Redistricting: The DFL Got Its Money’s Worth

Was it the money the DFL spent over the past twenty-odd years pushing for the appointment of left-leaning judges?

Was it the money they spent pressuring largely DFL and moderate GOP-controlled legislatures to confirm DFL-friendly judges?

Or was in the money the national left poured into astroturf pressure groups like “Draw The Line” and “Common Cause“, which spent years and millions putting a non-partisan, politic face on the DFL’s naked push for power at any cost?

Or was it all the money that Darth Lillehaug billed?

Who cares?  The DFL got what they needed; another ten year reprieve from irrelevancy:

Most observers surprised that lege map didn’t yield bigger Republican advantageIn the first hours and days after the state’s new redistricting maps landed at the Capitol Tuesday, the collective sense of relief among Minnesota Democrats was unmistakable. Many DFLers admitted to being pleasantly surprised by the final rendering of the state’s new political boundaries, which will help determine the outcome of elections for the next decade. “What was it Churchill said?” smiled one suburban House Democrat. “There’s nothing as exhilarating as being shot at and missed?”Republicans were not so pleased.

The piece is by Briana Biersbach at PIM, and it’s very much worth a read.

Let’s be clear here; the biggest news in the redistricting was that it didn’t reflect what most credible observers on both sides saw  as the inevitable; that rapid growth in healthy, well-run GOP-represented areas wasn’t reflected in the new map, while the mismanaged, needy, sclerotic DFL parts of the state are now disproportionally represented.

The real losers? All of you people who moved to the exurbs and central MN to get away from the DFL.

Reality Is Conservative

Every once in a while, when I drop some factoid or another into a “debate” with a lib, I’ll wrap it with a bit of a verbal end-zone happy dance; “Sometimes”, I’ll say, “reality is just plain conservative”.

With that in mind – the five-member Judicial Redistricting Panel has ruled on the rules to be used in redistricting

…and it’s generally good news for those who support following the rules as they’ve sprung up over the past forty years or so:

For the first time, the panel said the metropolitan area should be regarded as 11 counties, not seven. As a result more exurban counties could be tied into districts in suburban and urban areas.

That was an approach Republicans favored, said Elizabeth Brama who represents the Republican party on redistricting. She said it’s unclear what effect the change will have.

“I don’t think it’s a question of one party or the other benefiting,” Brama said. “I think it’s more a question of just fairly representing where the people in the state of Minnesota live and how they organize themselves.”

Which, to be honest, is what the GOP has been shooting for all along; as Dr. Kent Kaiser has pointed out in numerous forums, the plan passed by the Legislature – really the GOP majority – did a good job of sticking to the letter and spirit of the body of law that this state has developed in its decades of sending these questions to the courts to decide.

It was the DFL that’s gone partisan; Mark Dayton vetoed the Legislature’s plan for purely partisan grounds.  (Actually, I suspect it was less “partisan” than that the unions, Alliance for a Better Minnesota and other groups that control the DFL didn’t give him permission to pass it).  And a group of groups that, by any rational measure, call at least some of the DFL’s shots – the groups behind “Draw The Line MN” – took their shot at skewing the system to favor “communities of interest” which, inevitably, are DFL constituencies.

Now, I’m going to do just a bit of place-keeping her for future debates.  I’ll add emphasis to this next bit, from Ken Martin, former head of “Win Minnesota”, one of the groups that funneled money from unions and liberals with deep pockets into the DFL’s campaign coffers, especially for their sleazy, toxic campaign against Tom Emmer last year.  He is the current chair of the DFL.

DFL party chair Ken Martin wasn’t surprised by those changes.

I think it’s pretty pro forma and certainly establishes a lot of the same principles that were in place ten years ago,” Martin said. “Again, without discussing this further with my team and being able to look at it more in detail, I can’t comment any more than that. But on the surface I think it’s fine. I don’t think it give any party an advantage over another.”

I’m emphasizing those passages now, for later.  Because you just know that if the Judicial Panel draws the lines based on these rules, the DFL and the groups that call its shots – the public employee unions, Alliance For A Better Minnesota, the Minnesota Council of Non-Profits, the League of Women Voters, Take Action Minnesota and Common Cause – will be screeching exactly the opposite, and demanding that you forget history in the bargain.

Because it’s a fairly simple thing – if you follow the rules set down in the past several court-decided apportionment decisions, the GOP should benefit; the parts of the state that support the GOP have grown, while the DFL parts have shrunk.  This represents many things – but we can not discount the fact that one of the key “communities of interest” are “people who moved to get the hell away from the cesspools the DFL has created” in the Twin Cities and Duluth.

The judical panel’s deadline to produce a redistricting map is February 21.

Draw The Line’s Redistricting Commission: A Fair Trial Followed By A Swift Execution

We’ve been talking for quite a while now about the activities of “Draw The Line Minnesota“, part of a chain of astroturf pressure groups being established across the Midwest to put pressure on the redistricting process.

My prediction a few months back, when “Draw The Line” started pitching its game to the usual fawning suspects in the media: there would be an elaborate show of “multipartisanship” for the media to show to the world – sort of like the Congress of Soviets in the old USSR.  Then, “Draw The Line” would release the maps – elaborately gerrymandered maps, which would favor the DFL to an absurd degree – that they were going to release all along.

So far, I’m batting about 1000.

Well, OK – about .800.  I didn’t bank on “Draw The Line” getting a squeaky wheel like Kent Kaiser into the mix.  A few weeks ago, he wrote a letter to the Judicial Redistricting Board pointing out that the bipartisan “Citizens’ Commission” was a sham – a group of well-meaning, earnest people who were being used as window-dressing for a conclusion, and a redistricting solution, that’d been decided in a locked back room well out of public view, and which was a gerrymandered DFL-centric abomination.

But the wheel has indeed squeaked.  Last night on “The Late Debate” (as reported by Gary Gross at LFR), Kaiser took on “Draw The Line” again:

Prof. Kaiser made news by telling the listeners that Common Cause MN were distancing themselves from the Citizen Commission because 2 of the members, Prof. Kaiser and Anne Mason, were Republicans.

That clearly violates one of the top two priorities listed on DTL-Minnesota’s website:

“The campaign seeks to create a better redistricting process in Minnesota that uses the following principles:

1. The redistricting process should be independent and nonpartisan, to minimize the influence of elected officials and political parties in creating districts to their own political advantage.

2. The redistricting process should be transparent to the public”

As Gross pointed out, the commissioners did try to do the job as advertised – something for which I didn’t credit them in advance:

Actually, the Citizens Commission tried living up to both principles. DTL-Minnesota’s powers-that-be corrupted the process, first by making the Commission a partisan effort, then by having Linden Wieswerda draw the redistricting maps, then embargoing the maps until they were filed with the Special Panel on Redistricting.

So if you take Kaiser at his word – and I do – even Common Cause is giving up on the fiction so consistently aped by the media that the “Citizens’ Commission” is anything but window-dressing.

So let’s step through the chronology:

  1. The Minnesota Legislature passed a redistricting plan – drawn largely entirely by Republicans (which is one of the prerogatives of winning), but which met the letter and spirit of the body of redistricting law that has sprung up around this process over the past forty years or so.
  2. Governor Dayton – notwithstanding the fact that the DFL had no counterproposal – vetoed the Legislature’s map, sending it to the courts.
  3. A group of left-“leaning” groups – Common Cause, the Minnesota Council of Non-Profits, the League of Women Voters and Take Action Minnesota – propped up “Draw The Line Minnesota” (DTL).
  4. DTL formed the “Citizens’ Commission”, a 15 member panel with two identified Republicans, intended to take “public feedback”.  This, they did.
  5. DTL also deployed some cool web toys, allowing pretty much anyone to try to draw their own redistricting map…
  6. …which, as we later found, was more or less the equivalent of giving noisy kids in the back of the car a coloring book so they’ll shut up on a long trip.  DTL, notwithstanding all its talk of “transparency”, hired a longtime DFLer to draw its real maps, in secret, and embargoed until the deadline to hand them over to the judicial panel.  The “Commission”‘s feedback was basically a sham.

I think it’s interesting; when I appeared with “Common Cause Minnesota’s” Mike Dean on “The Late Debate”, I invited him onto the NARN;  he had been palavering for the previous two hours about the need for multipartisanship, after all.  His response – I published “Fairy Tales” about “Common Cause”.  (I admittedly erred in the actual source of some of the organization’s funding, and in the scope of one IRS 990 form I produced – which didn’t change the ideology behind their money one iota).

As we can see now, Dean was committing an instance of Berg’s Seventh Law of Liberal Projection: “When a Liberal issues a group defamation or assault on conservatives’ ethics, character or respect for liberty or the truth, they are at best projecting, and at worst drawing attention away from their own misdeeds

Who’s telling fairy tales, now?

The Potemkin Commission, Part III: In The Bag

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.

Kaiser’s conclusion?

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. .

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The Potemkin Commission, Part II: Transparency Is For Peasants

A few weeks ago, I noted that “Draw The Line Minnesota” – a liberal astroturf group floated by fellow liberal astroturf groups Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, Take Action Minnesota and the Minnesota Council of Non-Profits, but which nonetheless protests that it is “non-partisan”- had convened a “Citizens Commission” to take public testimony on redistricting.

Kent Kaiser, one of the members of that commission, is speaking up.  In a letter sent to the judicial Special Redistricing Panel, Kaiser notes the Potemkin nature of the “citizens commission” and, much more importantly, hammers the lack of “transparency” in a process run by a bunch of groups who support “transparency for ye, but not for we”.

The full letter is displayed below the jump.  I’m going to pull some money quotes, and add a bit of emphasis.

Kaiser cuts to the chase fast.  Many critics of the “Draw The Line” process have noted that it served, essentially, as the DFL’s map-drawing process (which, by the way, the DFL never actually did; the DFL caucus submitted no map proposal, despite having a fully-budgeted redistricting office).

Kaiser points out that that seems to be the case:

 Based on my experiences with Draw the Line over the past several months, I urge the Panel to reject the map submitted to the Panel by Draw the Line because the map drawing process was secretive and flawed and ultimately resulted in a partisan map that fails to reflect the objective demographic shifts that have occurred in Minnesota over the past decade. I think that because of its high number of incumbent legislator pairings and because it pairs only Republican members of Congress, the map is too likely to benefit the Democratic Party.

And “Draw The Line’s palaver about “transparency?”:

I am especially concerned that we commission members were not allowed sufficient time or access to the map to critique it objectively or to determine its implications before we were led to approve it..

…While I believe our commission did good work in agreeing on a set of principles for redistricting and in trying to get the public involved in the process, I am concerned that the process used in producing a map was ultimately no better than the State Legislature’s process. I know that I am not the only commission member to think this way.

Bear in mind that Kaiser wasn’t condemning the Legislature’s process; on “The Late Debate” a few weeks ago, he noted that the Legislture’s map adhered to the letter and spirit of the body of law that’s grown up around redistricting in the past forty-odd years in Minnesota.

Not to speak for Kaiser – he does that just fine himself – but I think the point is that for all “Draw The Line”‘s rhetoric, they are really just another partisan effort – and, in this case, one that actually yielded nakedly partisan results:

In a documented email sent to all commission members and staff, another commission member (of unknown political affiliation) voiced concern over the commission’s process, when he was stifled from discussing map alternatives in the last of our meetings. I quote directly from the email here:

The quote is in the full email; it notes that the “Draw The Line” map was, in short, pretty blatantly gerrymandered and, more importantly, was completely at odds with what “Draw The Line” claimed was the “Citizen’s Commission”‘s purported mission; they delivered one map:

‘ With one map, the committee had only one choice. That, of course, is not a choice. And the false claim that it was a committee drawn or even a committee guided map, I could not in good conscious endorse…

I’ve been calling it “the Potemkin Commission”.  That may have been unfair – but it’s pretty clear that the map is a Potemkin Map, delivered under false, trumped-up pretenses.

Despite the committee’s purported dedication to be open and transparent, the  most important part of the map drawing process—the map drawing itself—was notably not open and not transparent, even to the committee members. It was

done in private, “behind closed doors” as Draw the Line’s website puts it, by one or two persons with occasional contributions by some committee members. This is no improvement over the legislature.

The result speaks for itself. The committee’s website says the system is broken. The map the committee ultimately endorsed is substantially similar to the map that the broken process produced ten years ago. That is a severe indictment against the committee’s work in the committee’s own terms.

All of “Draw The Line”‘s talk of “transparency” and “openness” is so much baked wind.

Kaiser continues:

Maps are captivating. They are impressive and persuasive just by virtue of their pictorial nature. Yet our commission has said time and time again, and especially after analyzing our map’s high number of “pairings” of legislators, that our principles could fit many maps, and I hope the Panel will not be persuaded that our commission’s map is the best at applying our own principles, especially inasmuch as it was rushed through production and exposed to little critique or tweaking.

And – let us not forget – painstakingly hidden from public view until the last possible moment, which was last Friday, the deadline for submission to the courts.

More tomorrow.

Gary Gross also writes about Kaiser’s letter.

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Is Lori Sturdevant Considered An Independent Expenditure?

Just curious: how is last Saturday’s column by Lori Sturdevant anything but a campaign donation to the DFL?

I’m not going to fisk the whole thing.  Fisking Sturdevant has become a bit like fisking Nick Coleman; after a few years, you start to feel like you’re writing the same bit over and over again.

It’s got all her usual hallmarks; the gauzy, soft-focus mash note to some DFLer or another (Taryll Clark, in this case), the hook-line-and-sinker swallowing of some progressive group or another’s “non-partisan” line (Common Cause and Draw the Line, in this case)…

…and of course, the double standard.  Always, always the yawning double standard.

We meet our old friends “Draw The Line Minnesota”:

But the court’s final authority hasn’t kept Draw the Line Minnesota’s 15-member, multipartisan commission from behaving as if it had the power to draw the lines (hence its name).

In short, it’s showing what an independent redistricting commission would do, if Minnesota had been wise enough to create one — as 12 other states have.

And later

Draw the Line is a project of the Midwest Democracy Network, Common Cause, the League of Women Voters and the Minnesota Council of Non-profits, and is funded by the Joyce Foundation and the Bush Foundation. Its commission includes a mix of known devotees of each of Minnesota’s major parties, plus a handful of that rare breed — true independents.

Why doesn’t Sturdevant favor the reader with any numbers?

Because they show how disingenuous she’s being.  The “multipartisan”  commission includes 2 Republicans, 1 “Independence Party” member and 12 who are either DFL activists, activists for groups that are closely aligned with the DFL, or people who work at institutions that are little but feeders for the DFL.

So to Sturdevant, “Draw The Line Minnesota” – which is bankrolled by four “progressive” pressure groups – and its “multipartisan” yet almost completely liberal-dominated commission – is “independent”, while…

…well, you could see this coming, couldn’t you?

More telling: Top GOP operatives and money-raisers have formed Minnesotans for Fair Redistricting. It’s a sway-the-court group that’s hired top legal talent — including former state Chief Justice Eric Magnuson — to argue for a GOP design.

Got that?  Draw The Line, the multi-state non-profit group funded by liberals with deep pockets, is suddenly a plucky underdog, while Big Bad GOP is riding into town on a steamroller powered by stacks of Jacksons.

Apparently Sturdevant thinks that David Lillehaug and the rest of the DFL Lawyers Koffee Klatsch are working pro bono?

Draw the Line Minnesota is a buck-a-plate beanfeed compared with the GOP’s steak-and-lobster operation.

Does Sturdevant have any numbers to back up the comparison?

Of course not.  Nobody does.  Other than an audible from Mike Dean on “The Late Debate” the other night, none of the players have disclosed their funding, and we have precious little basis for fact-checking any of them at this point.

We only know one thing; whatever Sturdevant writes will be calibrated to serve the DFL’s interests.

And, despite insinuations by conservative bloggers, it is not a DFL front group.

Ah.  Well, that settles it then.  Lori says so.

I mean, sure; it’s literally a fact (as far as we can tell) that none of these groups are literally part of the DFL.

And John Wilkes Booth was not a Confederate soldier, but they shared enough goals where it didn’t really make a difference in the end.

And Lori Sturdevant isn’t literally a flak for the DFL, in the sense that “Ken Martin signs her paychecks”; their purposes just happen to be 100% congruent.

The Later Debate

Why, yes – I did spend a bit of time talking redistricting over the weekend, now that you mention it.

On the NARN, it was my pleasure to interview MNGOP Chair Tony Sutton and his deputy, Michael Brodkorb (punctuated by a surprise appearance by Wisconsin governor Scott Walker; I’ll be posting the podcast link as soon as I find it) about the redistricting process and all the outside money the left is pouring into Minnesota to try to skew the process in their favor.

And then, last night, I drove out to Ramsey to appear on “The Late Debate” with Jack Tomczak and Ben Kruse.  I was on a panel with Gary Gross of Let Freedom Ring, Mike Dean of “Common Cause Minnesota”, and Kent Kaiser, who is part of Draw The Line Minnesota’s (DTL-MN) “Citizens’ Commission”.  In the interest of accuracy, I’ll note that in my piece last week, I lumped Kaiser in with the Commission’s liberal hypermajority, because I personally didn’t know any better; Kaiser is of course well-known in GOP circles as one of the good guys; I regret the error…

…especially since he was the unquestionable star of last night’s debate.

I’m not going to try to reconstruct the whole thing from memory – you can check out their podcast at their site, and Gary Gross did an excellent rundown of the proceedings over atLFR.

I’ll recap this bit, though; I walked in there with two main points:  I walked out with four:

Who’s Politicized?:  As Kaiser noted, the GOP legislative majority’s proposal follows the letter of the law, and the spirit of the last several judicial decisions, pretty closely.  The DFL’s map was…well, nonexistant.  They never drew one up.

It was Governor Dayton’s veto that was, as Kaiser noted, exceptionally politically capricious.

And this entire process recaps a pattern we started seeing during the 2008 election, and rose to a crescendo in last year’s gubernatorial race; the DFL isn’t so much a political party as it is a political holding company, outsourcing its actual policy and boots-on-the-ground work to its “strategic partners” – the unions, and the array of astroturf pressure groups like “Alliance For A Better Minnesota”, “Take Action Minnesota”, MPIRG, and “Draw The Line”.

Outside Money: Behind all of Draw The Line and Common Cause’s noble chatter about getting people involved – nay, getting them interested – in the redistricting process, the fact remains that a raft of “progressive” organizations are doing their level best to try to jimmy the redistricting in their favor, in a census period in which GOP-leaning districts exploded and DFL-districts continued withering.  The demographics aren’t a state phenomenon – and either is the left’s effort; “Draw The Line” is a regional, not state, entity, focusing on trying to attenuate (at least) the gains the GOP should get from pure demographics.  More below.

Competition: One of DTL-MN’s priorities – because it’s one of the priorities of its supporting groups (Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, the MN Council of Non-Profits and Take Action MN), is “competitive elections”.  On a policy level, this goal – making sure that politicians are accountable to electoral pressure from their voters – is laudable enough.

It’s at the implementation level that it either breaks down or shows its ideological stripes, depending on your point of view.  Minnesota is a divided state – but not evenly or consistently divided.

Let’s look at the example of a hypothetical state of about five million people, which is closely divided on a statewide basis – but where the division stacks up as follows:

  • An urban core – three, really – of about a million people that votes about 70/30 Democrat.
  • An outer-suburban and exurban ring that votes, in a good year, maybe 52-55 percent GOP.  Let’s assume a huge year, and say it’s 55-45 GOP.
  • The rest of the state – about half the population – which, to arrive at the sort of dead-even split that the last three statewide elections have shown, would be divided about 52-48 in favor of the GOP.

Of course it’s not hypothetical at all.  Minnesota is exactly that; a couple of big blue boils, the Twin Cities and Duluth, two Congressional and 20 legislative districts that routinely deliver 70+% to the DFL, surrounded by an exurban ring that, in a blowout year, might go 55-45 GOP (only two GOP-owned legislative districts topped 70% GOP, as opposed to 20 for the DFL), and an outstate that tips a little bit GOP, but is close enough to send Tim Walz and Collin Peterson to Congress.

So to make Minnesota “competitive” across the board, the legislative map would have to look like a couple of bicycle wheels, with spokes radiating out from the Marshall-Lake Bridge (and Canal Park in Duluth) all the way out to the state’s borders; the Congressional map would look like a big Key Lime (mmm, Key Lime) pie.

That is, of course, not acceptable practice.  New boundaries must, as much as possible, preserve existing community boundaries.

The answer, of course, is that Common Cause want the Republican parts of Minnesota to be competitive, and to leave the DFL-dominated Twin Cities and Duluth, and their 20 districts, pretty much alone.

“When did you stop beating your minorities?”: As Gary noted at LFR last week, there is a noxious little bon mot tucked away in the DTL-MN’s site:  “Historically, redistricting has been done out of the public eye, without meaningful public input, and used to dilute the voting power of communities of color“.

The next sentence helpfully adds “Minnesota has a reputation for fair and clean government, but we believe we can do better“.

So if Minnesota has a “reputation for fair and clean government”, why mention trait that was a part of redistricting in Mississippi and Illinois and Alabama?  Because any thinking person knows that it’s immaterial to Minnesota’s history, right?

Of course; but the quote wasn’t included for the benefit of the thinking and literate audience; it was included to provide an inflammatory, polarizing soundbite for the ignorant – TV reporters and Strib columnists, for example – to latch onto.  Otherwise, if it has nothing to do with Minnesota’s history, why include it at all?


That said, it was a fun time, and a generally good debate.  Up to the end, anyway.

I have been duking it out with Mike Dean of Common Cause for quite some time, mostly on Twitter.  I have been inviting him on the Northern Alliance to discuss Common Cause’s agenda and funding for a little over a year now; like many Twitter arguments, it’s been curt and acerbic.

And I’ll cop to the fact that I’ve had a bad attitude about Common Cause.  While they are disingenuous about being “non-partisan”, that’s fine; it’s a free country, you can say anything you want.  Hell, I can call myself “non-partisan” – but, of course, I don’t. More importantly, most of my impressions of Common Cause were formed in the early-mid 2000’s, when they agitated for a lot of really noxious policies, especially campaign finance reform speech rationing.

In person, Dean’s a heckuvva nice guy.  And he held his own pretty well, and stayed on his point, for the first 118 minutes of the show,. One of the points on which he stayed was an idea on which we all agreed at the beginning of the show; that we all wanted people to get more literate about and involved in the redistricting process, across the political board.

And so with that in mind, I reiterated my invitation to Dean to appear on the Northern Alliance one of these next weekends.

He turned it down – and then kept going.  “What do we gain from it?”  he asked, noting that in my blog’s coverage of Common Cause I (paraphrasing him closely ) published “fairy tales” and “made things up”.

Nope.  Never.  In almost ten years, this blog has published things I don’t reasonably believe to be true only when I’m pretty clearly writing satire.  No exceptions.

Oh, I may err at times, and on a point or two I was in fact wrong; as Dean noted, the Joyce Foundation doesn’t get money from George Soros.  But I can concede that point, without changing the conclusion that actually matters; while Joyce (and Common Cause MN, which is supported by Joyce) may not get money from Soros or his various shell groups, its’ goals nationwide are indistinguishable from those of the Open Society Foundation, Media Matters, the Center for Independent Media or any of the other Soros joints; to slap a phony “non-partisan” sheen on a partisan pressure industry.

So at the end of the day – literally, at two minutes to midnight – it became clear what the real mission is.  It’s not to reach out to people of all political stripes.  It’s to reach out to those who don’t know what their stripes are, but who can be inveigled into exerting themselves to fight against a vague, sorta-racist boogeyman.

And so the battle will continue.

Thank to Ben Kruse and Jack Tomczak for the invite – and to AM1280 for letting me appear off of Salem turf for an evening.

I Heard It On The NARN

Many thanks to Chairman Sutton, Deputy Chair Brodkorb, and our special surprise guest, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

Lady Logician has written about redistricting here and here.

Gary Gross has dialled in “Common Cause’s” map proposal, and dug into “Draw The Line’s” background, not to mention their identity-politics orientation.

The Examiner here, here and here.

Working For The Weekend (Plural)

It’s going to be a big couple of weekends on the Northern Alliance Radio Network.

For starters:  tomorrow’s show will be huge.  We’ll be talking with Tony Sutton and Michael Brodkorb about the redistricting effort, the avalanche of outside money that is pouring in to Minnesota to support the DFL’s effort to shanghai our redistricting process, and what you can do about it.

Then, on Sunday night, I’m scheduled to appear on The Late Debate with Jack Tomczak and Ben Kruse, on FM 95.9 in the North Metro, from 10PM til midnight.  I’ll be on a panel with Gary Gross, as well as  Mike Dean of liberal astroturf group “Common Cause Minnesota”, and Kent Kaiser of the “Citizens Commission on Redistricting“.

Finally, next weekend – October 7-8 – I’ll be part of the Northern Alliance’s live broadcasts from the Midwest Leadership Conference, along with Brad “The Closer” Carlson.   We’ll be talking, potentially, with Reince Priebus, Governor Scott Walker, and other special guests.   I said potentially.  Fingers crossed, here.

So tune in – wherever you are!

DrawTheLine MN: Giving “Potemkin” A Bad Name

According to Russian legend, Catherine the Great’s consort, minister and general, Grigory Potemkin, built fake villages, just shells and faςades and a few serfs going through happy-serf-like motions (see also SEIU – Ed.) along the banks of the Dniepr river – which he’d just seized from the Ottomans in a costly war he’d advocated and led, to impress Catherine with the wisdom of his campaign.

“Potemkin village” – or “Potemkin” – has thus become a synonym for “a hollow, insubstantial faςade, intended to deceive”.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at “Draw The Line Minnesota’s “Citizens’ Redistricting Commission” – a body that should make Grigoriy Potemkin’s descendants sue for trademark infringement.

“Draw The Line MN” is an astroturf “activist” group, a collaboration between Common Cause Minnesota, the League of Women Voters Minnesota, the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and TakeAction Minnesota – one of the groups behind “Alliance for a Better Minnesota”, which ran the astroturf smear campaign against Tom Emmer last year.  All of them portray themselves as “non-partisan”; all are relentlessly “progressive” astroturf activist groups, all of them fronts for Big Progressive money (and incredibly disingenuous about it).

…who’ve teamed to to masquerade under the “non-partisan” guise of “Draw The Line” (DTL) to try to influence the redistricting process in Minnesota and throughout the Midwest.

DTL’s latest scam?  The “Citizens’ Commission on Redistricting”.

The term is picked carefully; it sounds official, doesn’t it?  Like it’s something sanctioned by the state?

It’s not – no moreso that if I’d sent them out to campaign.

And who are these people?

DTL’s website provides an explanation…

The Commission Members serving on the Minnesota Citizens Redistricting Commission are volunteers, who are committing a significant amount of time and effort to this process. To that end, Draw the Line Minnesota has devised a process we feel is both transparent and limits the necessity of significant days of travel for Commission members.


The Commission will rely heavily on technology, so that much of its work can be done on the internet and by conference call. To that end, public meetings will be livestreamed (where possible) and taped and posted on our website. Any communications received by the Commission or Draw the Line Minnesota, related to map-drawing or redistricting principles, will also be uploaded to our website.


…and a list.  Let’s look into that list a bit.  I’ll add some emphasis here and there:

Lori Berg of Maplewood is a program officer for Minnesota Community Foundation and The Saint Paul Foundation and has worked in the field of philanthropy for twenty-seven years. She was born and raised in rural southwestern Minnesota and through her work is familiar with communities around the state.

Berg – no known relation – has no record of political contributions on the MN CFB, Opensecrets, Newsmeat, or the Federal Elections Commission.

Bruce Corrie of St. Paul is the dean of the College of Business and Organizational Leadership at Concordia University-St. Paul. Dr. Corrie has a Ph.D. in Economics and is an expert on the ethnic markets and has been featured in a wide range of international, national and local media. His website and blog can be found at

No political contributions found: Corrie’s work seems to focus on multi-culti stuff.

 Sally Fineday of Pennington is a member with the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and Executive Director of Native Vote Alliance of Minnesota. With Native Vote, Sally has helped promote nonpartisan civic engagement and voter participation.

Again – no contributions found; she’s been involved in community politics in Beltrami County.

Kathi Hemken of New Hope currently serves as the community’s Mayor. Previously, she worked as a planner at Honeywell for twenty-years and served on the city’s planning commission. We’re pleased to have Kathy’s local government experience on the Commission.

No contributions listed – and very little on isplay about her tenure as mayor of New Hope, a struggling blue-collar burb west of North Minneapolis.

Kent Kaiser of St. Paul is a professor of communication at Northwestern College. Previously, he served as the communications and voter outreach director in the office of the Minnesota Secretary of State. While with the Secretary of State’s office, he serviced as liaison to the U.S. Census Bureau and on the boards of Kids Voting Minnesota and Kids Voting St. Paul.

Yet again – not a single political contribution found.

Lorna LaGue of Waubun is the Special Projects Director for the White Earth Reservation where she serves in various roles involving community organizing, planning, and development. She works with diverse agencies throughout the State and is a member of the Rediscovery Environmental Learning Center Board and Chair of an enterprise board for the Tribe.

Couldn’t find any political contributions:

Matthew Lewis of Edina is the Communications Director of the Independence Party and a master’s candidate at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Last year he served as press secretary to gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner. Previously, in Washington, DC, he worked as a reporter at The Center for Public Integrity covering topics including infrastructure and climate change legislation in conjunction with outlets such as POLITICO.

Lewis is on record giving $2000 to Tom Horner last year.

Elda Macias of Minneapolis is Marketing Director for a large Fortune 300 company, developing new marketing strategies for emerging markets. Elda was formerly active in the DFL Latino Caucus, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Minnesota, and the Scholarship Selection Committee for the Latino Economic Development Center. She is originally from El Paso, Texas.

Macias gave $250 to Obama, and $350 to Patricia Torres-Ray, in addition to her DFL involvement listed above.

Anne Mason of St. Paul is the Assistant Director of Communications at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. She served as a political appointee for Tax and Budget Policy for the US Department of the Treasury, Communications Director for Congressman Mark Kennedy, and Political Director for the Erik Paulsen for Congress campaign.

The person on the list with any form of Republican affiliation of any kind, Mason seems to show not a single political donation.

Sedric McClure of Brooklyn Park is a Multicultural Counselor in Student and Academic Affairs at Macalester College and has worked in multicultural settings in higher education for fifteen years. A current public policy student as well, Sedric is an avid reader of history and civil rights.

No contributions listed.

Kenya McKnight of Minneapolis is Operations Director of the Northside Economic Opportunity Network, which provides business and economic development services in the areas of training, technical assistance, and loan packaging. She is actively engaged around social and economic justice issues within ethnic communities and serves on the boards of organizations including North Point Health and Wellness and serves as a DFL Director of Senate District 58.

A DFLer (as noted above), McKnight seems to have no record of political donations.

Carl Rosen of Spring Park is a retired social worker, who worked in long-term care nursing homes and at the Hennepin County Psychiatric Unit. He is also a retired Priest and worked at St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville for thirteen years.

Hm. Not a thing.

Karen Saxe of Northfield is Chair of the Department of Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science at Macalester College and is actively affiliated with the Mathematics Association of American and the Association of Women in Mathematics. She was also recently elected to serve on the board of the League of Women Voters of Northfield and Cannon Falls.

No political contributions founded.

T. Scott Uzzle of Saint Paul is an attorney with Blaschko & Associates. He was previously an Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney in Virginia. He has authored a detailed memorandum on voting rights in Richmond, Virginia. Prior to law school, he was the Committee Assistant to the Privileges and Elections Committee of the Virginia House of Delegates.

No political contributions found.

Candi Walz of Lindstrom is an adjunct professor of Political Science at Century College and the small business owner of Let’s Talk Kids, LLC. She was Legislative Correspondent at the state Capitol for fifteen daily newspapers in Northeastern Minnesota, and worked in Government Relations at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and the Minnesota State College Association.

So there’s the “Citizens’ Commission”.

Now, I look for patterns for my day job.  What did we see above?  A group of people chock full of low-level involvement with “progressive” institutions (the DFL, various non-profits), or with institutions that are aligned with the left (the tribes, academia, especially political science), or who depend for their livelihood on institutions where a strong left-of-center pedigree is vital for survival, much less advancement (Macalester, the Humphrey Institute) – but who have, across the board, give off few of the obvious signs of high level partisanship, like lots of campaign donations, to be held against them.

Now – what are they doing?

More tomorrow..

Common Cause, Lying Again (Part IV)

The Twitter account for “Common Cause MN” – the stealth-progressive astroturf group that campaigns for speech rationing and higher taxes – commented on the Iowa GOP caucus on Saturday:

Did you know that people have to pay to vote in Ames Straw Poll? That’s messed up! #stribpol

Promptly, other Twin Cities lefties added “it’s like a poll tax!”…

…apparently unaware that the Iowa Straw Poll is a GOP event.  Not an election.  Not a caucus or primary that determines who goes on the ballot.  It’s a fundraiser and PR event.

I pondered asking them if they knew that party caucus events charge admission, too…

….but I don’t want to have anyone popping any aneurysms.

Common Cause Minnesota: Lying Again, Lying Always

So on Wednesday, the day after the Wisconsin recall election, “Common Cause MN” – the stealth progressive astroturf group – tweeted:

RNC fundraising email credits voter ID law in WI victories. Even they agree that it is designed to suppress voter turnout. #stribpol

That sounded serious!  There’s nothing quite as low-rent as trying to keep people from the polls that actually belong there.  And Common Cause insinuates that the Wisconsin GOP used a “Voter ID” law to keep people away from the polls (stop me if I’m wrong about the insinuation, but it seems pretty clear to me).

So I thought I’d check it out.

Someone forwarded me a copy of the email from Reince Priebus, GOP national chair.  I include the letter in its entirety, redacting only the name of the recipient (who forwarded me the email).  I bolded the reference to voter ID:

Dear [Redacted],

The Republican Party won a great victory over the Big Union bosses and Obama Democrats last night, and we could not have done it without the support you have given the RNC.

Last November, Wisconsin voters elected new leaders to get their state back on track. When they did, union bosses lost their allies in the state house and vowed to stop at nothing to return Wisconsin to the failed politics-as-usual. They orchestrated a recall election for selfish political retribution — all the while Governor Scott Walker and Republicans in Wisconsin worked to put people back to work and turned deficits into surpluses.

Yesterday, Wisconsin voters reaffirmed their support of Republican leadership in their state and rejected the reckless spending of Wisconsin Democrats and the downgrade-inducing policies of their Washington counterparts. The people have given their seal of approval to Republicans’ successful efforts to balance the budget and ensure a healthy economy.

Because of your support of the RNC, [Redacted], we were able to help the Wisconsin Party’s grassroots efforts and provide strategic resources to keep our majority in the state senate.

We provided staff on the ground;

Funded a voter ID program;

Worked with the Wisconsin Party on contact lists and a Get-Out-The-Vote plan;

Provided Get-Out-The-Vote technology and equipment to the state party; and,

Funded the absentee ballot program.

None of this would have been possible without your financial support of the Republican National Committee.

We are currently laying the groundwork to take the fight to the Obama Democrats nationwide in the 2011 state and 2012 presidential elections. We intend to challenge Barack Obama in every state, fund a robust Get-Out-The-Vote program and get the truth about the disastrous consequences of his economic policies around the liberal media filter and directly to the voters so we can defeat him in 2012. But we cannot do it without your continuing generous support.

[Redacted], help us lay the foundation to win back the White House, regain total control of Congress and ensure Barack Obama is a one-term president by making a contribution of $25, $50, $100 or more today. Please give as generously as you can. Thank you.


Reince Priebus

Chairman, Republican National Committee

So the only reference to “Voter ID” in the letter is to voter identification – which means “finding out who in your district is likely to vote GOP, and making sure every last one of them gets to the polls”.

Not asking for an ID at the polls.

Further proof that the best way to tell if “Common Cause MN” is lying is to see if their lips are moving, or their fingers are touching a keyboard.  Or both.

“Stop Sending Racy Photos!” Yelled Rep. Weiner

When I saw the headline on the Minnesota Birkeydependent – “Backers of gay marriage ban seek to prevent disclosure about campaign spending, donors” is how it reads – my spidey-sense just knew it would be in there.

What, you ask?

That little thing that’s there whenever any talk of campaign finance disclosure – by Republicans – comes up.

Stay with me, here.  Birkey writes:

The groups behind a ballot measure that would put a ban on same-sex marriage in the Minnesota Constitution urged the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board on Tuesday to retain a rule that would allow corporations to make unlimited contributions in support of the ballot measure. The Minnesota Family Council (MFC) testified that it shouldn’t have to disclose any of its donors in the campaign to pass the amendment, while Minnesota for Marriage, of which MFC and the National Organization for Marriage are a part, brought in attorneys from the Citizens United Supreme Court case to argue that political spending by corporations on the amendment push should be shielded from disclosure laws.

Now as you know, I favor scrapping all restrictions on domestic campaign contributions – but requiring all campaigns and parties to immediately, as in “within one hour of receiving the donation, and before cashing the checks”, disclosing all donations on the internet, and keeping those donations available for years.

But that’s not really the point of this post.

No, it’s this.  Indeed, I skipped over most of Birkey’s piece, until I found what I knew I’d find, immediately, upon reading the headline:

But the majority of the testifiers supported the board in changing its opinion on corporate disclosure.

Mike Dean of Common Cause Minnesota said, “Minnesota has a long history of supporting disclosure.”

He said it helps the board gather and detect violations and cited a complaint his group filed against the National Organization for Marriage and the Minnesota Family Council over ads the groups ran in 2010 that they did not report.

“Having this knowledge allows the public to make informed decisions,” he said. “The public has a right to know who is making this political speech. Without the knowledge about who is making political speech, the public can’t evaluate the information or misinformation.”

Fascinating assertion, coming from Mike Dean…

…who leads “Common Cause of Minnesota”, which agitates for transparancy (on the part of non-“progressive” organizations)…

…and whose organization shows $600,000 donations last year, every penny of them anonymous.

Chanting Points Memo: How Are They Bogus? Let Us Count The Ways

You remember the old lawyer’s bromide; “if the facts are against you, argue law; if the law is against you, argue facts; if both are against you, argue like hell”.

The DFL is arguing like hell.

The Dayton Administration and the various DFL cauci  have been claiming that the GOP’s budget proposal is a billion dollars short – based on numbers from Minnesota Management and Budget.  As we pointed out the other day, MMB is run by Commissioner Schowalter, who was appointed by Governor Dayton and serves at his discretion.  And its forecasting methods, according to a legislator closely involved in the process, are highly sclerotic, well-calibrated to ring up costs but not to account for savings.

And now – not only is MMB’s leadership not “non-partisan” (as the DFL and its minions continually claim), but either is its data:

The Dayton administration engaged in a new level of hypocrisy today in the ongoing dispute over fiscal notes used to back up spending bills. Today’s example: a fiscal note from Governor Dayton’s Department of Administration regarding the photo ID bill which cited information from Common Cause Minnesota, an overtly partisan liberal group.

The Department of Administration used numbers from a Common Cause Minnesota report to back up its contention that a multi-million dollar ad campaign is necessary to inform the public about a new photo ID requirement at the polls. They also used information from two other outside groups cited in the Common Cause report, the Brennan Center for Justice and the Pew Center on the States.

Which is a little like declaring the National Ketchup Board a “non-partisan” source in a bill aimed at making ketchup a mandatory part of school lunches.

Common Tools

Common Cause has a newly-discovered sense of The Principles over filibuster “reform”:

In 2005, Common Cause vigorously defended the filibuster when some Republicans proposed invoking the “nuclear option” to end the filibuster of judicial nominees. From a 2005 press release:

Common Cause strongly opposes any effort by Senate leaders to outlaw filibusters of judicial nominees to silence a vigorous debate about the qualifications of these nominees, short-circuiting the Senate’s historic role in the nomination approval process.

“The filibuster shouldn’t be jettisoned simply because it’s inconvenient to the majority party’s goals,” said Common Cause President Chellie Pingree. “That’s abuse of power.”

Today, however, Common Cause is actively supporting filibuster “reform.” It’s one of the campaigns highlighted on Common Cause’s website. Now Common Cause argues that the filibuster is “an historical accident” and a tool of obstruction.

We see this in Minnesota, of course – Common Cause filed a campaign finance complaint against Republican political action committees, but ignored vastly more convoluted and less-transparent machinations by the likes of “Alliance for a Better Minnesota” and its maze of PACs and contributors.

Common Cause’s president has ignored repeated requests to come on the air and explain the odd double standard.

It wouldn’t matter, but for the fact that parts of the Twin Cities media continue to call Common Cause “non-partisan”.

Common Cause: “Transparent” As Mud, But Not As Truthful

Common Cause Minnesota  (CCM) is a “non-partisan” PAC that exists, in its entirety, to advance liberal causes and, when they can’t manage that, to retard conservative ones.

Oh, they tart the message up like a twenty-dollar hooker:  “Common Cause Minnesota is a nonprofit, nonpartisan citizen’s lobby dedicated to improving the way state government operates. We have helped pass Minnesota’s most important ethics and campaign finance reforms“, is what they say on their website.  And everywhere, in all their communication – transparency.  Transparency, transparancy, transparency.  They want “Transparency” in government.  Or so they say.

We’ll come back to that.

As I pointed out last September, in the wake of  finding out that “Alliance For A Better Minnesota” was spending an avalanche of funding from not-so-transparent sources like Mark Dayton, his ex-wife and a slew of unions, through via a fiscal shell game that Derek Brigham mapped out as well as anyone – certainly better than anyone in the mainstream media…

…Common Cause had demanded an investigation of…

…Campaign for Minnesota’s future, and a donation it got from the Republican Governors Assocation.

And for this campaign, Common Cause went big, going to the state Campaign Finance Board.

CCM’s announcement certainly set the stakes high (emphasis added by me):

WHAT:           Common Cause has uncovered an elaborate scheme by three entities to hide political contributions.

WHEN:           Thursday, September 30, 2010
11:00 a.m.

WHERE:         Room 125, State Capitol

Common Cause Minnesota will outline a major complaint that it has filed with the Campaign Finance Disclosure Board alleging that three different entities circumvented Minnesota disclosure law and failed to properly disclose large contributions.  The parties involved could face civil penalties totaling $5.1 million and criminal prosecution.


Whew!  Scary!

And when the CFB released its results, CCM spun it like it was huge news; Mike Dean, CCM’s president, tweeted:

Campaign Finance Board finds that Minnesota’s Future, LLC Violated State Law:

Of course, like everything Mike Dean and CCM say and do, it was a bunch of twaddle.   The Minnesota Campaign Finance Board released its conclusions.

Among CCM’s many charges was that the Republican Governors Association didn’t disclose its donors according to Minnesota law.

It was true; they did it better than Minnesota law!

The Board notes that the RGA disclosed all of its sources of income to the IRS under the requirements applicable to organizations registered under IRC section 527. The timing of that disclosure is different than what is required in Minnesota but the level of itemization is greater than Minnesota requires. This observation is noted because it suggests that avoidance of disclosure was not a motive for the RGA when it made its contribution to Minnesota Future, LLC.

Conclusions from CFB investigation – again, with emphasis added:

Based on the above analysis, and the submissions of the Complainant and the other parties, the Board makes the following:

Findings Concerning Probable Cause

1. There is probable cause to believe that Minnesota Future, LLC, and State Fund for Economic Growth, both Minnesota corporations, operated as political committees as defined by statute and were required to register with the Board within ten days of accepting contributions or making expenditures in excess of $100.

2. There is no probable cause to believe that the failure of Minnesota Future, LLC, or State Fund For Economic Growth to register was done with the knowledge and understanding the corporation was, in fact, required to register.

3. Minnesota Future, LLC, and State Fund for Economic Growth have registered with and reported to the Board retroactive to the date they first accepted contributions in excess of $100. They have completed their registration and reporting obligations. Consequently, there is no probable cause to believe that an ongoing violation exists.

So there was no substantial violation of any kind.  It was a technical violation of a provision in state election finance law that’s not all that clear; no harm was done, no fines were levied (they very frequently are in these cases); Minnesota Forward didn’t get so much as a stern “you watch what you’re doing, now!”  No “criminal charges”, no “multimillion dollar fines”.


CCM’s selective complaining was incongruous enough to make even liberal-in-good-standing Paul Demko ask:

But Common Cause did not file a similar complaint against WIN Minnesota, a DFL-aligned organization that has been helping pay for attack ads against GOP nominee Tom Emmer. The group received a similar $250,000 contribution from the Democratic Governors Association (DGA).

Dean said WIN Minnesota is in compliance with the law because it’s organized under a different section of the tax code and has a broader mandate then simply influencing electoral politics. But he conceded that WIN Minnesota is no more transparent in revealing the source of the DGA money then its conservative counterpart. “The issue is one organization followed the law and the other organization did not,” Dean said.

Except that MNForward did, according to the Campaign Finance Board – and if WIN Minnesota (one of the maze of shell groups underwrting “Alliance for a Better Minnesota”) did, it was only by the stretchiest definition of “the letter of the law”, and I doubt even that.

So you might be reading this, and thinking – “Wow – Common Cause sounds like  a bunch of weasels”.

Now, now.  Not yet, they don’t.

Read this bit first (again with emphasis added):

At issue is a $429,000 contribution that the Republican Governors Association funneled to the group, which has been running television commercials bashing DFL gubernatorial nominee Mark Dayton. Common Cause argues in the complaint that Minnesota’s Future was required to disclose the names of donors who contributed to the Republican Governors Association.

Leaving aside the fact that the Campaign Finance Board rejected the premise that Minnesota’s future did anything wrong, I’d like you to check this out.  It’s an excerpt from Page 4 of Common Cause’s 2008 IRS Form 990 – disclosures.

Can’t read the names?

Get used to it.  There are eight pages of donations, a total of 44 of them, totalling over $600,000.

For one year.

And not one name.

For a group that alleges itself to be all about “transparency in politics”.

The lesson from this?  Whenever “Common Cause” pops up in this state’s political discourse, they need to be pelted with rhetorical rocks and garbage.  They exist only as a front group for the DFL; they are fundamentally dishonest.

I’ve invited CCM “president” Mike Dean to appear on the Northern Alliance Radio Network to discuss his various charges, and defend CCM against the charge that they are lying to the people.  Repeatedly.  For almost three months.

I expect better from responsible adults with non-risible points of view.

Place your bets.

Foxes: “Relax, Hens”

According to the Strib, Voter ID is just not needed

…according to a survey of people who’d have to work harder if it were implemented…

…conducted by two groups that benefit from inflated vote counts.

Minnesota does not need a law requiring photo identification at the polls because there have been relatively few cases of ineligible voting, two advocacy groups said Monday.

Citing data collected from county attorneys from the 2008 election, the two groups said that there were 26 convictions statewide of felons voting illegally – a figure representing 0.0009 percent of voters that year.

It’s a figure that also represents investigations in Ramsey, and only Ramsey, County.  The only county for which the Minnesota has done the County Attorneys’ jobs by doing all the investigating for them.

Allegations of felons voting represented 77 percent of voter fraud investigations, the groups said. The other 23 percent of the investigations from the 2008 election – which did not lead to any convictions – involved charges of non-citizens voting, double voting, voting outside of jurisdiction and impersonating a voter, the groups said.

Right.  That’s because under Minnesota law, pleading ignorance of the law is enough to get you acquitted.  Only paroled felons have to sign a form stating they know they’re not supposed to vote.

The study was conducted by Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota and the Minnesota Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Alliance. The groups said the study was based on responses from 71 of the state’s 87 counties.

The “Center for Election Integrity of Minnesota“?  Sure sounds like an important group!

The Strib doesn’t see fit to mention that “CEIMN” is an offshoot of “non-partisan” liberal pressure group “Common Cause MN” (check out CC of MN’s and CEIMN’s addresses), whose motto is “Holding Power Accountable”, and which spent the 2010 election demanding accountability of conservative groups while ignoring the rafts of liberal special interest money.  They favor rationing speech to regular Americans, but exaggerating the influence of unions and liberal special interests.

One wonders if Strib reporter Mike Kaszuba didn’t feel this was relevant, or if he just didn’t know.

Hey, Wait!

Hasn’t the Twin Cities media – especially the “alternative”, liberal version – been barbering for years about how Rep. Michele Bachmann just doesn’t do “mainstream” media?

Why, yes – they have

But – did I hear Michele Bachmann doing an extended interview with Cathy Wurzer on MPR’s Morning Edition this morning?

Why, yes I did!

Someone tell Andy Birkey!

No, don’t.  Rather, tell Keith Ellison, Betty McCollum, Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar, all of whom I’ve invited onto the Northern Alliance Radio Network in the past two years, none of whom have so much as responded.  (In the interest of completeness, note that Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak appeared, as did “Growth and Justice” majordomo Dane Smith.  We had a great time talking with both of ’em, because – shibboleths about conservative talk radio aside – Ed Morrissey and I will put our cross-aisle interviews up against anything in the commercial or public media today in terms of civility and fairness (while allowing that we are, in fact, conservative).

So whatdya say, Reps Ellison and McCollum?  How about it, Senators Franken and Klobuchar? 

For that matter, we’ve had an invite out to Common Cause Minnesota for six weeks now – submitted on this blog, via email, via a voice mail message, and on Twitter.  Not a word.

How about Denise Cardinal of “Alliance for a Better Minnesota”?  Perhaps she could come on the show and discuss the Dayton-family-finance slime campaign she orchestrated?

For that matter, howzabout we get an invite to Mark Dayton?  I’ve heard Tom Emmer do a center-left show; d’ya suppose Dayton’s got the gumption to go across the aisle…

…like Representative Bachmann did?

Follow The Bouncing Money

Remember a few weeks ago, when “Common Cause Minnesota” – a “non-partisan” organization that seeks “transparency” in campaigning (also speech rationing) – filed a complaint against the pro-business PAC “Minnesota’s Future” because it got a contribution from the Republican Governor’s Association.

To help illustrate the financial trail behind Citizens For A Better Minnesota’s complaint, I’ve prepared this graphic to show you the money trail involved.

Pretty crazy-complicated, huh?  Those folks at Common Cause Minnesota sure know how to protect all us stooped citizens, don’t they?

So courtesy of Derek Brigham, let’s take a look at the transparent, clear, path that money takes in getting to the Dayton campaign from…well, you take a look.

Now, I’m no accountant.  I asked Common Cause to come on the Northern Alliance a couple of weeks ago to discuss their complaint.  I heard nothing back – not so much as a tweet.

I’m Not A Reporter

But if I were, I’d have a bunch of questions of Mark Dayton, his campaign, and the maze of PACs and organizations that are bankrolling his campaign.

Let’s start at the top:

  1. Settle Me This: So how much did you pay in your settlement to Brad Hanson? Since you were employed by the Senate, is it correct to assume that it was originally paid by the taxpayer – is that a fair assumption?  When did you agree to pay the settlement off yourself – specifically, before or after you won the primary?  Why did you litigate this case for a solid half-decade, all the way to the US Supreme Court?
  2. Why So Angry?: While Tom Emmer has been almost over-the-top in his civility and positivity – refusing to even call you “The Opposition” in a radio interview last September, on the ideal that we all need to be on the same side eventually – your campaign is distinguished by having been almost entirely negative.  Your campaign has been heavy on witch-hunting (“tax the rich!”, references to Bush and Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty), scapegoating (“the rich”) and the occasional assurance that you are, indeed, part of some sort of Minnesota tradition.   And your campaign’s main mouthpiece, Alliance for a Better Minnesota, has run an absolute slime-fest – lying and/or mangling the context of Emmer’s criminal record, proposed education budget, and voting record.  Do you have a positive vision for your proposed administration?  Please state it.  Take your time, we can wait.
  3. What’s A Billion Or So Among Friends?: Your first attempt at a budget came up three billion dollars shy of solving the deficit.  Your second attempt is at least $890 million short, and given that even MPR figured out that you can’t cut $425 million in contractors without changing a lot of laws and regulations, it’s pretty likely to be well over a billion again.  Since you’re already soaking the rich, and you really are committed to not cutting a whole lot (since government is mostly sacred cows that are an integral part of your political base), what alternative do you have to soaking the middle class?
  4. Let Them Eat Food Stamps!: Your program looks, at best, to be a minor boon to state workers, and at the very, very best a hit to private employment.  Where and how does your plan facilitate private-sector job creation in Minnesota?  In fact, can you respond to the idea that further hikes on taxes will hamper private job creation?
  5. Between The Ears: The hit campaign run by your various PAC supporters has tried to paint Tom Emmer as temperamental.  OK – let’s talk temperament. Six years ago today you closed your Senate office.  You were branded “the Bumbler” by Time Magazine, which normally effuses for liberals.  In the aftermath of the 9/11 commission hearings, you launched a thousand conspiracy theories against the Bush administration, the Pentagon and the FAA for political purposes.  You’ve been treated for depression, and are a recovering alcoholic that’s had two relapses in the past decade.  Given your surrogates’ assaults on Tom Emmer, how can you say you are temperamentally suited to serve as governor?  And by the way, what is the nature of your current treatment for depression?  And while you don’t have to answer, I need to ask; what is your current DSM-IV classification?
  6. Paperwork!: You have opposed alternative teacher licensure – and yet your career as a teacher in New York , which you’ve chosen to make a key part of your public-service image, was made possible by alternative licensing.  Please resolve this bit of cognitive dissonance.
  7. Paperwork, Paperwork, Paperwork: Speaking of your teaching career, what coursework did you complete at U of Massachusetts Amherst?  Could you release a transcript?
  8. Attendance: Since your surrogates at ABM chose to highlight Tom Emmer’s “absences” from the House of Representatives, please tell us why your “teaching career” in New York only involved 84 days in the classroom during a period when there were at least 240 days when school was in session?
  9. More Paperwork!: What were the “personal reasons” for which you left the New York schools?   If someone were to say “because your likelihood of being drafted had dropped”, would you consider that accurate or inaccurate, and why?
  10. Staff: Can you announce any prospective staff appointments?  Specifically, is there any truth to the rumor that Mike Hatch is going to be your Chief of Staff?

Now, that’s what I’d ask if I were a reporter.

But I’m not.  I’m just a guy in Saint Paul with a job and a mortgage and a couple of kids.  We have a class of High Priests of Information in this town, people sworn to the arcane code of the “Professional Journalist” whose job it is to ask these sorts of questions.

So will they?

Will Bill Salisbury use his position as “dean of Minnesota capitol correspondents” and his access to the campaign to ask any of these questions?

Will Tim Pugmire and Tom Scheck live up to MPR’s current “No Rant, No Slant” tagline, and get answers from Mark Dayton on these sorts of questions? (Let’s return to discuss Keri Miller, whose contempt for Tom Emmer oozes from every audible pore, some other time).

Will Rachel Stassen-Berger, scienne of a Minnesota family nearly as household-y as Dayton himself, decide that the public as a right to know any of these things – before the election, anyway, while people are paying attention?

Will David Brauer and Erik Black use the stated independence of their platform, the MinnPost, from the DFL and its media-political complex to enquire further?

Will the Minnesota “Independent” , the “Uptake” and “Common Cause” er, ever have to register as 501(c)4 lobbying groups?

Buyer’s Remorse

The DFL – and their national benefactors – went all-in on Tarryl Clark against their bete noir, Michele Bachmann.

Clark is getting clobbered. Hammered. Beaten like a cheap steak. She’s going to lose by 10 points, and I actually starting to think I’m being conservative.

And the regional left is starting to have second thoughts about their monomania.

A few weeks back Dave Schultz – former head of überliberal “Common Cause Minnesota” and reliably lefty professor at Hamline University – bemoaned the imbalance of the spending:

There is virtually no chance the Democrats will defeat Bachmann. I have argued this for months. Bachmann’s sixth district seat is apportioned approximately six points ahead for Republicans. She is a conservative candidate in a conservative district. She is the Tea Party leader in a Tea Party GOP year. She fits her district well and has already survived several attempts to knock her off in previous years (most recently ’08) more favorable to Democrats. Democrats would be better served to wait until 2012, after reapportionment, when new lines may change the Sixth and make it more competitive, or when Bachmann makes the foolish move to run for the senate againt Klobuchar and gets waxed by her.

Yet Democrats cannot resist themselves. Democrats from around the country are pouring millions into this race and yet there is no evidence that Clark is catching up or gaining ground. Yes, Democrats have to challenge her and force her to campaign at home so that she does not travel and fundraise and campaign for others. But from a cost-benefit perspective, pouring millions here makes no sense. Sure there might be a symbolic victory in knocking her off, but with Democrats having to defend so many seats and having to decide where to best spend, resources need to be placed where it makes the most sense. That is why Minnesota’s Third District makes more sense.

Nick Coleman – still writing for the Strib (who knew?)  notes the dearth of attention paid to Shelly Madore, whom John Kline is going to beat by eleventy billion points  in the Second District next month:

The media either go gaga or go to sleep. In the northern suburbs, it’s gaga all the way: Republican Michele Bachmann and her opponent, Democrat Tarryl Clark, have drawn donations and attention from near and far. Still, just 40 percent of likely voters supported Clark in a recent poll, and the New York Times’ influential “FiveThirtyEight” website gives Clark tiny 1.2 percent odds of beating Bachmann.

It’s hard not to conclude that most of the attention to Minnesota’s Sixth District race is due to the flamboyant incumbent, not her worthy challenger. But at least Bachmann has agreed to debate Clark three times. That will allow voters to consider their choices and balance their view of the candidates, evaluating their message and their performance. However the race turns out, that’s good for the voters.

John Kline isn’t about to let that kind of thing happen in the Second District

But then, either is Keith Ellison in the Fifth.  Or Betty McCollum in the Fourth – yet.  Or, as far as I know, Oberstar in the Eighth, or Peterson in the Seventh.   Because candidates who perceive themselves – rightly or wrongly – to have insurmountable leads realize – rightly or wrongly – they have nothing to gain and plenty to lose by debating dark-horse challengers.  It’s a testimony to Bachmann’s love of the scrap and the fact that she just plan destroys Clark on facts (and the fact that both parties perceive the race as at least hypothetically competitive) that she’s debating at all.

At any rate – by November 3, the DFL will have wasted millions trying to unseat the, effectively, un-unseatable Bachmann.

Would the solid, long-term incumbent John Kline have been vulnerable to the skittery Madore?

Would the fringey, netroots-y Meffert have had a shot against an Erik Paulsen that seems to be growing more conservative as his district seems to follow suit?

We won’t know this year.

Cha ching.

Open Letter To Common Cause Minnesota

[I just sent the following to Mark Dean, director of Common Cause MN, which just filed a complaint against conservative PAC “Minnesota’s Future” for doing exactly what “Alliance For A Better Minnesota”, “Win Minnesota” and “The 2010 Fund” have been doing – or about 10% of what they’re doing, anyway…]

Mr. Dean,

I’m Mitch Berg, one of the hosts of the Northern Alliance Radio Network on AM1280 in the Twin Cities.

I’d like to invite you to appear on the “NARN” with Ed Morrissey and I one of these next weekends to discuss your complaint against “Minnesota’s Future”; we’re curious why Common Cause has neglected to file a similar complaint against “”Alliance For A Better MInnesota”, “Win Minnesota” and “The 2010 Fund”, which are doing exactly what you allege Minnesota’s Future has done, only with many times more money.

On the chance it was all a ghastly oversight, I’ll bring a complaint form. We can fill it out on the air together.

While the request is pointed, the Northern Alliance prides ourselves on doing civil, respectful interviews. Previous “non-partisan” guests include RT Rybak, Dane Smith, Eric Black and Rochelle Olson.

We would sincerely love to discuss this before the election.

Let me know if any of the next few Saturdays work. Our program airs from 1-3PM.

I do hope to hear from you.


Mitch Berg

Co-host, The Northern Alliance Radio Network,

AM1280 (WWTC-AM) Radio.

“Shot In The Dark” (

“True North” (

Common Shills

Common Cause Minnesota is a “non-profit, non-partisan” organization whose every initiative is, mirabile dictu, exactly in sync with the “progressive” wing of the Minnesota DFL.

No huge shock there.

Speech rationing – “campaign finance reform” – has long been one of their main initiatives.  Read for yourself.  They want – so they claim – transparency in politics.

Of course, as Luke Hellier notes at MDE, they are a 501c4 lobbying organization which, in 2008, took in over $665,000 on donations, entirely from anonymous “individual” sources (check it out starting on Page 13 of this very large PDF file).

Sample swiped from MDE

Sample swiped from MDE

Now, the law doesn’t require them to divulge exactly who their donors are – which is kind of a weaselly out for a group that wants government to limit and regulate your First Amendment right to political speech.

At any rate, yesterday they released word that they were going to file a complaint against a series of Minnesota political action committees (PACs) that were playing a shell game with third-party donations, trying to make accountability difficult.

And given how hard Common Cause has been proclaiming their ecumenicism and non-partisan mission, I thought “Halleluiah!  They’re going to do something about the epic three-card monte game the Dayton campaign has going on!”

As we discussed last June, the Dayton campaign was being supported by a huge ad campaign from a group called “Alliance for a Better Minnesota”.  At that time, ABM’s funding came from a bunch of unions, and a group called “Win Minnesota”, which was largely funded by…the Dayton family; as of last June, the list was…:

  • Andrew Dayton $1,000
  • David Dayton $50,000
  • John cowles $25,000 [former Strib publisher]
  • MaryLee Dayton $250,000
  • Emily Tuttle (MN) $5,000
  • Ronald Sternal (MN) $5,000
  • Alida Messinger (NY) $500,000
  • James Deal (MN) $50,000
  • Roger Hale (MN) $10,000 [Remember him from above?]
  • Barbara forster (MN) $25,000
  • Democratic Governors Association $250,000 [remember them; they’ll appear later in this story]

Win Minnesota also funded a group which at the time had no name, but which shared an address with Win Minnesota, which has since been named “The 2010 Fund”.   2010 of last June had about $850K in the bank, including money from:

  • Alida Messinger (Mpls) $50,000
  • Win Minnesota $50,000
  • Education MN $250,000
  • Laborers District Council $100,000
  • MAPE $50,000
  • IBEW MN State Council $50,000
  • MN Nurses Assc $50,000
  • Local 49 Engineers $25,000
  • Vance Opperman $50,000 [the “progressive” plutocrat former owner of Thomson/West publishing]
  • Afscme Council 5 $50,000
  • MN AFL-CIO $25,000
  • SEIU MN State Council $50,000
  • AFSCME (Wash DC) $50,000;

I’m looking for the updated numbers from all of these funds.

So who does Common Cause go after?

Who would you think? (emphasis added):

Common Cause Minnesota has uncovered a scheme by the Minnesota’s Future political committee and the Republican Governors Association (RGA) to avoid Minnesota’s original source disclosure law by funneling a $428,000 contribution from the RGA to Minnesota’s Future through a shell company. The company, Minnesota Future, LLC was created just days before it received the contribution from the RGA and immediately transferred the funds to the Minnesota’s Future political committee.

Today, three separate complaints were filed with the Minnesota Campaign Finance Disclosure Board against Minnesota’s Future, Minnesota Future, LLC, and the RGA. The complaints allege that the three groups together violated multiple state statutes ranging from circumvention of campaign finance laws, failing to register as a political committee, and failing to report receipts and expenditures. The three entities could face $5.1 million in civil penalties and criminal prosecution.

“This was a brazen attempt to circumvent Minnesota’s disclosure law,” said Mike Dean, Executive Director of Common Cause Minnesota. “The public has a right to know what special interests are behind political ads, especially during a hotly contested election.”

So the public has a “right to know” the money behind “Minnesota’s Future” from the Republican Governors Association…

…but the multiple millions of dollars from the Dayton Family, the unions, and the Democratic Governors Assocication which financed the most vile smear campaign in the history of Minnesota politics (under the cover of a phony grass-roots organization funded by the Dayton family!) isn’t something “the public” needs to know about?

I’ve invited a representative of Common Cause to come on the Northern Alliance tomorrow to discuss what would be brazen hypocrisy from a genuinely “non-partisan” organization.

Any bets?