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Michele Bachmann popping up here, there and everywhere

AFTERNOON EDITION ALSO: A medical records test project; Hecker colleague sentenced; a Minnesota tax return glitch; Dayton on “Voter ID” bill; and a new role for GOP operative Jeff Larson.
Read Thur. Morning Edition


Michele Bachmann is adding early-primary states and always-Tea Party-friendly South Carolina to her February travel itinerary. The Spartanburg Herald Journal’s Jason Spencer reports: “Bachmann will speak at a lunch meeting of the South Carolina Federation of Republican Women in Columbia, and the Spartanburg County Republican Party will host a reception and dinner for her. Bachmann spokesman Doug Sachtleben said the trip, in part, was aimed at ‘mobilizing the grassroots to be active in the process of selecting a new president.’ ‘She was invited to come speak,’ Sachtleben said. ‘She’s been taking opportunities to speak to groups to make clear the point that in 2012 we need a new president. We need a president who believes in limited government within constitutional boundaries.’ …  Sheri Few, a Kershaw County Republican who helped arrange the trip, said Bachmann likes ‘aggressive schedules,’ so more events in this first-in-the-South primary state are possible.”

The GOP’s ongoing dilemma over what if anything they dare say about Bachmann gets another going over from Roll Call today. Jessica Brady reports: “Paying the tea party firebrand any special attention would only heighten her profile, empower her and potentially create schisms within the new House majority, Republican aides said. Republican leaders might have reason to try to manage the conservative Minnesota Republican more directly, however. Bachmann hasn’t been quiet in the weeks since the 112th Congress began … ‘I think there are a lot of people in the leadership that wish she would step back so the Republican Party can put up a face that appeals to moderate and independent voters, and she does none of that,’ one Republican operative said. ‘She has a segment of the Republican Party or the tea party that’s staunchly anti-government, anti-spending, anti-tax. There is no middle appeal with her, and I think there’s a great deal of concern that the Republican Party is going to be branded as the party of Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann.’ ” Maybe if “Republican operatives” dared put their names on quotes critical of Palin and Bachmann, everyone else would stop thinking they hold the power in the modern GOP?

On the flip side, Democratic Sen. Jon Tester in Montana is not being shy about attaching his likely re-election opponent to our congresswoman. The Hill’s Michael O’Brien writes: “Tester sought to tie Rep. Denny Rehberg (R), who announced this week that he’s running against Tester for Senate, to Bachmann, the lightning-rod chairwoman of the House Tea Party Caucus. The incumbent Democrat pointed to legislation Bachmann has proposed cutting an estimated $4.5 billion from the Veterans Affairs Department’s healthcare spending. ‘That’s who he’ll be standing beside when he announces,’ Tester said on ABC’s ‘TopLine’ webcast, referencing the dinner on Saturday where Rehberg will formally announce his candidacy and where Bachmann will be a featured speaker.” Oh … sorry … she’ll be in Montana, too.

Oops … add Hawaii to that list. B.J. Reyes of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser covers Bachmann’s Wednesday stop in paradise: “She cited last year’s sweeping health-care reform bill as what she believes will be the signature issue of the 2012 campaign. ‘I believe with every fiber of my being that we will repeal Obamacare,’ she told a wildly supportive crowd of about 200 at the Ala Moana Hotel yesterday. ‘As we look at our nominees for president and vice president, you’ve got to know without a shadow of a doubt that you are going to elect a cat that is going to stick on this repeal of Obamacare no matter what, because that person could end up being a one-term president,” she added. … Without advocating for a specific plan, Bachmann discussed tax proposals that Congress could consider, including a flat tax rate or a straight consumption tax, also known as a national sales tax.” Excuse me, but didn’t Bachmann tell Bloomberg’s Margaret Carlson three days  that she wasn’t giving interviews this week in order to concentrate on “district work”? I’ve heard of gerrymandering, but Hawaii is kind of ridiculous.  

Money from the 2009 stimulus bill is coming into Minnesota as a test project for expediting the transition to electronically stored and transmitted medical records. The website iHealthBeat reports: “The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has launched in Minnesota and Rhode Island the first pilot demonstrations of the Direct Project for simple electronic health information exchanges … The Direct Project is a streamlined version of the Nationwide Health Information Network and is designed to help health care providers with limited resources meet criteria for the meaningful use program. Under the 2009 economic stimulus package, health care providers who demonstrate meaningful use of certified electronic health records can qualify for Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments.”

A Computerworld story by Lucas Meirian explains, “The Direct Project, overseen by the ONC, involves hospitals in Minnesota and Rhode Island that are exchanging information, including laboratory results, physician-to-physician transfers of summary patient records, data from physicians to hospitals for patient admission, hospital discharge data, and information to public health agencies. For example, since mid-January, Hennepin County Medical Center in Minnesota has been sending immunization records to the Minnesota Department of Health. ‘This demonstrates the success that is possible through public-private collaborations,’ [says] James Golden, Minnesota’s state health information technology coordinator … ‘This is an important milestone for Minnesota and a key step toward the seamless electronic movement of information to improve care and public health.’ … By achieving Meaningful Use criteria, physicians and hospitals can receive up to $64,000 per physician in Medicare reimbursements over the next five years.”

The Strib’s Jackie Crosby focuses on a local company directly involved in the test: “VisionShare, a technology company in Minneapolis, was singled out at an event at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for a pilot project in which Hennepin County Medical Center used the company’s software to securely send immunization records … While using the Internet to share patient records may sound simple, the bulk of information still gets sent via fax machines or the mail — or not at all. ‘Being aware of records and securely exchanging them has turned out to be enormously difficult to do,’ said Mark Briggs, CEO of VisionShare. He likened VisionShare’s software to buying a premium channel to watch sporting events. Health care providers can use their existing Internet provider but rely on VisionShare software to transmit encrypted records.”

One of Denny Hecker’s, uh, “colleagues,” Jim Gustafson, got off lightly when he was sentenced to 120 hours of community service and a $1,000 fine by Judge Joan Erickson. The Strib’s Dee DePass reports: “Gustafson pleaded guilty last year to preparing a fake auto title for Hecker’s Cadillac Escalade and ushering the paperwork through the state. For a time, the fraud helped Hecker hide assets from Chrysler Financial and the bankruptcy court. Gustafson, 49, of Maple Grove, was a Hecker employee for 30 years.” An Escalade? I thought Denny was a Range Rover kind of guy?

Personally, I have low regard for anyone who files their tax returns before 11 p.m. on April 15. But KARE-TV is reporting that those who already have filed their Minnesota returns have run up against a computer glitch: “At least 9,000 taxpayers expected to see their refunds deposited directly into their bank accounts. But, that didn’t happen. Instead a paper check was generated and sent through the mail. Revenue department spokesperson Kit Borgman says the delay happened because of a computer system upgrade.”

“A solution looking for a problem.” That’s Gov. Dayton’s reaction to the GOP’s voter ID/”voter fraud” bill. Tim Pugmire at MPR says: “Supporters say that requiring photo identification at the polls will ensure election integrity. But Dayton disagrees. He said there’s no evidence of any significant voter fraud in Minnesota. ” ‘I think every vote should be a legal vote in Minnesota and we should have means to measure that,’ Dayton said. ‘But I think this has been a greatly exaggerated phenomenon by those who are dissatisfied with the political results of the last two elections in Minnesota.’ ” Thank you. And while you’re at it, Governor, ask them where all those “jobs bills” are?

Politico’s Jonathan Martin has reported that Minnesota Republican strategist Jeff Larson — he of Norm Coleman’s very low-rent D.C. digs and Sarah Palin’s very expensive wardrobe bill is being appointed the Republican National Committee’s chief of staff: “While not the sort given to appearing on cable TV, Larson has earned a sterling reputation in the GOP operative world as a smart and capable strategist. ‘He’s an adult,’ said a Republican official familiar with the pick, describing both Larson’s age (52) and the widely held perception among GOP professionals that some grown-ups are needed to help rebuild the beleaguered party. His immediate and most daunting task: helping Priebus dig the RNC out of $23 million in debt.”