Today’s must-read comes from the PiPress’ Nicole Garrison-Sprenger and John Welbes, who examine two court cases from the ’90s that presage Tom Petters’ alleged Ponzi scheme. There’s particularly powerful testimony from a Princeton banker who turned down eager borrowers who wanted to pump money into Petters Co. for a 25 percent return. The banker had been duped by a Petters crony who — wait for it — inflated invoices to get a loan. Great work, PiPressers.
Related: Apparently Barack Obama isn’t the only one who dislikes Osama bin Laden comparisons; Tom Petters is also not like the Arab terrorist, the Strib’s David Phelps writes, quoting Petters’ attorney. The perfectly named Jon Hopeman says Petters is “optimistic” yet “mortified” his companies are in receivership. The lawyer also tells the PiPress’ Welbes that a grand jury must bring an indictment by Nov. 3.
Good news, of a meltdownish sort — Sun Country workers will get 70 percent of their pay, instead of the previously announced 50 percent, the Strib’s Liz Fedor notes. Cash flow’s been a little better than projected, but bookings took a 5 to 10 percent hit when the Petters fraud case broke.
Michele Bachmann admits her, ahem, embrace of George Bush at the 2007 State of the Union address was a mistake, MPR’s Tim Pugmire reports. The Sixth District overview notes a paltry number of debates (three), but given that Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Amy Klobuchar won there in 2006, anything is possible in an anti-Republican year — especially since national Dems are throwing money at the district. (See MinnPost’s profile of the 6th District race here.)
AP reports 760 St. Paul Ford workers will be laid off beginning Nov. 26 for at least the rest of the year. Ford officials recently extended the plant’s life to 2011, but you have to wonder about that given the post-meltdown economy.
Aw, man — turns out a 16-year-old girl’s lie may have led to a developmentally disabled man’s vicious assault by four guys, the Strib’s Joy Powell and Abby Simons write. The girl has been charged with kidnapping and aggravated robbery, among other crimes. Turns out one of the alleged perps is also developmentally disabled and two defendants are National Guard members. The victim’s mother says the gang threatened to burn him alive if he talked.
Ex-Minneapolis police chief Bill McManus called former subordinates’ claims “not believable” in a discrimination case involving a Latino officer. The Strib’s David Chanen says police leaders denied a plum assignment for Giovanni Veliz but claim they didn’t know he was in hot water for allegedly forwarding lots of citizen complaints. The city made the rare decision to take this one to trial, Chanen notes.
The PiPress editorial page defuses hysteria over ACORN-related registration fraud in Minnesota. By law, even obviously bogus cards must be turned it, where they are quickly caught in driver’s license and Social Security cross-checks. Such obvious registration fraud isn’t the same as voting fraud, since such “registrants” never vote. By the way, Minnesota has outlawed “paying by the card” to reduce the incentive for canvassers to cheat.
Life Time Fitness boss Bahram Akradi sold 1.46 million shares into a down market to meet margin calls, the Strib’s Pat Kennedy reports. Basically, he borrowed too much when the market was up. The stock price is down 40 percent, and the sales netted Akradi $27.5 million to pay his loans. Further selling might be coming, the company says. Before the sale, Akradi owned more than 10 percent of the company; now he’s not the largest shareholder but still has 2.67 million shares to play with.
One in nine Minnesota mortgage holders spend half their income (or more) on housing, the Strib’s Jean Hopfensperger writes. That’s double the 1-in-18 rate just six years ago. The sweet spot is 30 percent or less. Hopfensperger profiles a cash-strapped family that has “jumped off the consumer grid” — for example, they’re eating little but donated venison this fall. One in five Minneapolis/St. Paul households are paying over half their income for housing, the story notes.
Believe it or not, John McCain is running for the Watertown-Mayer school board. Yes, it’s not that John McCain. Fox9’s Rob Olson says the Delano resident is a civil engineer who grew up in Burnsville. The story doesn’t say which presidential candidate McCain is voting for, though Olson notes it’s a very Republican area. The guy’s lawn signs are fun, but does he use Joe the Plumber?
WCCO’s Don Shelby editorializes in favor of the habitat/arts sales-tax amendment. It’s a pithy but slightly passive-aggressive endorsement. I’m fine with a TV guy putting cards on table, and know Shelby’s done this before. However, given the infrequency of TV news editorializing, I’m not quite sure why this is labeled “Good to Know” instead of (or in addition to) “Editorial.”
Maybe apply it to the bailout? The Republican National Convention Host Committee has $5 million “in cash left over” after hitting its $58 million fundraising goal, the PiPress’ Jason Hoppin reports. Backers tout four organizations that have contacted St. Paul about bringing conventions here — pardon my skepticism, but names, please! The locals used fundraising consultants in their final push. MPR’s Tom Scheck notes the final report is not yet publicly available so we can’t see who ponied up.
In a fun bit of pop culture linkage, the PiPress’ Chris Niskanen says the dominant duck-stamp artist/brothers immortalized in “Fargo” are going for another sticky-backed crown. Niskanen says the brothers gained fleeting fame “when Marge Gunderson’s artist husband laments his poor chances of winning a duck-stamp contest because ‘the Hautmans’ have entered it, too.” The Coens and Hautmans grew up on the same St. Louis Park block.
We Lucinda Wiliams fans who can’t get to First Avenue for her concert next Thursday will be pleased to know the down-home songstress will be webcasting the whole thing at www.lucindawilliams.com. (Hat tip: Country Standard Time.) Fans can live-chat if so moved.