Star Tribune endorses Horner; ignores Vikings, client conflicts

Consummating a relationship that featured public displays of affection all summer, the Star Tribune endorsed Tom Horner for governor Sunday.

If Republican Tom Emmer lost an opportunity when the conservative Forum Communications chain picked Horner, Mark Dayton failed to get a Strib endorsement that went to fellow DFLer Mike Hatch in 2006.

Horner dominates the nascent 2010 Endorsement Scorecard, sweeping all four so far, including Bemidji, Duluth and Fargo-Moorhead. Like any third-party candidate, Horner must overcome fears that a vote for him is a wasted vote, and the writers address this directly:

This editorial appears one week earlier than this page traditionally announces its preference in a gubernatorial election year in order to speak directly to Minnesotans who feel caught in that voting dilemma. Our advice: Talk to your fellow Minnesotans in the next two weeks. Think about the obligation citizens bear to vote their consciences. And don’t let fear cause you to vote for a candidate you consider to be the second-best choice.

The Strib has never been anti-tax but has often inveighed against higher business taxes, so Horner’s sales and sin taxes, plus corporate tax cuts, are practically made-to-order:

Horner’s blend of an expanded sales tax base, higher cigarette taxes and a cap on income tax deductions that advantage upper-income earners would not punish the middle class. He’s proposing $350 million in measures to lighten the burden of the sales tax increase on Minnesotans of modest means. But his plan wouldn’t try to exempt the middle class, either, as Dayton’s claims to do.

In other words, Horner intends to invoke something fundamental to Minnesota’s 152-year success story, something that has been eroding in recent years — a sense that Minnesotans are all in this together. He stands for neither “soak the rich” nor “sink the poor” (which is what “no new taxes” increasingly means). He wants wide participation, both in the costs of solving the budget problem and in the benefits from investing strategically in the public goods — education, research, infrastructure, health care reform — that will form a foundation for widely shared prosperity in years to come.

Not unexpectedly, writers were tougher on Emmer than Dayton, offering better bon mots for anti-Emmer attack ads:

Emmer’s nomination says much about today’s Minnesota Republican Party. He was a bombastic, ultraconservative legislator for six years, seldom close to major decisionmaking. Though he has toned down his rhetoric as this campaign has progressed, he does not demonstrate executive-level knowledge of the enterprise he aspires to lead.

By contrast, DFL primary voters chose a veteran public servant who sits on the left side of his party’s ideological spectrum. No one can question the sincerity or depth of Dayton’s commitment to public service, or his compassion for those in need. But his capacity to rally support for his ideas outside DFL ranks is in doubt.

The Strib, of course, has a major stake in one issue: a new Vikings stadium, which could pump tens of millions into newspaper coffers if its downtown Minneapolis land and oversized headquarters are purchased. All three candidates support a new stadium but Horner — whose Himle-Horner P.R. firm worked with the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission — has been the most out front with the most specific plan.

While the endorsement does not mention the paper’s Vikings interests (as recent editorials have), it includes a photo of Horner at a recent pre-game rally.

Another thing unmentioned: the Strib editorial page’s own call four months ago for Horner to release a full client list from his Himle-Horner days. In June, the paper believed, “His business ties are germane to how he’d govern.” Horner spurned that request, and Sunday, editorialists declared, “Horner seeks to apply the lessons of a lifetime spent working in and around public policy to the restoration of this state’s vitality.”

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Comments (32)

  1. Submitted by Andy Gifford on 10/17/2010 - 02:05 pm.

    Excellent article, David. Aside from the financial romance that may develop between the state’s largest newspaper and a Horner administration, it really parlays well into what the Strib has become: a soft news network with an editorial interest in not upsetting people, or slyly admitting that there’s a monetary interest in how they write their editorials.

    And how about Ron Shera doing a commercial for Horner? I know he’s not a regular writer for the Strib, but there’s another tie between the two.

  2. Submitted by Chris Steller on 10/17/2010 - 02:15 pm.

    I would have liked to see the Strib devote three or four words to the fact that Horner was a Republican until this race.

  3. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/17/2010 - 05:01 pm.

    Editorially, the Strib has become the voice of the business community, and Horner is the classic business candidate.

  4. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 10/17/2010 - 06:31 pm.

    So what’s really going on?

    Horner doesn’t have a snowball’s chance…

    Perhaps they honestly feel, that on paper, that Horner’s shtick is the best. But this really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense if you think about it. How in the world is Horner going to get the Repubs and the Dems to play nice in the lege? The Repubs are obviously furious at Horner for his RINO ways and the Dems know that he is a Republican… Trainwreck?

    And of course there is this nagging little doubt on the side of Emmer supporters. As one of them said to me the Strib wouldn’t endorse a ham sandwich if it were conservative.

    Maybe they are – subconsciously – endorsing Horner so that this will draw voters away from Emmer and Dayton will win? (Just because you are paranoid, doesn’t mean that they aren’t out to get you.)

  5. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 10/17/2010 - 07:00 pm.

    Tom Horner’s policy is what sells most folks. The efficiency benefits of consumption-oriented taxes especially those focused on negative externalities such as tobacco and alcohol. There are a number of folks in the DFL including Chairman Tom Bakk of the Finance and Taxes Committee have supported a “sales tax” as a means to create additional revenue. It does have merit and bipartisan support. If I remember correctly, even Senator Dayton at one time supported such a measure.

    The philosophy of taxing the rich is misleading. Because it might convince the majority of non-millionaires that Minnesota can solve its budget problems by soaking the rich. Senator Dayton’s plan will have a minimal impact on our near term and long term budget concerns. We have an aging population problem. Health care will continue to to drive our expenses, more so than anything else.

    On another note. Senator Dayton’s revenue projections came up significantly lower (nearly 1/2) than he portrayed them to be. A man with his means and access should have had the answer to that question before he released his budget. That major blunder does not inspire much confidence.

    The State Economist Tom Stinson has stated that adding revenue and implementing meaningful budget cuts is the responsible way to deal with the long-term solution to the state deficit. And budget cuts will make for many politically difficult decisions. Which Mr. Horner is well positioned to do.

    Personally, I think it’s silly to put up with a decade of unnecessary pain and suffering before we finally bite the bullet and do what has to be done to stabilize our public finances. And I don’t see any other path that will get us there.

  6. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 10/17/2010 - 08:31 pm.

    Richard, I’m getting a little feeling of deja vu reading your comment.

    In any event, what really doesn’t inspire confidence (as opposed to Dayton’s revenue projections) is what David brings up – Horner’s refusal to disclose his conflicts of interest. Horner paints himself as this moderate, good government candidate, but his refusal to do this really undermines that position.

    “Tom Horner’s policy is what sells most folks.”

    I assume that you are referring to what sells Horner’s supporters, because most people aren’t buying what Horner is selling. Which is why anyone who cares about who actually gets elected governor should not waste their vote on Horner.

  7. Submitted by Allison Sandve on 10/17/2010 - 08:42 pm.

    @ Richard Schulze: Well stated. Your point about the aging population and resulting health care costs is one of the key reasons I support Tom Horner.

    @ Bill Gleason: I don’t know … I have never been much of one for ascribing nefarious plots to the Strib op/ed board. Today, there are enough of those folks on the Strib comment site, building their own grassy knoll.

    But I gotta say, the ham sandwich conspiracy theorists sure have a short memory.

    Editorial: Norm Coleman for Senate

    The next day, the Strib endorsed President Barack Obama. And about 10 weeks later, on Inauguration Day, I threw one hell of a happy party. Cheers.

  8. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 10/17/2010 - 09:49 pm.

    Dan, we have three imperfect candidates. The best ones never will subject themselves to the process. At best all I can hope to do is stimulate the conversation. I really don’t expect to win anyone over. And you are correct I am getting lazy, in the same way that the DFL trots out these red herrings of client lists and regressive taxes.

    Folks can vote for Rep. Emmer’s plan which will involve severe Hoover like austerity. Folks could also vote for Senator Dayton’s tax the rich plan, continue on as we are and hope for the best. Or Folks could choose some moderate republican austerity where there will be a shared sacrifice (no ox goes ungored) and deal with the problem and

  9. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 10/17/2010 - 09:54 pm.

    OOPS! major fat finger…

    Anyway.. My point was that everyone’s ox needs to be gored a bit. Not just the rich. There is no free lunch.

  10. Submitted by Kathy Coulter on 10/18/2010 - 05:34 am.

    From the Powerline blog:

    “Today’s Rasmussen Reports illuminates some basic American attitudes that are antithetical to the Democrats: only 16 percent of Americans think the government spends our money wisely and fairly; 70 percent think it does not. (And these are all Americans, not likely voters.) Only 14 percent say the government has too little power and money, while 61 percent think the government already has too much power and money.”

    A commenter touts Horner’s previous “Republican” credentials. I believe we now see that he is really Democrat-lite, based on his campaign rhetoric. Somewhere in that squishy, self-serving middle but left enough for the Strib.

    Mark Dayton, Tom Horner, and the Strib all seem to have failed to receive the memo being sent to candidates from citizens ’round the country. I believe the phrase is “Taxed Enough Already”. How humiliating and destructive if Minnesotans elect either of the candidates who actually openly campaigned on the idea of increasing our already excessive taxes. Watch residents and businesses head for the exit. Yup. That should work.

  11. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 10/18/2010 - 08:25 am.

    So the wealthy men who own the Strib these days are able to make sure their editors understand the necessity of protecting the already-overstuffed wallets of those owners. This is news?

    The objectivity of the Strib and its concern for the well being of the citizens of the Metro area and the state of Minnesota in general disappeared after about the second (or was it the third) big-money, overleveraged buyout.

    The Strib and the PiPress might as well merge for all the difference there is between them these days.

  12. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 10/18/2010 - 08:39 am.

    Kathy… the problem with the survey statistics you site is that they don’t break out the reasons WHY most Americans feel that way.

    Don’t assume that all those people upset about how the government spends it’s money agree with you! (The same is true for those who don’t like the health care bill – at least half of them don’t like it because it has no “public option” or isn’t flat out single payer, i.e. because it’s not progressive ENOUGH.)

    I, together with a lot of moderates and progressives believe the government doesn’t spend my tax money “wisely and fairly” because of the Trillions of future dollars given to the Pharmaceutical companies during the Republican/Bushco era, not to mention Trillions of dollars spent on an unnecessary and destructive (for us and them) war in Iraq and unknown Trillions of dollars handed out by Bushco in no bid crony contracts to each other and their richest friends, not to mention the massive tax cuts they gave themselves and their rich friends, essentially cutting the taxes on the WAY they make their money to close to nothing while continuing to tax massively all the people who ACTUALLY WORK for a living.

    Of course the Republican/Tea Party Ministry of Propaganda, weasel news, has managed to keep the public from noticing that the “big spending,” “big government” problems they’re complaining about have actually all been done to them by the REPUBLICANS!

    Republicans who are trying to convince themselves that public discontent all breaks in their favor are likely to be in for a bit of a surprise on November 2nd.

  13. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 10/18/2010 - 09:52 am.


    Horner and Dayton agree that raising revenue has to be part of the budget solution. Dayton wants to do it by taxing those who can afford it, while Horner wants to do it by taxing those who are least able to do so. Its not a red herring for the poor and middle class who get stuck paying more so Horner can protect the wealthiest Minnesotans.

    As this article points out, and as the Star Tribune pointed out awhile back, a governor candidate’s refusal to disclose his potential conflicts of interest isn’t just a red herring. Maybe Horner’s dishonesty and lack of integrity on this issue is part of the reason he is doing so poorly in the polls.

  14. Submitted by Kathy Coulter on 10/18/2010 - 11:32 am.

    Graveyard…meet Greg. Gifted whistler.

  15. Submitted by Michael Hunt on 10/18/2010 - 11:43 am.

    Kathy, Greg did most of the heavy lifting for me, but I’m gonna take one additional shot because it keeps coming up from people of your ilk.

    “Mark Dayton, Tom Horner, and the Strib all seem to have failed to receive the memo being sent to candidates from citizens ’round the country.”

    Who, exactly, are these “citizens ’round the country”? I suggest you leave your Party for a few minutes and get out of the house. According to the polls, the vast majority of Minnesotans don’t support your guy (Emmer) who apparently DID get the memo. You and your type (i.e. Paladino supporters) keep implying that you have some sort of overwhelming mandate. Look at the polls!!! It’s all in your imagination. Yes, people are fed up with “Gov’t”, but some for the exact opposite reasons.

  16. Submitted by B Maginnis on 10/18/2010 - 12:19 pm.


    Some election day haiku for you and Greg

    It’s true it’s true
    The snowball is rolling
    Downhill fast
    Look out!

    We’re taxed enough already indeed.

    And, don’t tread on me.

    Or Kathy!

  17. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 10/18/2010 - 12:21 pm.

    Dan, I noticed that you choose to not address DFL Chairman Tom Bakk of the Finance and Taxes Committee and his “DFL position” on the sales tax. You also choose to ignore Senator Dayton’s position on the sales tax. (I was for it before I was against it) Apparently it was not a ‘regressive tax’ when the Senator was for it. Would you also care to characterize DFL Senator Bakks support of the sales tax?

    If Dayton had some moxy, he would support the sales tax and the additional revenue from increasing the alcohol and tobacco taxes to support his educational goals. Otherwise that money will more than likely not be there. And then it will be left to the fallback position of deferrals. It’s rather funny to hear some folks call those two taxes regressive. Last time I checked tobacco and alcohol went into the ‘wants’ of the wants and needs category.

    One more point before I go back out fishing this afternoon. Every candidate has the potential for conflict of interest. Choose your candidate and the potential conflict that they may or may not have. It all depends on ones own perspective and agenda.
    I will not point any fingers at anything but policy. After all this election is about three competing ideologies and policy. Not real or imagined bogeymen.

  18. Submitted by Kathy Coulter on 10/18/2010 - 12:26 pm.

    I know “I and my ilk” often have a tough time getting past the willful ignorance or programmed delusion that is still too much with us from those on the left but we’ll be happy to save your bacon along with our own, Michael. You won’t even have to say “thank you”.

  19. Submitted by Lance Groth on 10/18/2010 - 12:34 pm.

    I have to agree with Michael and Greg regarding the nature of the voter “memo to politicians”. Republicans seem to imagine that voter discontent in 2010 means that the entire country is becoming republican. Anyone who thinks that this is true because of the Tea Party – which is pushing the Repubs even further to the extreme right wing and many of whose candidates seem to be genuine nut jobs – is in for some serious disappointment. Most of America – that “squishy” center – are not right wingers, and are certainly not going to suddenly decide that their true beliefs are somewhere to the right of Dubya.

    Voters are angry, yes, and this has to do with jobs and the poor state of the economy. Not taxes, not the right wing social agenda, not anti-science conspiracy theories, not any of that other baggage. Democrats are going to take a beating, yes – because when voters are angry, they vote against the party in power. They’re not devoting a lot of thought to cause and effect, and they have largely forgotten what happened economically in 2008 and who was in charge at the time. They’re just angry and they want someone, anyone, to fix it.

    Most of the support that’s propelling the repub surge this year is coming from independents. They’re not right wingers and they never will be – they will remain independent. These are the same people who powered the dem surges in 2006 and 2008. And this should serve as fair warning to any thinking repubs – you guys are promising a lot, and your promises are based entirely on the same policies that caused the crash of 2008. You’ll get elected, but beware: fail to fix things in 2-4 years, and you’ll be tossed out on your ear again. Since your policies have not changed since the disaster of the Bush years, I’d have to say you have no chance of succeeding. Enjoy your gains while they last – in a very short time, the wrath of the voters will be refocused on you, and it will be worse next time than it is right now.

    It’s also worth noting that “all politics is local politics”, and that is what is going to prevent the repubs from retaking the Senate. You nominated too many screwballs, and local voters aren’t going to buy it. Certainly not in Delaware, and you have similar problems elsewhere too.

    Unfortunately, the prospect for progess in the next two years is almost nil. The repubs would have to stop saying “no” to everything and compromise with the President and the Senate majority in order to get anything done, and I can’t imagine newly elected tea partiers compromising on anything, so it looks like 2 years of gridlock. All too sad for all of us.

  20. Submitted by Brian Simon on 10/18/2010 - 12:42 pm.

    “Dayton wants to do it by taxing those who can afford it, while Horner wants to do it by taxing those who are least able to do so.”

    That’s a fairly biased assessment. For one thing, as the rich are consuming more than the non-rich, they will most certainly be hit by a sales tax. While it is true that a broad sales tax would be borne disproportionately by the poor, given spending patterns, it is possible to tweak the tax such that it doesn’t do so. For instance, leaving grocery store food purchases unaffected would help the poor, but barely help the wealthy. On the other hand a sales tax on restaurant food purchases would hit the wealthy far more than the poor.

    If the Lege finds that to not soak the rich enough, perhaps they can negotiate with Gov Horner to implement both a tax increase for the top x% AND change the sales tax to more effectively tax consumption. The partisans who think there’s only one workable solution, and only one candidate has proposed it (be he Dayton, Emmer or Horner) are being a bit short-sighted, in my view.

  21. Submitted by Jeremy Powers on 10/18/2010 - 01:11 pm.

    A well written lede – short, punchy and accurate.

    Anyone who was surprised by the endorsement, as David states in his lede, hasn’t noticed the obvious love affair that’s been going on all year. It’s unlike anything I have ever seen between a newspaper editorial board and a candidate anywhere in the country in my 55 years. Editorial boards usually work through acclamation, not actual votes, but look at the Strib’s board. The CEO AND the Chairman. (Apparently the Strib doesn’t have a “publisher” to go along with the “chief content manager.”) Add to that one of the biggest middle-of-the-road, third-party cheerleaders in Sturdevant. You’re already half-way to a schmoozey business climate with sugarplums of bi-partisanship.

  22. Submitted by Ginny Martin on 10/18/2010 - 02:35 pm.

    Taxed enough already? Emmer is disingenuous at best when he claims he will not raise taxes. Property taxes will go up and they are often regressive, especially for older people whose incomes are small and fixed.
    TEA? Have you compared your current tax rates, federal and state, with taxes of 10 years ago? Taxed enough already says only that I’m not interested in maintaining this state and its resources and its infrastructure and its educational system and its pretty solid (despite temporary setbacks) government.–once considered one of the best in the country.

  23. Submitted by B Maginnis on 10/18/2010 - 04:04 pm.


    By who?

  24. Submitted by Bruce Adomeit on 10/18/2010 - 10:10 pm.

    In re. comment #21,
    The boilerplate at the top of the Strib editorial page every day shows that Michael Klingensmith is chief executive officer of the company AND publisher of the newspaper in all its print and electronic forms.

  25. Submitted by Kathy Coulter on 10/19/2010 - 07:11 am.

    Greg…it’s very important top be precise in our language. Government doesn’t spend “its” money. It has no money. It only has the money it extracts from wealth generated through private sector enterprise – taxing…or printing or borrowing, which ultimately, again, has to be re-paid through taxation. Agreed?

    If we think it’s perfectly alright to continue stealing from our children and grandchildren, then I guess it wouldn’t be a problem to fill in the oval for Dayton or Horner.

    But, to get back to the premise some of you have put forth, let’s focus on the second aspect of the Rasmussen survey – “Only 14 percent say the government has too little power and money, while 61 percent think the government already has too much power and money.”

    How does THAT square with your sense that some of us here are wrong about the mood and the message?

  26. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 10/19/2010 - 05:01 pm.

    “Soak the rich” is a tea party term for what is not a tax increase aimed only at wealthy people, but a return to the progressive tax rates in effect before the disastrous tax cuts given by Ventura and Pawlenty.

    A billion dollars per year in lost revenue has probably caused more of the current shortfall than the current economy or any other event.

    We need the kind of bold action only Dayton is willing to take in order to return us to fiscal sanity without cutting ever more public services. We can’t go on forever without repairing our crumbling roads and bridges and without investing in early childhood education to a level that will ensure the future academic success of today’s youngest children.

  27. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 10/20/2010 - 12:00 am.

    “Every candidate has the potential for conflict of interest. ”

    Exactly. Which is why those potential conflicts of interest should be disclosed. Just today, Horners endorsement of Ciresi had to come with a disclaimer about – you guessed it – conflicts of interest.

  28. Submitted by Kathy Coulter on 10/20/2010 - 06:48 am.


  29. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/20/2010 - 08:47 am.

    //Greg…it’s very important top be precise in our language. Government doesn’t spend “its” money. It has no money.

    Kayth, it’s important to be economically literate. No one spends “their” money, all money extracted from someone else during the course of commerce. Bill Gates didn’t grow his billions in a personal money farm, his money is our money, he got from us when we bought his products.

    The real difference between the private sector and the public sector is that the public sector does not accumulate wealth. The public sector (i.e. the government) doesn’t extract capital and accumulate it, it recirculates all the dollars it extracts back into the economy. The private sector, for instance the banks right now, accumulate capital and sit on it. The real black hole of any economy is wealth accumulation, not government spending and taxes. Bill Gates for instance is right now sitting on 60 billion dollars that he’s extracted from the economy (that would be you and me)and dumped into a bank account somewhere. A dollar is a dollar, whether it’s paid in taxes or spent on software, and all dollars come from the same place.

    The difference between the private sector and public sector isn’t one of economic burden, it’s a qualitative difference, the public sector performs a different but economically essential function than the private sector. Government isn’t a necessary evil, it’s simply necessary. The dollars that go into government are no less essential or beneficial to the economy than the private sector dollars. In fact one can argue from a utilitarian perspective that government spending is more beneficial to society than private spending.

  30. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/20/2010 - 11:02 am.

    //That’s a fairly biased assessment. For one thing, as the rich are consuming more than the non-rich, they will most certainly be hit by a sales tax.

    It’s not a question of bias, it’s a question of data. The rich do in fact consume less than everyone else (and pay less sales tax). Sales taxes are in fact regressive. I’ve written a long but basic explanation of our tax system based on recent data from the MN Tax incidence study. You can read it on my blog:

    In short, the wealthy are nowhere near being soaked, and they are not paying for a government they don’t use.

  31. Submitted by Kathy Coulter on 10/20/2010 - 02:19 pm.

    Paul, I appreciate that you present your ideas on “how the economy works” in a calm, clear manner.

    My only concern is that you simply couldn’t be more wrong. Helps me understand why we’re in the mess we’re in.

  32. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/20/2010 - 09:31 pm.


    One can always be more wrong.

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