The Strib’s Jon Tevlin, the Sen. Chuck Grassley of local journalism, tracks an IRS audit of the “prosperity gospel” advocate the Rev. Mac Hammond. Hammond dared the IRS to audit his Brooklyn Park organization for tax-exempt violations — but when they did, he refused to comply with their request. The church claims the IRS is politically motivated; Hammond is the guy who gave the passive-aggressive pulpit endorsement of Congresswoman Michele Bachmann in 2006. (Grassley leads the congressional investigation into religious financial abuses.)
More Hammond: Newly released court docs say the IRS is checking Hammond’s compensation, an airplane sale-leaseback and forgiven loans. A church spokesman claims Hammond has been “completely cleared” on the politics count. (Tax-exempt orgs aren’t supposed to make political endorsements.) Tevlin says the church has repeatedly denied an investigation exists, but the court filing indicates one has been under way since spring 2007. Minnesota Independent’s Andy Birkey notes Hammond gave Bachmann $2,100 — legally — this year.
More good news for Al Franken: An MPR/Humphrey Institute poll gives him a 1 percentage point lead on Norm Coleman, 41-40, MPR’s Mark Zdechlik says. Dean Barkley gets 8 percent, and 11 percent are undecided. U prof Larry Jacobs, who like many analysts has slagged Franken’s campaign, admits he was surprised by the satirist’s strong showing. Despite the good number, Jacobs says Franken is hurt by Barkley’s presence. Coleman’s approval rating is 46 percent; 42 percent disapprove. Deeper results here.
More poll: The same survey gave Barack Obama a 10-point lead yesterday. Fifty percent of the respondents identified as Democrats, which seems high and might explain the good Donkey Party results. The sampling error margin is plus/minus 3.6 percentage points. Note: The poll could already be out of date, since sampling started Aug. 7, over two weeks ago.
More Senate race: Coleman got a counterintuitive Carpenters Union endorsement; Franken unveiled a talking fish ad that blasts Coleman catching and not releasing dirty oil money tied to indicted Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens. The PiPress’ Rachel Stassen-Berger says Coleman returned money from Stevens, but not that of the oil execs. The latter money was given in the 2002 election cycle.
Minnesota Independent’s Paul Demko hangs with a racist and higher-information Pine County undecideds as he looks at whether the battleground spot will vote for Barack Obama.
[Noon update: Forgot to include an interesting piece from Fox9’s Tom Lyden on the parking garage that will hold folks arrested for misdemeanors during the Republican National Convention. There’s a Political Agenda item here.]
A Roseville mom who blogged about her two adoptive daughters admitted stabbing them, the PiPress’ Elizabeth Mohr and Jake Grovum report. Financial problems are blamed; 60-year-old Sylvia Sieferman was laid off in 2004 and had trouble selling her home, the Strib’s Terry Collins writes. One daughter is critical, the other stable; both girls are 11. They were Chinese adoptees, and the mom’s blog explains her joy in parenting. Sieferman also stabbed herself.
State HMOs served fewer people but made more money, the PiPress’ Julie Forster reports. Premiums rose 9 percent, faster than medical costs, and investment income also helped HMO bottom lines. Unsurprisingly, they lost another 27,000 customers, and now serve 409,000 Minnesotans, about half the number of a decade ago. Their profit margin equals 2.3 percent on $5.3 billion in premium revenue.
Ex-Sen. Rod Grams unveiled a group opposing a constitutional sales-tax dedication for habitat and the arts, MPR’s Tim Pugmire notes. Grams opposes a sales-tax hike; others oppose any constitutional dedication. Supporters say the state hasn’t ponied up on its own, so voters should go over their heads.
According to a new Pew survey, interest in the GOP convention is fractionally higher than four years ago, the excellent polling website FiveThirtyEight.com reports. Democratic convention interest is much higher, however. If only those guys had made up their minds to come here two weeks earlier.
Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder’s Charles Hallman says black businesses have been all but shut out of convention business and promotion. The Host Committee’s executive board is all white, the story claims.
St. Paul will cut its 4 a.m. bar fee to $500, the PiPress’ Jason Hoppin notes. The City Council pegged the Republican National Convention fee at $2,500, but few bit. Because we’re so close to the Sept. 1-4 event, interested bar owners will pay the $2,500 up front and get a $2,000 rebate later. A council majority is on board.
Washington County could withdraw from a multi-county transit agreement just months after signing on unless it gets more dough from the quarter-cent sales tax, the Strib’s Kevin Giles writes. The transit board is only giving Washingtonians $1 million in projects on a $4 million investment. MPR’s Bob Collins presaged the beef a couple of days ago.
Another entertaining dispatch from PiPresser David Hanners on the corruption trial of two Ramsey County deputies, this time with video-surveillance transcripts. The men seemed to know they were being set up … again. Yet they still withheld $6,000 in FBI-planted cash. They still claim it was a practical joke.
More alleged drunks are being arrested on Hennepin County waters, the Strib’s Mary Lynn Smith notes. It’s still just a handful of people: 63 DWB’s this year, up from 41 last year. Statewide numbers are flat. Lake Minnetonka, unsurprisingly, is the epicenter. One deputy says high gas prices haven’t affected boat traffic, but more people are holding “anchor parties.”
United Way will seek $91.6 million in donations this fall, a $3.2 million increase aimed at “housing, hunger, families and children,” the Strib’s Warren Wolfe writes.
The Strib’s Mike Kaszuba looks ahead to the Sept. 9 legislative primaries. Republican Jim Abeler, one of the “Override Six,” almost came to blows with a conservative GOP challenger, the rival alleges. Minneapolis DFLer Joe Mullery faces a tough challenge from Park Board member Jon Olson; “institution” Phyllis Kahn faces an opponent backed by DeLaSalle fans who loathe Kahn’s opposition to the school’s football field. Majority Leader Tony Sertich also has an intraparty opponent.
Fairview Health Services and Blue Cross re-upped their deal one day before a clinical agreement expired, the Strib’s Chen May Yee writes. It could’ve affected 50,000 people, notes the PiPress’ Jeremy Olson.
A Strib editorial promotes proposed state House of Representatives rules for saner lawmaking. The suggestion would allow more time for committees to vet legislation at session’s end, and less finagling on the House floor. Also lawmakers could sponsor no more than 25 bills.
A developer wants to build a $200 million motorsports track near Big Lake without public subsidy, the Strib’s Paul Walsh reports. Then again, the developer filed bankruptcy last fall. There’s no formal proposal for the 90,000-fan track; the developer won’t reveal partners but says he controls the land. A 5/8-mile oval could handle NASCAR and open-wheel Indy-type racing. If all zooms ahead, the facility could open in 2011. A potential rival, Elko Speedway owner Tom Ryan, says the plan isn’t viable.
Here’s a Friday heart-warmer about Minneapolis library security guards who pitched in to buy a kid a new bike after it was stolen, from WCCO’s Darcy Pohland.
And another: an engagingly written Hastings Star Gazette piece about a local boxing gym that’s produced two world champions. Joe Schirmer says the claim might not completely hold up, but still crafts a fun read.
Nort spews: Yo! The Twins win the first game of the dreaded road trip against the dreaded Angels! Scott Baker, the bullpen, and little Nick Punto’s 12th-inning triple add up to a 2-1 win. Sore Loser, with Torii Hunter’s acknowledgment of Minnesota’s awesomeness, here. The Twins are a half-game back of Chicago and tied with Boston for the wild-card lead.