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Hey, kids! It’s ‘Racino Day!’

PLUS: Car dealer ups (GM lots) and downs (Hecker), and a Ventura “conspiracy” article spiked.

It’s Racino Day (and maybe night) at the Capitol with legislator-turned-lobbyist Dick Day leading the charge and promising all sorts of wondrous things if he can just get the DFL caucus, in whom the Indian casinos have invested so heavily, to hear the grand logic of his case. The PiPress’ Jason Hoppin files a very thorough story on the face-off and pitch. “The bill aims to raise $250 million every two years, much-needed money that could help finance a new football stadium for the Minnesota Vikings. The hearing is expected to last into the night and should feature enough sparks to light up the Capitol like a slot machine that a hits jackpot. At issue is not only expanding gambling in Minnesota — something the state’s American Indian tribes with gambling venues staunchly oppose, but which 80 percent of Minnesotans in a recent KSTP/Survey USA poll said they support — but also the even touchier issue of the role money plays in politics. Over the years, tribes have pumped millions into politics, mostly into Democratic coffers. The result, critics say, is a strong presumption against gambling in the Democratic caucus.”

The latest impassioned defense of the racino idea comes in the form of a guest commentary on the Strib’s Op-Ed pages, by Randy Weidner of the Quarter Horse Racing Association. Basically he’s firing back at Annette Meeks’ earlier commentary. He argues, “The beauty of this bill is how the profits would be divided. The authors — Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, and Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar — propose dividing the profits into five pots of $25 million each. One goes to early childhood education, one to agriculture and rural development, one to research and bioscience, one to the general fund — and one is reserved for extracurricular and athletic facilities. The latter, if the state saw fit, could fund a Vikings stadium.” I also like this assertion: ” … [T]he racino bill is a jobs/stimulus bill that won’t cost taxpayers a dime.” Really? So everyone who plays the slots wins?

“Piled on” is the phrase the Strib’s Dee DePass uses to describe the latest round of federal criminal indictments dropped on Denny Hecker and his, uh, “business associate,” Steven Leach. And while that might draw a penalty in football, the courts really don’t have any other place to drop this stuff than on Denny’s once nicely tailored back. Says DePass, “The latest charges allege that at Hecker’s direction one of his employees fraudulently altered a contract to get loans for purchasing Suzuki vehicles in 2007 and 2008. One page of a document was intentionally omitted when it was e-mailed to lenders, misstating what the vehicles cost Hecker, the indictment alleged.” This comes simultaneous with three of his attorneys (two criminal, one divorce) petitioning to exit his defense team(s) because of non-payment, and Hecker facing the high likelihood of a public defender being appointed to keep him out of jail.

The PiPress’ John Welbes chimes in on the bailing divorce attorney, Bill Skolnick, writing about cash owed Hecker’s second (of four ex-wives). “Denny and Sandra Hecker’s 10-year marriage ended in 1983, when Sandra was 35 and Denny was 31. They battled over alimony for the next 14 years as Hecker’s business empire grew, with Sandra ultimately being awarded lifetime alimony. The latest judgment had him paying her $1,375 per month. At today’s hearing, Michael Ormond, who represents Sandra, said Denny Hecker currently owes her payments totaling $8,109. ‘It’s not a matter of (Denny’s) unwillingness,’ Skolnick said. It’s that Hecker doesn’t have the money, he said.” Hecker’s girlfriend, Christi Rowan, is also moving to get a public defender, since it appears the Denny gravy has stopped pouring.

On the topic of car dealers
, GM has reinstated 20 of 30 Minnesota lots scheduled for closing, which, of course, means they’ll be hiring back mechanics and salespeople. The Strib’s Suzanne Ziegler writes: “In Minnesota, GM, which still operates Chevrolet, GMC, Buick and Cadillac, originally targeted 36 dealerships for “complete termination,” voiding all of its franchises. Of those, four were reinstated over the past nine months. Of the 32 remaining, 16 sought arbitration and six of those received calls in recent days that they’re being reinstated … Others will keep fighting in arbitration, but 13 are expected to close.” Wonderful. All they need now are … customers.

A crab creole spread … made in Albert Lea … has been recalled for possible salmonella. MPR’s Madeleine Baran reports that the stuff, made by Mrs. Gerry’s Kitchens, should not be eaten, adding, “The company had issued a separate voluntary recall of several spinach dips last week, citing concerns that a seasoning ingredient may have been contaminated with salmonella.”  Not a good month so far for Mrs. Gerry.

Sen. Tarryl Clark’s anti-porn war
, specifically anti violent-porn on TVs in hotel rooms booked by state employees, is getting a lot of publicity? (I know, that is SO surprising.) Whatever her reasons, (getting tough on porno creeps while running against Michele Bachmann has a certain logic), the Across the Great Divide blog weighs in, saying, “This measure is a pretty ineffective stick for beating on pornography, however you look at it. If Clark doesn’t want state money spent on porno movies, restrict hotel expenses to the published government rates and lower  per diems so travelers have to choose between food and a night at the movies. And if she is truly serious about eradicating violent films, good luck.” The blog also claims, “I say this as someone who likes Clark, who hates to hand [Minnesota Democrats Exposed] one of those “liberal blogger” freebies, and who has managed to stay out of strip clubs and porn shops for 61 years without government encouragement.” Uh-huh.

The Huffington Post has whacked a piece written by Jesse Ventura (or at least signed by him). It seems the popular website has rules against wild conspiracy theories. So why even agree to an article by a self-aggrandizer like Jesse who’s hyping a book called, “American Conspiracies”? That’s what City Pages’ Kevin Hoffman would like to know. In the axed piece, His Baldness writes, “Some people have argued that the twin towers [of the World Trade Center] went down, within a half hour of one another, because of the way they were constructed. Well, those 425,000 cubic yards of concrete and 200,000 tons of steel were designed to hold up against a Boeing 707, the largest plane built at the time the towers were completed in 1973. Analysis had shown that a 707 traveling at 600 miles an hour (and those had four engines) would not cause major damage. The twin-engine Boeing 757s that hit on 9/11 were going 440 and 550 miles an hour.” (Not to niggle, Governor, but both planes were 767s. It’s, you know, kind of in the record.)

Having played the indignant waste-buster quite loudly
when those 50-inch plasma TVs were installed at the Moose Lake sex offender facility, Gov. Pawlenty is now taking heat for borrowing $89 million to expand the same center with all sorts of cushy amenities. MPR’s Tom Scheck reports: “Some lawmakers are criticizing the Pawlenty administration for including several features in the proposed expansion like a library, a recreation lounge, a craft room and a chapel. ‘The governor expressed a big concern about big TVs, and now we’re going from $47 million to $90 million [expansion of Moose Lake]. I question whether or not that’s the right kind of amenities to put in there or not,’ said Rep. Loren Solberg, DFL-Grand Rapids. ‘The rest of us in society have libraries by Bookmobile. Maybe that’s what they need to do.’ “

Paul Demko of Politics in Minnesota adds: “The bill now includes $47.5 million for expansion of the sex offender facility in Moose Lake. That’s $11.5 million more than in the previous incarnation of the bill, but still half of what Pawlenty has requested. The updated list also includes roughly $10 million in security upgrades for the state prison in Oak Park Heights, another priority frequently cited by the governor.” Maybe that racino money can buy us some more prison space.

It doesn’t sound like like a lot, but the Minneapolis-St.Paul Business Journal reports on a survey that says 15 percent of Twin Cities businesses expect to hire in the second quarter this year, “while 2 percent expect to reduce their payrolls. For the quarter job prospects appear best in construction, nondurable goods manufacturing, information, financial activities, education and health services, and leisure and hospitality.”