s also a fact that no institution’s principles ever live up to the transgressions of its individual members.  As if Dave Thompson and King Banaian and Mary Franson’s work in the Legislature is undercut by bookkeeping problems in a body whose only connection with them is an endorsement from a district committee.

No matter.

We’ll come back to that.

The party, it appears, had no checks or balances on its leader. Since MNGOP is flat broke it has not been able to conduct a forensic audit to see if any inappropriate spending took place.

That news is in fact six months old. As watchdog (or as DFL lackey Jon Tevlin calls him, “watchdog”) Jeff Johnson’s put it, the forensic audit would have cost a ton of money, and led to the same results they have now.

On Dec. 31, 2011, the party faithful elected a new chairman, Pat Shortridge, hoping, it seems, that he could work some of his Enron lobbyist magic and bail the party out of its financial mess.

I’m wondering – what’s Repya’s point, here?  Shortridge lobbied for Enron.  Is he saying that any association with Enron, at any level, in any capacity, makes one dishonest?  Everyone?

That seems a little stretchy.

The party had been under Federal Election Commission (FEC) scrutiny since 2006, when Sutton was the party treasurer from 2005 to 2009. The FEC finally leveled a heavy fine of $170,000 for the period of 2006-2008. The party now faces even more FEC review and possible fines.

Now, for whatever reason, Repya likes to tie me to the former management at the GOP.  It’s a bit of an overreach; in 2008-2009, the highest office I’d ever held in the GOP was precinct convener.  I didn’t know a whole lot about the inner workings of the Minnesota GOP.  I didn’t even know where the office (three miles from my house) was, to be honest.  I did know that I’d gotten to know Michael Brodkorb as a blogger, and got him on the air as a NARN co-host, and counted him as a friend, at least in a vocational sense.  And I don’t cave on my friend.  I’ve never run a business that employed more people than me, I do well to keep my own budget in line (thank God for Quicken and YNAB); I was almost as unsophisticated at how politics is done (and still am).  So I wasn’t especially equipped to criticize Sutton’s management as Treasurer, or Chair.

Truth be told, I’ve never wanted to care much about the inner workings of the MNGOP.  All I really care about is getting conservatives elected to office and affecting policy.   Parties are the vehicle to doing that – hence, I try to get and stay involved – but energy spent fighting inside the party is energy not available to destroy the DFL at the polls.

I’ve taken some flak for that.

And just this week, the landlord of the party’s St. Paul headquarters filed court papers to have the GOP evicted for failure to pay rent.

Which is true.

Or was.  It’s old news now.  The new management at the MNGOP is doing what hundreds of thousands of other people have had to do when circumstances or their own irresponsibility have left them behind on their bills; worked out a deal.

As if all this were not bad enough, with a second punch the party of personal responsibility and family values was rocked by a sex scandal involving former party deputy chairman Michael Brodkorb and his state Senate employer, then-Majority Leader Amy Koch.

Repya seems to be borrowing his lines from Two Putt Tommy.

Are the party’s principles diminished because there are some who don’t live up to them?

It was a sordid little episode (not least due to the media’s 24/7 attention – which they’d never have paid to Democrats in similar, or worse, positions (I’m talking about you, Barney Frank, John Edwards, Tony Weiner and Bill Clinton. Move on!  Just mooooooooooove on!

Yet it’s the third punch that has many within the strong national defense party wondering if there is any chance for MNGOP to survive the upcoming election in November. In a stealthy, below-the-radar maneuver, most of MNGOP has been taken over by the Ron Paul movement…When asked whether they would support Mitt Romney if he wins the nomination, many Paul supporters said no, unless he selects U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ron Paul’s son, as his vice presidential running mate.

It’s true. And lots of Gingrich and Santorum supporters said the same thing.  And it remains to the rest of us to convince them, if we can, since the Paul crowd is all full of whiz and vinegar and doing their end-zone happy dance these days.

But they did, in fact, out-organize “the rest of us” – including an awful lot of us who agree with 80% of what they say, albeit not about Ron Paul – just like we said they’d have to do when they were bellyaching about not being carried to the podium on the establishment’s shoulders in 2008.  They learned something.

That more than anything has the establishment MNGOP in a dither. Rightly or wrongly, they see many of the young, undisciplined and politically naïve Ron Paul movement members as anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-national defense and pro-legalization of drugs.

Just as Repya (and the Democrat pundits, and not a few others) mix up the party’s larger principles with the actions of its agents and administrators, they also confuse the party’s operations with the party’s messages.  The MNGOP – the people who work in the office at 525 Park, until they can find someplace cheaper, anyway – don’t really do policy.  That’s the job of the candidates.  Oh, in theory the party is supposed to make sure its candidates can follow its platform – but that document is as large as the Talmud, and contradicts itself in so many ways that few have even read it (and I’m going to be pushing this next two years to adopt the ten-point statement of principles from a few years back).

Which is a niggling little point that addresses a larger issue; I don’t suspect that the Paul crowd’s policy initiatives are the issue (barring the odd anti-semitic whacko that might slip through – and we know there are a few of them) that’d tar the party’s image and electability.  No, it’s the idea that that the entire leadership at the GOP could get tossed hither and yon and everyone would have to start over with the rebuilding process.


If, as in 2008, Ron Paul fails to endorse the party’s nominee and his minions go home, the national GOP will be hard pressed to beat President Obama.

Well, there’s the good news.  Paul is probably not going to do that.  He’s retiring – but he wants to leave his movement to his son, Rand.  And Rand is working within the party, and is working to bring his dad’s views into the mainstream, an effort many of us appreciate.  Paul’s not going to mess that up; he’s most likely going to be a team player, this year.

Fingers crossed, naturally.

I don’t have a crystal ball to see how all this will end.

Nor, it seems, does he have any news to offer that dozens of other bloggers haven’t been pounding on for months and months.

But that’s not why the Strib printed this op ed.

But from where I’m sitting it does not look good for MNGOP, which won the state House and Senate in 2010 and whose lawmakers are all up for re-election.

And whose legislative caucuses – who actually won the 2010 elections (the MNGOP’s slate got swept), and which is feeling fairly confident outstate – have nothing to do (Koch notwithstanding) with any of the MNGOP’s flailing.

The DFL smells blood in the water and sees an opportunity to regain both legislative chambers. We are very possibly witnessing the death of MNGOP as we know it. If so, it will have died from within, not from outside causes.

And on one level – so what?  The MNGOP runs conventions, prints stuff, raises funds and occasionally does some messaging.  It’s only really heavily involved elections for governor, Senate and the constitutional offices, and only Senate is up this year, and I don’t think any of the Senate campaigns has ever counted on much help from the MNGOP.   The MNGOP has to rebuild.  It’s a fact.  They’ve got two years to do it (Senate race aside).  They’re working on it.

And on another level?  Who cares, even more.  The principles by which Republicans try to run and win elections – limited government, lower taxes, national and local security, upholding the family, individual liberty – live on no matter what happens to the party, and even no matter how those principles might get betrayed by its managers or legislators.  There should be accountability – and there has been.

Most of us know that.

And I’m going to guess that the Strib would never carry an op-ed saying anything of the sort.

Is the MNGOP in a sorry state?  Of course it is!  While I believe the new management is well on the way to bringing the GOP back to the right path, the party is on a fiscal diet that conservatism in Minnesota doesn’t need, facing the fiscal wealth of the unions and Alita Messinger, and with the Strib working as an unpaid PR flak for the DFL.  It’s a bad situation.

Let’s not pretend that any of this is news, though.  The only thing that’s newsworthy is that a Republican is telling it to the Strib.

They loooove that.

UPDATE: Although, mirabile dictu, they carried a letter to the editor that did!

10 thoughts on “Piling On Penalty

  1. You’re right Mitch! That is a miracle! The writer hit the nail right on the head!

    On another note, over on one of the prominent Vikings blogs, the GOP is getting hammered over their “stalling tactics” and being accused of holding the stadium hostage over the bonding bill. Once again, the DFL kicked the can down the road to avoid the issue for years, putting the GOP into the catch 22 at D-Day. If they stick to their guns and/or campaign promises to hold the line on spending, they get blamed and if the Vikings leave, they’ll get blamed for that, too.

  2. I agree with most of that but I’d be a little more pessimistic outstate. The suburban GOP hasn’t listened to some of their outstate peers as well as they ought. The massive increases in property tax on homestead properties is rumbling beneath the surface.

  3. . . . the highest office I’d ever held in the GOP was precinct convener.
    Yep. And Tony Soprano was a waste-hauler. What did you do with the money, Berg?

  4. The Party is supposed to be an organization of like-minded individuals. If that to you is expressed in the [already adopted] simple ten “principles” that’s OK. If you don’t like the platform because it’s too long and complicated, don’t read it. Leave that to those of us who think such details are a critically important explanation of those principles.

    The trouble with “principles” is that everybody knows what they are and tries to live by them, up until they’re asked to write them down. Then you get 2000 different versions, all valid and all subject to interpretation, sometimes conflicting. It’s in the details that we find what our “like-mindedness” entails.

  5. Looks like Joe has three fingers pointing back at him.

    Unless you are just an attention whore, Joe, howabout offering ideas and a hand to help the party. (MNGOP, not the DFL party)

    Anyone holding their breath?

  6. I’m all for holding the feet of irresponsible leaders to the fire….using the Democrat party’s BS talking points to do it? Not so much.

    I’m afraid Joe’s formerly justified righteous indignation has led to a righteous case of instability.

  7. This is beginning to remind me of the Rino vs TeaParty political debate. Will the GOP survive as it has in the past? Hell no, and I’ll help bury THAT GOP. It will either reform or die, Sarah Palin made that message clear as a bell. The Lugars, Colmans, Hatches, Bennetts are toast and should be…They’re Democrats lite. Poor taste and bloated feeling. I’ll back either Paul but my main goal is replacing the Rinos…to do that I have to go to the primary and election.

  8. It’s not always possible to adhere to Reagan’s commandment about not speaking ill of other Republicans. But it is possible to air your grievances in a way less public than the Strip op-ed pages.

    Politics isn’t war, not exactly, but there are a lot of parallels. And just like I wouldn’t have my soldiers doing push-ups in front of the enemy, Joe should scold and shame the party from inside the party, not in the general public. With the state convention and central committee meeting coming up, there will be a ready format.

    Another parallels to war is that if you are a lifer in the Army, you don’t get to pick which battle you want to fight. You fight the battles that need fighting. Joe left the party when he was on the outs, and now wants back with a seat at the table. That strikes me as disrespectful of those who did the grunt work that gave us a GOP led legislature the last two years.

  9. Let’s recap Joe’s highlights;
    2009: He made a bid for the MN GOP State Party Chair and lost. He then, very publically left the GOP ( I respected the honesty of it being public).
    2010: He made a bid to be the IP Gubernatorial Candidate and lost to Horner.
    2011/12: He was interviewed for an article about Sutton’s resignation and was referred to as a Republican. When I called him out on Twitter for that, he replied that he rejoined the GOP after Tony’s resignation (apparently very quietly, which I didn’t respect). He’s now throwing “urine soaked balloons” at the GOP in the Strib and calling for a Primary Process in MN;

    “Joe Repya‏@JoeRepya
    MN should scrap the current endorsement process – go directly to a primary. Let the people not party bosses, kooks and fringe groups decide.”
    (Copied from his Twitter feed for 4/21/12)

    Joe’s got a history of taking his ball and going home when he doesn’t win.

    Joe, if you like the Primary Process so much, just go join the DFL. They don’t respect the Endorsement Process (ex: Dayton, Entenza challenging Kelliher), so you’ll be among like minded folk.

    Can we get back to straighting out our state party and getting Hernandez elected in CD4 now?

  10. yes just what you need going up against a popular incumbent. A bloody primary. Does the MNGOP wish to commit Hari Kari?

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