Skip to Content

'Inappropriate relationship' reportedly led to Koch exit

AFTERNOON EDITION
Sen. Amy Koch
MinnPost/James Nord
Sen. Amy Koch

WCCO's Pat Kessler set the state Capitol and Minnesota's political community abuzz this afternoon with his report about events leading up to Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch's abrupt decision Thursday to step down as leader and not seek re-election. Reports Kessler: "Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch resigned her post Thursday after she was confronted by GOP Senate leaders about allegations of an inappropriate relationship with a Senate staffer, according to high level State Capitol sources. Those sources confirmed that four Republican Senators held an emergency meeting with Koch Wednesday night, after multiple Senate staffers reported the possible improper conduct."

The last Ford Ranger, and the last vehicle of any kind, rolled off the company’s St. Paul assembly line today. At MPR, Matt Sepic files a farewell piece: “In the mid 1920s, the St. Paul Ford plant had all the latest industrial technology. But the jobs still required a lot of muscle, and managers pushed employees to work faster and faster. ‘The line kept going no matter what,’ said the late Ken Muxlow, in a recorded interview with [historian Brian] McMahon, who started working at the Twin Cities Assembly Plant in 1929 tacking seat cushions on Model As. ‘If you had to go to the bathroom, you had to go, and you had to catch up your job when you got back, and that was it,’ Muxlow said. ‘They didn't give you any time.’ Labor leaders once lauded Henry Ford for his revolutionary $5-a-day wage. But as the century progressed and working conditions got more difficult, employees wanted to organize. McMahon said Ford stopped at nothing to prevent workers from forming a union. ‘For many, many years in the late '30s, the company was more intent on waging war on its workers than making cars,’ said McMahon. ‘And 10 percent of the workforce were basically spies trying to weed out potential union organizers.’ The United Auto Workers finally organized Ford plants nationwide during World War II, when President Franklin Roosevelt threatened to cut off defense contracts. In St. Paul, newly unionized workers built tanks, armored cars, and aircraft engine parts. And for a time women were a major part of the workforce.”

Speaking of … The always quotable Eliot Seide, local director of AFSCME, lays into Strib regular Jason Lewis on the value of unions: “If every worker belonged to a union, America would be a place where labor was rewarded with respect on the job, wages that could raise a family, health care if people got sick, and a dignified retirement. Lewis also uses his bullhorn to blame public employees for deficits and debt. The working class shouldn't be fooled by his attempt to distract and divide us. Public workers teach our kids, heal the sick, protect our communities, plow our roads, clean our water and much more. Erasing all of us wouldn't begin to erase our state or federal deficits. ... The real culprits are the political and economic elites who keep getting richer by putting corporate greed ahead of public need. They excused Wall Street for gambling away our 401(k) savings. They let predatory lenders foreclose on our homes. They helped insurance companies put profits ahead of patients. And they helped corporations ship our jobs overseas. Now Lewis and the elites want to give Minnesotans the right to work for less money.”

Aaron Sinner of the Matt Entenza Minnesota 2020 think tank offers a bit more clarity on health insurance exchanges: “Pop Quiz! Identify which of the following elements were and were not included in the final health reform package President Obama signed into law:
a. A new government-run insurance plan
b. Subsidies to help individuals pay for health insurance
c. Tax credits for small businesses
d. A ban on co-pays for preventive care
e. A government panel that makes decisions about end-of-life care for Medicare recipients

The Affordable Care Act crossed the President’s desk in March 2010 — just over a year and a half ago. Yet even today, most Americans don’t know much about what’s in the law. (Quiz answers: b, c, and d are all actual components of the law.) ... The exchange plays a crucial role in health reform going forward. Minnesota 2020 has previously detailed how the Affordable Care Act will impact Minnesota (see here and here), but it’s worth noting that the exchange plays a central role by (1) providing a one-stop shop for purchasing insurance on the individual marketplace, a previously-difficult way to buy insurance, and (2) offering an easy access point to determine one’s eligibility for health insurance subsidies. The law makes health insurance affordable like never before by expanding Medicaid up to 133% of the federal poverty line—an annual income of $29,000 for a family of four—and by offering graduated subsidies for households making up to four times the poverty  line—$88,000 for that same family of four.”

The AP covers the List of the Day, this time “the most secure cities in America.” Happily for us, when we tire of dodging the constant gunfire, natural disasters and terrorism in Edina and North Oaks, we can move to ... Moorhead: “The Farmers Insurance Group of Companies says if you want to live in a secure place, the Dakotas are a good place to be. Fargo, N.D., and neighboring Moorhead, Minn., is No. 3 on the Farmers Insurance annual list of most-secure midsize cities in the U.S. Sioux Falls, S.D., is No. 6. The category includes cities that have between 150,000 and 500,000 residents. Bismarck, N.D., is No. 3 on that list, and Rapid City, S.D., is thirteenth. The rankings take into account numerous factors, from crime and weather to the risk of natural disasters and terrorism.”

Over in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker may need to add a little octane to his “It’s working” theme. Covering the latest unemployment figures, Mike Ivey of the Capital Times writes: “Wisconsin lost another 14,600 jobs in November, the fifth straight month of declines, even though the unemployment rate here fell to 7.3 percent, the lowest level in a year. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' preliminary employment report released Thursday showed Wisconsin with 14,600 fewer non-farm positions in November compared to October. That figure includes 11,700 fewer private sector positions. Nationally, there were 120,000 jobs added in November, according to the BLS report. Illinois added 600 jobs while Minnesota lost 13,700 positions. But Wisconsin officials caution the BLS has badly overestimated previous job declines, including last month when the preliminary figures showed Wisconsin losing 9,700 positions. That figure was revised to show the state actually losing 2,400 jobs in October — a difference of 7,300.” OK, so “it is working” ... except where it’s not.

Today in Bachmannia: If you’re into the whole twisty theory wherein Our Gal has a secret pact with Mitt Romney, maybe in exchange for The Mittster appointing her secretary of state, you’ll like this analysis of last night’s debate from CBS News: “Romney ... benefited from his opponent's side skirmishes. Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann attacked Gingrich about the $1.6 million he received from Freddie Mac. ‘The speaker had his hand out and he was taking $1.6 million to influence senior Republicans to keep the scam going in Washington,’ said Bachmann. Gingrich was not at his best in defending himself. He kept having to insist that he never lobbied. His effort to argue a distinction between consulting and lobbying was probably lost on most people. He said he was a private citizen operating in the free enterprise system.  ... Bachmann was relentless saying that conservatives couldn't be weak on the issue of abortion. And she hit hard when Gingrich questioned her facts yet again. ‘I think it's outrageous to continue to say over and over through the debate that I don't have my facts right. When as a matter of fact, I do. I'm a serious candidate for president of the United States. And my facts are accurate.’ This was a very good moment for Bachmann. Unfortunately, Gingrich was validated by the fact checkers. Bachmann, in defending herself, said that Polifact had come out and said that everything she had said was true. Politifact labeled that claim as "pants on fire," its most negative rating.”  

The controversial decision to overrule the FDA on the so-called “morning after” pill sparks a commentary at MPR from Sarah Stoez of the regional Planned Parenthood chapter: “[A]t Planned Parenthood we know and care for teens every day who find themselves in a desperate situation with no one to turn to. Whether it is a teen who needs a reliable, long-term contraceptive or emergency contraception, our moral compass tells us that everyone deserves the chance to prevent unintended pregnancy. No matter what her age. Every day in Minnesota, 19 teens become pregnant and 13 become moms. When a girl enters motherhood before she's ready, there are serious health risks for both mom and baby. Pregnant teens are at higher risk for premature labor, anemia and preeclampsia. And babies of teen mothers stand a higher chance of being born prematurely, posing very serious risks to the child's health and life. Beyond this, becoming a parent as a teen has been closely linked to poverty, putting both the parent and the child at risk for a lifetime of struggle. Birth control is no stranger to controversy, but we must keep the facts front and center. The decision to maintain the status quo on emergency contraception won't prevent teens from becoming sexually active and it won't help parents keep their kids safe."

Get MinnPost's top stories in your inbox

Comments (24)

Oh my! Poor Ms. Koch doesn't even have gay marriage as a scapegoat since it's not legal in this state (yet).

The Obamacare government panel makes decisions about how much each procedure and type of end-of-life care will cost, and whether Obamacare will cover it. The people on the panel are unelected and unaccountable. If the panel decides the care is too expensive, we won't be able to get it. It is doubtful a physician, nurse or caregiver will provide the care for free. This is why many people opposed to Obamacare call these panels, "death panels."

What do Dennis Tester and Thomas Swift have to say about the Koch debacle?

I don't agree with Amy Koch on political issues, but it sounds like she's a smart, competent person who was good at her job. If it's true that she's stepping down for an "indiscretion" (and assuming it's not more shocking than average) it seems to me an unfortunate double standard that she's being forced out because of her personal life. Male politicians generally make public apologies for these things and go on with their lives; maybe they get voted out later, maybe not.

Am I terribly surprised that there would be a double standard? Or that the Republican party apparently cannot help but judge someone's professional life by their personal life? No, not even a little.

@1: Yeah, but there's always pornography and atheists.

Rosalind: You could simply replace the term "Obamacare" with "Health Insurance Company: to make your statement accurate.

#4: I have to disagree with this:

"Male politicians generally make public apologies for these things and go on with their lives;"

Anthony Weiner, Eliot Spitzer David Wu and Bob Livingston, all resigned, just for starters.

The only examples I can think of off the top of my head (I'm sure there are more) are Sens. Larry Craig and David Vitter, who refused to resign. Sen Craig didn't run for re-election, and Sen Vitter ran and won.

There are more than enough examples of male politicians resigning, that there's no simple claim that a double standard exists.

"At Planned Parenthood ... our moral compass tells us"

Oh, no she di-int!

----------------------

I'll never understand how politicians think they'll get away from extra-curricular shenanigans...there's only one Barney Frank.

I have to admit that I'm not surprised to learn there was more to the story, politicians generally have to have their cold-dead fingers removed from their cozy jobs unless something like this happens.

In any case I'm sorry to lose Sen. Koch and congratulate her on having at least enough sense to know when it's time to pull the plug.

Ah, yes, Koch, a card carrying member of the party of family values. I. too, look forward to Swift and Tester weighing in on this, although their contribution is likely to comprise a few bleats about "Clinton!" and (gasp) "Roosevelt!"--as if any R these days can match their stature as presidents and policians, and as if it were the D party that endlessly trumpets "FAMILY VALUES."

;))

Why is it that when this kind of story erupts, so many of the perps turn out to be Republicans? Anybody know? A gene, perhaps?

Sordid as this all is, it may have the salutary effect of ending Koch's fantasies of succeeding Bachman. Rs, your sun is setting.

So, what's Zellers been up to lately?

CJ: At least with insurance companies, consumers have a choice. If they don't like the coverage they can switch carriers. We can't do that with Obamacare. There's only ONE Obamacare, and we're going to be stuck with it. Rationing, here we come!

You're right will, we Republican's do treasure traditional family values and we expect our elected leaders to lead by example, that's why Amy pulled the plug without complaint...she knew she was through. If she were a Democrat, this wouldn't even qualify as a bump in the road.

Championing decency carries with it the fact that failure to adhere will surely result in mockery, especially when the opposition is openly promoting and celebrating every manner of debauchery known to man.

Still, I think we'll stick with what we know is right.

#10: Rosalind: You are misinformed. Affordable Care Act does not mandate which insurer you choose, just that you choose one. If you have health insurance now, it's unlikely anything will change except for things like pre-existing condition coverage exclusions will disappear after 2014. Health care is indeed already rationed by insurance companies in a grossly unfair way. The Affordable Care Act has its faults, mainly in that it doesn't really address the rising costs of health care. IMO, that won't happen until we have single payer in this country. But most of what the Affordable Health Care Act does is in the positive direction for health insurance buyers.

BTW, the "penalties" for not choosing under the Affordable Care Act are quite tame and unenforceable except for withholding from tax refunds.

#10- if you are purchasing your own insurance, your choice is what you can afford. If your employer pays, you take what is offered. If you or a family member has a pre-existing condition, You are screwed and will file bankruptcy. Yea, the system now has lots of choices.

Some of us have obviously never had a serious health problem nor had to deal with a private insurance company over coverage of such a problem.

In reality, if we were to go with federally-operated health care (which the Affordable Care Act is NOT), the ONLY reason rationing would ever come into play would be because the taxpayers would refuse to fund the system sufficiently to meet their own needs.

The truth is, "rationing" of health care is already here. Private insurance companies practice it 365 days a year (regardless of what their policies promise they will cover). They've been doing it for a very long time.

If you think you have no influence over the administration of the Affordable Care Act,...

just try changing the mind of an insurance company when they've decided they won't cover you (even though your policy says they will),...

ESPECIALLY if you're not inclined to, able to afford to, and/or too elderly and confused to hire a lawyer to fight with them (or you're dead).

The only place insurance companies DON'T ration is in paying the salaries of their executives, their boards of directors, and their lawyers.

At least you have a ghost of a chance of holding a politician's feet to the fire to force changes in government health care policy.

Try doing THAT with those who set the internal (executive compensation and perks coupled with investor payouts are far more important than actually providing care to those we insure) rules of your insurance company, if you can even discover what those rules are and who made them.

Congress debates such things in public. Insurance companies decide in private to do whatever they blessedly (or cursedly) well please.

Back up Rosalind. You have no idea what "Obamacare" is. You're guaranteed you'll be able to buy private insurance. That's pretty much all it is.

Ms. Kohls, we already have the "rationing" and "death panels" the R's fear so loudly.
The insurance companies just call them by other names, like "pre-existing condition," or "experimental treatments" that they refuse to cover.

The biggest single cause of bankruptcy in America today is people running out of benefits they earned while working, due to lifetime caps on benefits. And the insurance companies count the dollars billed, not paid, against your lifetime cap.

We'd all be way better off if we'd just expand Medicare to cover everyone.

#11 says "we Republican's do treasure traditional family values and we expect our elected leaders to lead by example, that's why Amy pulled the plug without complaint...she knew she was through."

And if she had never been caught? Someone who truly lives by their internal set of values does so whether anyone is there to see (and judge) them or not.

According to the reports, her behavior was reported by "Senate staffers" over two weeks ago. Which means this behavior has been going on for some time prior to that. How much longer would it have continued had it never been discovered and reported?

Amy didn't "pull the plug" due to any sanctimonious adherence to "family values". She "pulled the plug" because she was caught violating them, that violation was going to be made public, and she could no longer keep getting away with living the lie of Republican purity.

"You're right will, we Republican's do treasure traditional family values and we expect our elected leaders to lead by example,"

Certainly explains why Sen Vitter, that serial prostitute visiting married man still sits in the US Senate while Eliot Spitzer is on cable tv.

Face it, there's more than enough examples on both sides of politicians resigning or digging in when scandal erupts.

Which idiot floated the idea of Michele Bachmann as Secretary of State? Is there anyone in the country who would be crazy enough to even consider offering her the job?

Mr. Coy is correct when he says that medical costs are not subject to normal market forces, although I suspect we'd disagree about the reasons.

The guiding principle in setting medical care cost is "What will the market bear?" I got that first hand some years ago from a man whose business was to advise providers on what they can charge. He always began with workers comp charges, which,he said, "everyone knows pays the most". The lower end is governed by Medicare and Medicaid resimbursement rates. (I continue to believe these programs adequatley compensate providers, if only on the ground that the providers marginal costs for providing that treatment are relatively small. Any provider who does not draw patients from the privately funded, higher paying sector needs to examine the quality of its services.)

One of the greatest influences on medical care costs, in my experience, is the existence of third-pary payors, be they medical insurance companies, employers (worker's comp), auto insurers (no-fault), or the government (Medicare, Medicaid). Providers know exactly how much they can charge per service and charge it, while adding services to increase total charges. It's not rocket science. It's human cupidity, on display in virtually every human activity.

Market forces largely determine what the uninsured individual is charged, however, because they don't have the economic power to force lower prices, as do insurers and the government. (The government, unlike private insurers, foolishly refuses to use all of the economic power it commands. E.g., negotiating drug prices.) Only the uninsured pay "sticker prices" for medical care in this country. The losses sustained as a result of those who default on payment are, by and large, more than offset by the profits generated on the rest of us.

How crazy is this?

As for "Obamacare death panels": get a grip on reality. Decisions are made every day by the same insurers that will be providing coverage under the ACA. It appears that the feds will set coverage minimums and that states will be free to require higher limits or broader coverage as they deem fit. This is essentially what we see in Minnesota today: all insurance policies (health, auto, life, fire, etc.) must contain certain basic terms and coverages, yet insurers are free to offer higher limits of broader coverage. Whether they're looking at madnatory coverages or elective coverages, I've yet to encounter an insurer who doesn't look to the exclusions and limitations at some points. The more money that is involved, the greater the likelihood of review.

Insurers are, despite pretenses at non-profit status in some areas, profit-making enterprises. This leads to some serious problems at times, including denial of coverage for covered conditions and procedures. I know this first hand, as a result of 25 years of work with insurers (for and against) and very recent personal experience, in which an insurer-employee made a determination of medical necessity with no semblance of the necessary education and training and then drafted a letter for a practicing physician, who then signed off on that letter with what I can only conclude was with complete disregard for its contents. (The employee had used the wrong industry standard for deciding whether to continue certain treatments and then misapplied those standards. I know this because the insurer ultimately provided me with a copy of the correct standard.) Fortunately, I was in a position to identify this and the fact that the decision was not made by a medical professional and successfully appeal. Most are not. It shouldn't require a law degree and specialized knowledge of insurance contracts to be protected from events of this type.

Neither the ACA nor any other form of medical expense payment, private or public, will put an end to this problem. It is inherent in the need to control costs, whether that need arises from the profit motive, economic pressures, or political pressure. There are legitimate areas for disagreement over which treatments are appropriate and which should be paid for by any collective wallet. We can begin, however, by requring that medical necessity determinations be made by independent medical professionals, not mid-level administrative personnel or anyone else whose own employment or financial well-being might be affected by the decision made. With luck, my great-grandchildren might see that before they die.

Rosalind, Obviously you have never heard of space utilization committees in hospitals. You know, the people who work for hospitals that make the determination that if you aren't getting better, there is another paying patient who needs the bed. So, out the door with you. That practice has been around for a lot longer than most people would cared to realize. And, it is not based on insurance or lack thereof. Quite simply if you're gonna die, do it somewhere's else, thank you and here's your bill.

Breathlessly, "...Pat Kessler set the state Capitol and Minnesota's political community abuzz this afternoon with his report about events leading up to Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch's abrupt decision Thursday to step down as leader and not seek re-election." So Kessler scooped everyone else in the news media on this story? If so, kudos, Mr. Kessler, on setting people abuzz!

Swifty, slow down, I'm getting sick just watching you spin.

First, there's only one Barney Frank? There's also only one Newt. Unlike your party, at least Barney will never be the frontrunner for the presidency.

Second, so the standard for the party of decency and family values is "resign when you get caught"? Wow, can the height of that bar be any lower?

In the European countries whose system Governor Romney sort-of copied when he set up MassCare and the Senate and President sort-of copied in turn, health care to a country's citizens is privately provided and insured. However, the reason those countries spend about half what we do per person is that:

1) the government sets a uniform benefit set
2) the government studies health care costs each year and tells care providers whether or not they can increase their prices
3) the government reviews insurance premium costs each year and tells the insurers exactly what they can charge in order to cover current costs
4) when patients visit their exchanges to choose an insurer, they do so on the basis of customer service, not price.

I heard the other day that the Obama administration told the insurance industry that they didn't have use a uniform benefit set. This GIFT to the industry means people will search out the lowest price without reading every line of fine print to see if their own existing conditions (or probable ones) are covered and won't find out they're not until they get sick.