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MPR report lays out gory details of GOP money woes

AFTERNOON EDITION

Our Joe Kimball has already noted and linked to MPR’s impressive story on the financial woes of the state GOP. Tom Scheck and Catharine Richert put the piece together. Among other high-/lowlights, if you haven’t had time to read the whole thing: “In 2006 — the last time every member of the Legislature and every constitutional officer were on the ballot — campaign finance reports show the party received $1.8 million in donations that were $100 or less. In 2010, reports show the party raised only $255 from small donors. Sutton said he thought he could make up for the loss by tapping wealthy donors for cash. But he conceded he should have scaled back spending to keep the books balanced. ... Trimble [and Associates, the party’s law firm] billed the party even when there was no apparent legal crisis. Federal election records show the party paid Trimble $66,460 in 2011, a year with no noteworthy legal matters. ‘The size of the legal bills is shocking,’ [Pat] Anderson said. Trimble said that his firm did only the legal work that was requested. He characterized the Republican Party as ‘a great client’ and defended his rates. ... State law forbids a candidate from paying himself for work. But it doesn't prohibit candidates and political parties from hiring elected officials. Mike Dean, executive director of the government watchdog group Common Cause Minnesota, said he believes the Republican Party of Minnesota is circumventing that law. ... During Sutton's tenure, Joe Schomacker, who is now a Republican state representative from Luverne, worked on the party's field staff while he was running for his seat. He earned roughly $1,800 a month. And one legislator is still under contract. Party records show Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, was paid $70,000 for communications consulting beginning in October of 2009 — four months after Sutton defeated him for party chair. In 2010, Thompson ran for state Senate and won while working for the party. He overwhelmingly defeated Democrat Steve Quist.” It would, of course, be cynical and scurrilous to breathe the phrase “crony capitalism.”


Our Guy T-Paw, a big Bruce Springsteen fan he has said, is also up on his Kardashiana. Says “Mary Jane” at Gather.com: “Pawlenty used Kris' name at a South Carolina Republican event for presidential candidate Mitt Romney. And it seems that Minnesota's governor doesn't feel bad for Kris Humphries, even though many believe that Kris was used by Kim Kardashian for publicity. ‘I don't want you to feel too sorry for him, I mean his marriage lasted longer than my presidential campaign,’ Pawlenty said about Humphries. It seems like an odd statement for a governor to say considering Kris has always spoken so fondly of Minnesota, his home state, on Kourtney and Kim Take New York. Hopefully, Kris can demand an apology from the governor, as the bashing seemed to be uncalled for. Maybe he was just trying to make a mainstream joke about what is going on in the celebrity industry, but he should be careful considering Kris partially represents Minnesota on one of the biggest reality shows on television at this point.” Yeah! That show has ratings you can only dream of, dude!

Sommerfest, the Minnesota Orchestra’s summer series, is moving over to the Ted Mann Concert Hall at the U of M campus. In the Strib, Graydon Royce says: “This is the first time since Sommerfest originated in 1980 that the event has not been held downtown at Orchestra Hall and Peavey Plaza. A reconstruction project at Orchestra Hall necessitates the shift. The orchestra will play its 2012-13 season, beginning next fall, at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Ted Mann is known for great acoustics and a glass-walled lobby that overlooks the river. With 1,126 seats, it has roughly half the capacity of Orchestra Hall. An outside terrace that is decidedly smaller than Peavey Plaza will be available to ticket holders for pre-concert activities, food and drink.”

A post by Rachel Stassen-Berger at the Strib says: “The state should contribute $30 million to clean up the former ammunitions plant site at Arden Hills this year if the Ramsey County location is not selected as the future home of the Minnesota Vikings, Gov. Mark Dayton said Friday. ‘I told the county commissioners that I would put in and work hard for $30 million of bonding to clean up the site if the project, if the stadium goes elsewhere so we can get that ready to be developed. It is just a fabulous piece of property potentially,’ Dayton said. He said he did not put the money in the borrowing proposal he released last week because he did not want to prejudge where the stadium would be built.”

Key bit of information here … “five minutes.” Also at the Strib, Baird Helgeson reports: “Former Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch will be holding media interviews Tuesday, her first interviews since she resigned her leadership post last month after admitting to an inappropriate relationship with a male staffer. Koch, a Buffalo Republican, will only allow five minute interviews per media outlet.” I’m sure everyone will use their precious time asking about the bonding bill.

Today in Bachmannia: (And yes, my heart swells at the opportunity to write that again). Ben Szobody at GreenvilleOnLine in South Carolina writes: “Bachmann’s spokeswoman told GreenvilleOnline.com this afternoon that a statement widely distributed to voters in South Carolina in which Bachmann is quoted ripping Newt Gingrich did not come from the campaign, even though she said it appeared to be official. Alice Stewart, spokeswoman for the former presidential candidate, told GreenvilleOnline.com in an interview that someone forwarded the statement to her, and that even though it bore the same email address as her later, official statement, it was not from the campaign.” The allegedly bogus statement said, in part: “I am not yet prepared to offer my endorsement, but look forward to doing so in the coming weeks. However, through this exhaustive process of consideration, it was strikingly obvious that one candidate could not be less acceptable to be our Party's nominee. He lacks the poise, experience and moral fiber to represent our principles and values. That candidate is Newt Gingrich. In sum, our nation is in desperate need of a proven and moral leader who can point us back in the right direction —not a desperately flawed candidate like Newt Gingrich who has only proven he cannot lead.” Now, on the other hand that nice Mitt Romney ...

Edina-based salon corporation Regis, under pressure from off-shore hedge fund investors, has fired a top executive. Says Tom Webb at the PiPress: “Regis Corp. has fired its chief operating officer, David Bortnem, the Edina-based firm said today. The Regis board of directors on Thursday named an interim replacement: Eric Bakken, 44, executive vice president, general counsel and business development. The moves were disclosed in a regulatory filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Regis is in the midst of a shakeup, after a slate of hedge-fund critics won three seats to Regis' board of directors this fall. Those critics said the company had strayed too far from its core U.S. salon business, and have urged the company to conduct a series of asset sales and belt-tightening measures.”

Talk about a high(er)-brow con … Paul Srubas of the Green Bay Press Gazette reports on the inmate who appealed to hungry minds: “A prison inmate with eight aliases is scheduled to enter a plea Feb. 10 in Winnebago County Circuit Court to a charge that he ran a fake university with ties to Green Bay. Kenneth Shong, 45, a Racine Correctional Institution inmate, is accused of one count of being party to fraud. After a preliminary hearing Thursday, Winnebago County Court Commissioner John Kuech found probable cause and scheduled the plea hearing. A criminal complaint says Shong is a career con artist who ran Carlingford University, a nonexistent campus set up to be a ‘diploma mill’ with phony branches in Green Bay and elsewhere. Shong is accused of scamming a fellow inmate out of $1,740.50 in tuition money while serving time at the Oshkosh Correctional Institution in 2006.”

A Republican strategist writes an opinion piece in U.S. News saying: “A powerful team of Democrats and labor unions are forcing Gov. Scott Walker to run for office for the second time in under two years. Why? Because when he faced the fourth largest deficit in the country at the beginning of his term, Walker dared to take on the unions that were crippling his state. It appears that the recall election will be held sometime midsummer, and GOP faithful all around the country should pay very close attention. The recall election in Wisconsin is very important for three reasons:

  1. It will determine if Republicans nationwide are willing to take on the unions
  2. It will be a bellwether for the November House, Senate, and presidential contests
  3. It will determine Walker's political future

"A Walker loss would send a message that unions, no matter how much damage they are doing to the economy and their members, cannot be touched.

Also taking heat, the Strib, from Sarah Janecek, for its “decision” on Steve Sviggum and “conflicts of interest.” She says: “According to our state’s largest newspaper, ‘Sviggum’s employment has put him in a situation fraught with conflict of interest.’ To that I ask, really? Is that a road we really want to travel? How about all those legislators who also work for other units of government? Does that mean they, too, have to abstain from public service if they have another government job? They certainly are voting on many issues — including funding — that affect those other governmental units. That rules out the teachers, the professors, the public defenders, the assistant county attorneys, the government-paid-for economic development people. That weeds out the legislators who work for nonprofits that benefit from appropriations made by the legislature. [There are hundreds (and hundreds) of local nonprofits who receive millions of dollars in pass-through federal and state government funding.] Goodbye to legislators who work for companies that have received major state bailouts over the years.” And yes, she does mention the Strib’s parking lot conflicts with a Vikings stadium.

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Comments (11)

Small donor donations down from 1.8 million to 255 bucks in 4 years?!? Implausible, if not almost impossible, even without the state refund. More than that had to have been donated, the question is just what it got called and where it was funneled...

would have been more of a valid number if the report had listed the small-donor number for the Dems.

In the world of Sarah Janecek, apparently there are no conflicts of interest. Or there are so many that they should simply be ignored. I note that Ms. Janecek has been riding the running boards of the Minnesota GOP bus for the last twenty years. She is not a disinterested or neutral party in this matter.

Fortunately, hers is a minority view, at least judging from the comments made by most of the folks on the Strib piece.

It is more than unseemly that a sitting member of the Board of Regents take over the job formerly held by Michael Brodkorb. One that he turned into the worst kind of partisan and politicized platform. Ms. Janecek is well aware of Mr. Brodkorb's modus operandi, having written about him recently and extensively on her own blog.

"The University's Charter, later codified in the Minnesota Constitution, created the Board of Regents to be an independent, non-partisan governing body that acts strictly in the best interest of the University of Minnesota."

link: http://bit.ly/wGz3Dv

For emphasis, Ms. Janecek: "non-partisan."

And it should be noted that this is the second conflict of interest incident, within a year, that has led to Sviggum's having to give up one of two conflicted positions.

Mr. Sviggum seems to be a heat seeking missile for conflict of interest. Perhaps he should be the team player he claims and resign his Regent's seat?

How can the Board trust someone who would embarrass them in this way by accepting the position without explicitly clearing it first?

Hypotheticals in a case like this amount to dishonesty.

I thought the MPR piece on Republican Party finances was fascinating. As a DFL activist, my self, I admit to a certain amount of schadenfreude when I read of the GOP's money troubles. But I am also aware that what happened to the Republican Party could happen to anyone. The vast majority of people involved in politics on all sides, I firmly believe, are good and decent people. But there are also a lot of charlatans, a lot of con men, and a lot of people just out to make a buck and that's especially true these days when so much money is coming into political campaigns. And sad to say, that's true on both sides as well.

It's interesting to see where the Republicans get their donations, and who they thought they'd get their donations from. Maybe wealthy people aren't quite as enamored with crappy economies, perpetual crises, and budget deficits as Sutton thought they were.

There is no more "Bachmania". You devoted an entire paragraph to telling us about something she hasn't done. Is there anything else she hasn't done, are you sure you haven't missed something? Please... stop.

I would note that given the Republican Party's massive debt, it will be very hard for them to raise money going forward. Activists will quite properly say, why should I contribute to the 2010 campaign, when the 2012 campaign is upon us and needs to be fought. As a practical matter, this goes to the nature of the Sutton screw up. In the first place, he made the mistakes of not getting a rein on expenditures, and not keeping track of what he was spending. Secondly, he didn't do those things right after the election, which would have allowed him to raise money, fresh off the GOP legislative election triumphs in 2010. With the 2012 elections upon us, 2010 is now a thing of the past. And added to that were the unforeseeable troubles, the former GOP leadership in the senate managed to create for themselves. Hardly the sort of thing that motivates donors to entrust the leadership with their money. The joys o schadenfreude aside, this is a distressing thing for our politics generally, because it's just one more thing that enhances the power of outside organizations. In some weird way the lawyers have managed to convince themselves if not anyone else, that the lack of accountability from these organizations is a virtue, instead assault on the fairness and propriety of our electoral process that it is.

Sarah Janacek is cunning, alright. To equate Steve Sviggum's conflict of interest to a schoolteacher running for office is a study in cynicism. Steve Sviggum has a well-compensated position on the Board of Regents of the biggest University in the state. He's also taking the top propaganda position of one of the two major parties in the state. To attempt to equate that to "the teachers, the professors, the public defenders, the assistant county attorneys, the government-paid-for economic development people..." is classic Janacek dissumulation.

She could only wish that "That weeds out the legislators who work for nonprofits that benefit from appropriations made by the legislature. [There are hundreds (and hundreds) of local nonprofits who receive millions of dollars in pass-through federal and state government funding.] Goodbye to legislators who work for companies that have received major state bailouts over the years.”

No, a better analogy would be for a Governor of the State of Minnesota to spend his final term in office preparing to run for President. But if Sarah Janacek had the integrity to make that comparison, she wouldn't be Sarah Janacek anymore.

Just to set the record straight...

Mr. Sviggum gets no compensation for serving as a Regent.

He should still resign.

One would think that UofM regents would not be political, at least during the time they were regents. But that doesn't seem to be the Republican view. Fish-wise we have bigger things to fry.

The financial difficulties of the Republican Party only confirm a belief I have long held regarding "conservative" Republicans (as opposed to the more classically moderate types).

These are the types of "entrepreneurs" who, when they get a business up and running, immediately leverage it to the hilt in order to overcompensate themselves (and/or to buy themselves fancy cars, "working vacations," etc., at company expense).

They pay their workers as little as possible, but still feel as if their workers are generally worthless. This becomes a self fulfilling prophecy: their workers generally do as little as possible because they feel so underpaid and unappreciated.

Then, when these would-be high powered business owners see their businesses go belly up, they never, EVER look in the mirror, nor see their own profligate spending as the reason for their demise.

As far as they're concerned, their own lack of financial restraint coupled with their own refusal to manage their workers in ways that would encourage them to do their best work and go the extra mile for their customers had nothing to do with their problems.

In EVERY case, these people who seem motivated to build businesses as little more than personal get rich quick schemes, blame their failures not on themselves, but on "high taxes" and/or "government regulation."

Our Republican friends should not be surprised that, when you put such people in charge of the Republican Party at the state level, they will continuously demonstrate their own inability to successfully manage anything. How could they have expected anything else?

What I'm eagerly awaiting is MPR's upcoming gory report on the Central Corridor Rail Line. The teasers are quite striking...