What are we supposed to do now? Some of us were counting on a Denny Hecker trial to entertain us right up until Christmas, if not longer. But as it turned out, Denny’s best option was to plead guilty, skip the trial and hope he can serve less than 10 years on prison. Minnesota’s favorite car dealer really didn’t have any better options. The Strib story, co-bylined by David Phelps and Dave Shaffer, explains: “Hecker admitted to schemes to obtain financing from Chrysler Financial and other lenders. In one deal, he admitted arranging for false paperwork to be sent to Chrysler Financial understating the risks associated with the purchase of 5,000 vehicles from Hyundai. In other deals over several years, he admitted he failed to tell lenders about payments from Suzuki. Altogether, the fraud cost lenders $20 million, Hecker admitted in the plea deal.”
MaryJo Webster’s PiPress story adds: “Hecker admitted having committed all of the other crimes laid out in an earlier indictment, including bankruptcy fraud. He was originally charged with multiple counts that could have put him behind bars for decades. At a press conference after the court hearing, U.S. prosecutors said that Hecker’s attorney came to them on Friday asking to reach a plea deal. They worked out an agreement over the weekend.”
Allan Costantini at KARE-TV says: “He has since surrendered to the bankruptcy, leaving him on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars after bankruptcy trustee Randall Seaver finishes disposing of Hecker’s assets and repays creditors. Hecker’s girlfriend, Christi Rowan, still faces sentencing for two guilty pleas to federal felony charges related to the Hecker case. She had been required to assist in the prosecution and conviction of ‘other persons’ as part of her plea. Although she faces up to 30 years in federal prison, prosecutors have recommended that she serve a sentence of 0-6 months, so long as she continues to cooperate. Rowan lives with Hecker, along with her two children and two of Hecker’s children.”
That classy “high to low” check-processing scheme banks have been using to run up fat overdraft charges has now left a taint on locally owned TCF. Chris Serres’ Strib story reports on a lawsuit filed against the bank: “Kimberly Pellett, a health care marketing specialist from Savage, alleges in a lawsuit that TCF grouped together her debit-card transactions and then processed them from largest dollar amount to smallest, rather than in the actual order in which the payments occurred. She claims this ‘re-ordering’ depleted her checking account faster, resulting in thousands of dollars in unnecessary overdraft fees. The lawsuit, filed in Hennepin County District Court in Minneapolis, resembles more than 30 legal actions filed all over the country involving bank overdraft policies.” He adds: “In a stinging ruling last month, a federal judge in California accused Wells Fargo of gouging its customers by reordering transactions and ordered the San Francisco bank to pay back $203 million to its customers in California. The judge dismissed Wells Fargo’s argument that customers preferred having larger, more important payments, such as their mortgages, processed first. The judge said the practice led to a ‘bone-crushing multiplication’ of overdraft charges.”
Apparently it’s another “It’s not a tax, it’s a fee” moment over there in the governor’s office. After perseverating for weeks, Gov. Pawlenty has decided to accept that nice, fat $250 million medical assistance check from the federal government. According to Brian Bakst’s AP story, “In a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Pawlenty drew a distinction between the Medicaid money and the funding states can apply for to enact the new federal health care law. He justified his use of the Medicaid dollars by saying they ‘reflect current and long-standing Minnesota policy objectives and commitments.’ ” And, just for the sake of the argument, what was that GAMC business all about then?
Health care was the topic of the latest gubernatorial candidate debate, this one in Duluth, and the news is that none of the three would go so far as Pawlenty in rejecting “ObamaCare.” Elizabeth Stawicki’s MPR story says: “[N]one of the three candidates is calling for the across-the-board rejection of federal health care funding that has drawn a lot of flack for Pawlenty. But none of them says the state should accept any and all federal funding either. Republican candidate Rep. Tom Emmer sides with Pawlenty in opposing health reform, especially when it comes to the provision that requires all Americans obtain health insurance in 2014 or face penalties. He even proposed a state constitutional amendment to block such mandates.“ Has Emmer been asked if we can lift the mandate on car insurance?
Meanwhile, the words “Bachmann for President” are being breathed … in a Republican straw poll. Jeremy Herb, on the Strib’s Hot Dish Politics blog, writes: “Bachmann is included with Pawlenty and 15 others in the Values Voter Summit straw poll, which will be held next weekend in Washington. Most of the presumed Republican 2012 presidential candidates will be featured speakers at the three-day summit, and Bachmann and Pawlenty are both scheduled to speak (Pawlenty via video from China).” He continues: “Even if Bachmann isn’t mounting a campaign for president, her national profile as darling of the Tea Party has prompted plenty of talk of a 2012 run — or a Palin/Bachmann ticket.” … Which would be a dream come true for a lot of people.
Madam President-in-Waiting Bachmann’s latest re-election ad, featuring “Jim” the Tarryl Clark-whuppin’ average guy, continues to use the same misinformation about the Legacy Amendment as her first two ads. Andy Birkey of the Minnespota Independent reminds his readers: “Bachmann’s assertion that Clark voted to raise the sales tax [has] already been ruled false by MPR’s Poligraph, WCCO’s Reality Check and KSTP’s Truth Test, which gave it a D+ this weekend. The ad also targets Clark for voting to raise the gas tax, which she did as part of the controversial transportation bill on which six Republicans crossed over to override Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s veto.”
And you did catch the CNN piece on Bachmann at the Fair? City Pages Hart Van Denburg links to it and comments: “CNN tried to catch up with Rep. Michele Bachmann at the State Fair. But reporter Gary Tuchman figured out that these days, the congresswoman rarely talks to anyone other than known allies.The cable news network’s cameras were allowed to watch as she practically ran through the fairgrounds, hustled by handlers to appointments with radio stations in right field … KTLK yakker Jason Lewis was given face time to praise her for creating her own media bubble, in which she never has to face questions that challenge her votes, speeches and campaign tactics.” … And you think that’ll never work?
Need I point out the connection to this and John Hinderaker’s take on Power Line? “[F]ar from being a fringe phenomenon, the Tea Party movement represents the solid core of mainstream American opinion. Second, when the Republicans take control of Congress, they should not be afraid to cut spending and programs.” Including and beginning with the Pentagon, right John? John? (Insert crickets sound effect.)
How would you like to be the official spokesman who gets to tell the press, “The sidewalks are safe here”, AFTER a sidewalk collapses into what eventually is a 30-foot deep hole, taking a pedestrian with it? John Brewer’s PiPress story reports: “David Wayne Clark, 55, of St. Paul ‘was banged up pretty bad’ after the area near a bus stop at the southeast corner of Sixth and Wabasha streets collapsed beneath his feet about 9:15 a.m., St. Paul Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard said. Clark suffered bumps and bruises as paving bricks from the sidewalk tumbled onto him, Zaccard said.”
Can we all agree to put that pesky hazing business behind us, move on and play some football? Because they can in Elk River, where the school board voted unanimously to reinstate six coaches for the local high school team. MPR’s story, filed by Tom Weber, says: “The school board’s only actions Tuesday night were to unanimously approve resolutions calling for six Elk River coaches to be disciplined, including head coach Mike Cross. Board members would not detail those punishments, citing data privacy laws. But Superintendent Mark Bezek at least answered the big question that was on the minds of the 100 or so people gathered at the meeting. ‘All of our coaches — all of our coaches [and Elk River has about as many coaches as the Dallas Cowboys] — will be on the field this Friday evening for the game,’ Bezek told the crowd. That means the coaches will be disciplined in a way that will be marked on their employment file at the Elk River School District, but not in a way that keeps them away from the team any longer.” And leave it to MPR to describe the incident in the following way, “Police say players reported being struck or poked by other players with a broom handle on their backsides and legs.”
Finally, in another sports-related story, how about the umpire up in Andover who posted fliers soliciting money to hunt for his wife’s hit-and-run killer … only the wife wasn’t dead, just divorced. Fox9’s Maury Glover reports: “Court records showed the two had gotten a divorce in March. Herges [the umpire] received the $122 the girls [players in the league] had collected. Police set up a sting so they could catch the umpire in the act. Police say he didn’t give any explanation other than to say he was trying to get back at his wife. But he couldn’t explain how taking money from these children would get back at his wife.”