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Rybak and campaign financing: not what he promised?

ALSO: Irish theater takes over Minnesota; bipartisanship is alive and well when it comes to fees for medical tech companies.

“What a big difference years makes,” says the headline for Steve Brandt’s story today in the Star Tribune, apparently borrowing from the bolero made famous by Dinah Washington. And the difference is … Rybak. Brandt examines the sweeping campaign finance reform promised by R.T. Rybak when he first ran for mayor, and then discusses not just Rybak’s failure at getting many of these reforms enacted, but also his own violation of “self-imposed rules on political money,” such as accepting PAC money and contributions from developers and their lobbyists. “I’m very frustrated by how we continue to finance campaigns,” Rybak tells Brandt. “I don’t think it’s healthy to have campaigns financed the way we do.”

Speaking of old songs, it’s a great day for the Irish, at least as far as theater is concerned. The Guthrie Theater is still playing its Joe Dowling-directed production of Oscar Wilde’s comic tour de force, “The Importance of Being Earnest” (“Great show despite Dowling’s attempts to ruin it,” one audience member commented on “Why does the final act never have pacing, Joe?”). Additionally, Dowling himself will be taking to the stage as actor in Brian Friel’s “The Faith Healer,” beginning tonight. The Star Tribune’s Graydon Royce interviews Dowling about his rare appearance as an actor; this will, in fact, be Dowling’s American debut: “I don’t know if there is a vast public waiting for me,” Dowling says.

The Guthrie is also partially responsible for bringing a touring production of Enda Walsh’s “The Walworth Farce” to the Walker Art Center. Even those familiar with Wilde and Friel might not know Walsh, but the playwright has been a very busy and popular one in Ireland and England, and an earlier tour of the show got this appealing review in the New York Times: “[Y]ou’re apt to feel that you’ve walked in on a Hibernian Three Stooges routine, directed by a drunken Dadaist.”

Looking ahead, it’s deficit, deficit and more deficit. According to the Minnesota House of Representative’s Session Daily site, State Economist Tom Stinson went before the Subcommittee on a Balanced Budget with some very bad news: “Minnesota will likely begin the 2012-13 biennium with a budget deficit of at least $4.4 billion.” Sound bad? Well, fasten your seatbelts, as House Chief Fiscal Analyst Bill Marx is of the opinion that Stinson’s guess is optimistic, and that “once inflation and the impacts of Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s 2009 unallotments and vetoes are factored in,” the true amount might be closer to $7.2 billion.

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In this increasingly partisan America, it’s nice that, once in a while, a topic comes up that Democrats and Republicans alike embrace. That topic, in this instance, is medical device firms. As the Washington Post’s Dan Eggen and Ceci Connolly report in the Pioneer Press, there is a bipartisan push in states with “prominent medical-device operations” against a Senate Finance Committee-approved 10-year, $40 billion fee on device makers.

Amy Klobuchar speaks against this fee in the PiPress story, saying, “The issue here is that these are very good jobs in our state and in our country.” Al Franken has also come out against the fee, co-signing a letter to the Senate Finance Committee urging them to reconsider. Tim Pawlenty has also been outspoken in his opposition to this bill, sending a strongly worded letter to his senators, who happen to be Franken and Klobuchar. Third District Republican Congressman Erik Paulsen was responsible for a hearing Monday on the subject, as related by Minnesota Public Radio’s Steven John, saying, “only in Washington would you propose to tax something and make it more expensive under the guise of lowering health care costs.

Both KARE11 and the Star Tribune start their stories on Paulsen’s hearing by featuring Aaron Holm. The two news stories undoubtedly featured Holm for the same reason he was invited to speak at the hearing: because he’s a dramatic illustration of the benefits of advanced medical technology, having lost both his legs in an accident, and who now walks with the assistance of “space age prosthetic limbs known as C-legs,” according to KARE11. “I realize every day as I age, as I get older, I need the products to get better,” Holm says in the story, “I need them to support me more and more.”

MPR’s Tim Pugmire points out an interesting oddity: Despite how crowded the gubernatorial race has become, the Independence Party still doesn’t have a single candidate. According to a party official, the party has candidates in mind, but is laying low in a sort of game of political rope-a-dope, letting the Democrats and Republican candidates slug it out first. “If anything, there’s an inherent advantage to the Independence Party [candidate] keeping his or her powder dry, and then making a bigger announcement in 2010,” he says.

Those of you who were planning a meal with beef tongue — say, beef tongue sandwich, or beef tongue stew, or a cocktail of brandy and beef tongue — might have to look extra hard, as Cargill has recalled 5,500 pounds of beef tongues, according to the Associated Press. Why? The tonsils might not have been completely removed, and the tissues could potentially contain the “infective agent in cattle with mad cow disease.” It’s highly unlikely, and the recall is voluntary, but still — that cocktail might have to wait, as suddently it sounds unappetizing.

In sports: FOX9 reports that disorderly behavior is up by 30 percent around the University of Minnesota, and a possible culprit is the new TCF Bank Stadium. Police deny it, but have you seen the new stadium? It definitely looks capable of felonious behavior.