This morning, MPR’s Daily Digest linked to three interviews with gubernatorial candidates. The source? Discover Politics, a slick-looking newcomer promising to “discover politics and Minnesota life in a whole new way.”
Well, we could all use that. But who is offering us this a novel approach? Discover Politics doesn’t make it easy to discover that.
There are no names on the “Contact Us” page — and the email address there bounces back. A domain registry check reveals nothing, except that the site was registered by privacyprotect.org in May. It’s all a bit much for a site selling $365 memberships.
The goose chase evoked memories of Minnesota’s last adventure in politico-media anonymity: Minnesota Democrats Exposed. In its early months, the virulently anti-DFL blog worked hard to obscure who was behind it, until a nasty 2006 lawsuit flushed out its proprietor: Michael Brodkorb, now Minnesota GOP deputy chair.
MPR’s Tom Scheck, who writes Daily Digest, says a DFL campaign official told him Discover Politics’ contact was Patrick Bottini. Who is Patrick Bottini? Last year, he was a Norm Coleman staffer. So is Discover Politics another bit of Republican furtiveness?
And after banging away at the mystery Tuesday, I got a callback from an apologetic Bottini.
The website email address, it turns out, ends in “.com,” not “.org” like it’s supposed to. “A rookie mistake,” Bottini said sheepishly, noting he fully disclosed his identity to the political campaigns and staffers when setting up interviews.
“Me and some other inside friends, we started the site because we see a need for an open political dialogue,” he added. “Which I know seems ironic, given you couldn’t find out who we are.”
Discover Politics, a for-profit site — if there are any profits — debuted with initial commentary pieces that wouldn’t make the GOP fret. They include a recycled piece attacking Instant Runoff Voting and one calling for photo identification at the polls. The author of that last piece, Kent Kaiser, is a former spokesperson for GOP Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer, who later worked for DFLer Mark Ritchie.
Kaiser will be a regular contributor and advisor to Bottini, a recent St. Olaf poli sci grad who worked for the Manitou Messenger while on campus.
Bottini acknowledges his address book is largely Republican, but he says he’s working to get pro-IRV and anti-photo ID commentary on his site: “We just launched last week. We were planning that once we had enough content to take people’s time, we’d do an email blast.”
Well, there are no such things as “soft opens” in the media world anymore, Pat.
He adds that Democrats are involved, including Justin Bell, who interviewed Matt Entenza. Bottini says he and his kitchen cabinet want Discover Politics to “be a nonpartisan voice. The last thing we want to be is an MDE or [DFL blogger] Dusty Trice.”
If true, it’s kinda too bad, because a conservative site focused on reporting would be welcome in the blogosphere. We’ll have to see how Discover Politics evolves to discover how true Bottini is to his word.