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.

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..

Astroturf Rising, 2011

Minnesota is heading for a battle over redistricting that may just make the just-passed budget battle look like a stroll in the park.

And, just like with every such battle lately in Minnesota, there is at least one “non-partisan” non-profit claiming to have the interests of average, non-affiliated Minnesotans at heart.  There are a couple of reasons for this; for starters, the Minnesota DFL is a largely impotent organization;

In the 2010 elections, of course, it was “Alliance for a Better Minnesota” and a small circle of other groups – “The 2010 Fund”  – a group that funnelled millions of dollars from unions, the Dayton family, and their cronies to try to win the election for Mark Dayton (largely by running a toxic sleaze campaign).  Their power in “progressive” circles is remarkable; Governor Dayton has brought a fair number of ABM’s staffers to work in his office; the former head of the “2010 Fund”, Ken Martin, now runs the DFL.

And for the redistricting battle?  The new astroturf group is “Draw The Line”, an organization that spans several states where the Democrats are fighting for their organizational lives, including Minnesota.

So who’s behind “Draw the Line?”  And what are they after – and by “they”, I don’t mean “Draw The Line”, so much as the people behind them?

More next week here on Shot In The Dark.