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D.C. Memo: Telescope in focus

Welcome to this week’s edition of the D.C. Memo. This week in Washington, Sen. Amy Klobuchar pushes to end the longstanding tyranny of Ticketmaster, Rep. Mo Brooks says something Islamophobic, and a few pieces of 2020 news. Let’s get on with this.

‘Dark moments in our nation’s history’

In a 2-1 decision late last week, The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals decided in favor of a St. Cloud couple, Carl and Angel Larsen, who are suing Minnesota in order to refuse to offer filmography services to same-sex weddings. The case will now go back down to the District Court, where the couple is entitled to a preliminary ruling.

The case is based on a complaint from Telescope Media Group, a company that has yet to make wedding videos, but contends that if they have to make them for same-sex couples, their rights are being violated.


“We are thankful the court recognized that government officials can’t force religious believers to violate their beliefs to pursue their passion,” Carl Larsen said in a statement last week. “This is a win for everyone, regardless of your beliefs.”

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison took a different view: “The decision smacks of other dark moments in our nation’s history when courts have infamously upheld discrimination,” he told the Star Tribune.

ACLU Minnesota Legal Director Teresa Nelson echoed Ellison in a statement to MinnPost:

While freedom of speech and religion are among our most fundamental rights, those freedoms do not give any of us the right to harm other people or to impose our beliefs on others. Discrimination has no place in our Constitution, and businesses can’t put up signs saying ‘your kind not served here.’ We decided as a nation to close that chapter of our history, which is why we have laws that ensure businesses don’t discriminate among customers based on who they are. Yet the ruling issued today would seek to overturn these fundamental principles, giving businesses a constitutional right to discriminate.

Judge David R. Stras
Judge David R. Stras
The majority opinion was written by Justice David Stras, who was appointed to the court last year. Sen. Amy Klobuchar was one of two Democrats to break with her party and vote to advance Stras’ nomination out of the Judiciary Committee. Before leaving the Senate, Sen. Al Franken said Stras should not have a confirmation hearing, and his successor, Sen. Tina Smith, voted against Stras’ confirmation. Read more at MinnPost.

Omar complaint

A conservative watchdog group, The National Legal and Policy Center, filed a complaint against Rep. Ilhan Omar this week, alleging she misused campaign funds. The complaint alleges that, based on recent divorce filings, Omar is dating Tim Mynett, a partner at E Street. The complaint goes on to say that if Omar is dating Mynett, the payments to E Street Group were of a personal nature.

The complaint will not be dealt with anytime soon due to an unrelated issue: The Federal Election Commission recently lost quorum when Commissioner Matthew Petersen retired this week, meaning they cannot decide anything until the president appoints another commissioner.

Omar’s personal life has continually been in the news for the last year, with unfounded claims about the representative marrying her brother. Omar recently received a death threat about going to the Minnesota State Fair.


That’s the ticket

Klobuchar and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), asked the Department of Justice this week to open up an investigation into event ticketing, saying that “The Department of Justice should act to reinvigorate competition in the ticket market to help consumers.” The main contention is that Ticketmaster has too much control of the market, considering it merged last year with Live Nation, which owns concert venues around the U.S.

Mo Brooks says something Islamophobic

When speaking about Rep. Omar last week on WVNN, a radio station in Huntsville, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) made a broad statement about Muslims generally: “Muslims more so than most people have great animosity towards Israel and the Jewish faith,” he said. “As they gain greater and greater influence in elections, particularly in Democratic Party primaries, then you’re going to see more and more people like Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and company…”

RELATED: When Ilhan Omar Is Accused of Anti-Semitism, It’s News. When a Republican Smears Muslims, There’s Silence (Mehdi Hasan, The Intercept)

2020 watch

MINNESOTA’S EIGHTH — Quinn Nystrom of Baxter, a longtime advocate for affordable insulin, is mulling a challenge to Rep. Pete Stauber after DFL representatives reached out to her. “Can I be the best representative — take my nearly 23 years of advocacy and be that strong voice for the 8th District?” she told Forum News Service. “That’s a big decision. I won’t take it lightly.”

Stauber’s last challenger, former District 10B state Rep. Joe Radinovich, will not be making another run for the Eighth District seat.


MINNESOTA’S FIRST — Thursday morning, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee made an online ad buy targeting Rep. Jim Hagedorn’s support of President Trump trade war. The DCCC has indicated that they intend to put resources behind whoever challenges Rep. Hagedorn, who beat Dan Feehan by a little more than 1,300 votes.

Feehan has yet to declare an official challenge (although in July, a state rep in the district said Feehan was running), but he has been making the rounds on Twitter, pushing back at Hagedorn for months. Most recently he took aim at Hagedorn’s silence on the Del Monte plant closure in Sleepy Eye, where around 400 employees lost their jobs, and the “urgency” needed to strengthen union protection, considering the Corn Plus plant in Winnebago closing.

“Our rural communities are as resilient and independent as our policies allow them to be, policies that must and always put people first.”

The president next door

Klobuchar will speak at CNN’s Climate Forum on Sept. 4. Candidates will take questions from the audience and moderators, back to back, throughout the day. No word if she will be speaking at MSNBC’s Climate Forum, also slated for next month.

Speaking of national issues, what appeal does Klobuchar have with coastal voters in California, where 495 delegates — the largest block — are up for grabs? Read more at MinnPost.

In other news

  • Boris Johnson intends to discontinue (prorogue) Parliament early, which would push the country closer to a cliff-edge Brexit, a move framed by a broad range of critics as a “constitutional outrage.” Several senior Conservative leadership members affiliated with Johnson resigned in protest.
  • Kentucky Sports Radio Host Matt Jones is exploring a Senate run against Sen. Mitch McConnel.
  • Drew Harwell in the Washington Post has a story on Ring, an Amazon-owned doorbell technology company that is partnering with local police forces around the U.S.

Quote of the week

“One stand was using a household power drill to mix corn dog batter, a non-critical violation. On a follow-up inspection, the drill was still being used to mix the batter,” from code violations at the Minnesota State Fair.

What I’m reading

Molly O’Toole for The LA Times: Trump administration appears to violate law in forcing asylum seekers back to Mexico, officials warn

The LA Times with a sprawling story on the consequences of the “Remain in Mexico” policy, in which asylum seekers are made to wait on the other side of the before before making their case.

Michael Waters for The Atlantic: The Gift-Card Budget

Where do the unused funds from gift-cards go? In Delaware, they help make up the state’s unclaimed-property fund, which accounts for 10 percent of the entire state budget.

That’s all for this week. Thanks for sticking around. Until next week, feel free to send tips, suggestions, and sound advice to: gschneider@minnpost.com. Follow at @gabemschneider. And don’t forget to become a MinnPost member.

You can also learn about all our free newsletter options.

Comments (14)

  1. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 08/30/2019 - 03:45 pm.

    The Eighth Circuit opinion was written by Judge Stras, not Justice Stras.

    Judge Stras is on the bench for no better reason than his political services. His past experience includes being a member of the University of Minnesota law school faculty for a short time, and then serving as Governor Pawlenty’s counsel in the un-allotment case. Stras had been a member of the Minnesota bar for around a year when he was named to the state Supreme Court.

    And now he has life-time tenure. Well done, good and faithful servant.

    • Submitted by Connor OKeefe on 08/31/2019 - 03:27 pm.

      I suppose you’d have us believe Justice Sotomeyer is on the Supreme Court because of her Galaxy Brain legal mastery.

      Welcome to the real world my friend. The Judiciary has been the dependent of political parents since
      FDR, and probably before. Its a winner take all world, and it’s not going to change now.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 09/01/2019 - 02:00 pm.

        If we believe that a Latina cannot advance for any reason other than her race or gender, we can always look at other aspects of her record.

        Justice Sotomayor was a prosecutor for several years, and was in private practice for several more years before being nominated to the US District Court by President Bush I. She served as a District Court judge, then sat on the Court of Appeals, and after that, she was nominated to the Supreme Court.

        But, yeah, that “wise Latina” crack. Has anyone thought to check her immigration status?

        • Submitted by Connor OKeefe on 09/02/2019 - 07:32 am.

          And yet, with all those advances due, as you say, to nothing more than her razor sharp legal accumin, Sotomeyer chooses to speak of nothing so much as the special powers her gender and ethnicity grant her.

          Go figure.

          • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 09/03/2019 - 11:19 am.

            And yet, despite her credentials, you continue to focus on one remark by Justice “Sotomeyer [sic]” that is taken out of context and repeated endlessly by right-wing agitprop outlets.

            Would you care to address her professional background, or are you going to rest on the conclusion that she cannot possibly be where she is on merit?

            • Submitted by Connor OKeefe on 09/03/2019 - 02:14 pm.

              Let’s forget the quote you objected to.

              “As a Latina, I have to work harder”

              “Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging”

              “The Latina in me is an ember that blazes forever”

              “Everything about my culture has given me enormous education and joy”

              And dozens more, as I said, gender and ethnicity is the Sotomayer’s favorite topic; it appears somewhere in every speech she gives. No surprise since its taken her far, and no one could blame her for taking advantage of the path set before her.

              • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 09/03/2019 - 03:21 pm.

                That is very much the perspective of a white male.

                Race and gender matter in the US, whether you want it to or not.

  2. Submitted by Greg Smith on 08/31/2019 - 10:09 pm.

    I of M low school 2004-2010
    2006 teacher of the yeat

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 09/01/2019 - 02:03 pm.

      Admitted to the Minnesota Bar in 2009. Did not practice law in Minnesota with the exception of representing Governor Pawlenty in his unconstitutional bid to unallot state funds. Has not practiced law at all, except for a year in a silk stocking firm in Washington DC, between judicial clerkships.

      But law students one year liked him.

      • Submitted by Connor OKeefe on 09/02/2019 - 07:43 am.

        Wait. You’re saying we have a district court judge who wore lingerie, and didn’t practise law? Just taught and served a politician you say? Picked solely due to his politics?

        That’s crazy talk, sir…never happe…oh.

        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elena_Kagan

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 09/02/2019 - 08:22 pm.

          I didn’t know that Judge Stras wore lingerie. Speaking for myself, I don’t judge.

          You might look up what the term “silk stocking law firm” means.

          • Submitted by Connor OKeefe on 09/03/2019 - 02:00 pm.

            Nice dodge, well, not really.

            Looks like judge Stras has plenty of qualifications if you are of the opinion Justice Kagan is.

            • Submitted by Pat Terry on 09/03/2019 - 02:13 pm.

              All of these judges are appointed for for their politics. The point here is that, unlike judges like Kagen with a ton of relevant experience, Stras has a very thin resume. He has basically zero experience practicing law.

            • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 09/03/2019 - 03:23 pm.

              If you think serving in the Office of Legal Counsel and as Solicitor General is equivalent to carrying the water in the courts for some tinhorn Governor’s power-grab, perhaps.

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