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Pawlenty taps GOP big-money crowd

MORNING EDITION ALSO: Limmer’s poll claim explained, and Dibble rips Senate gay-marriage vote; Lake Pepin problems; police chiefs shoot at gun bill; Wisconsin’s IOU; and more.
Read Thurs. Afternoon Edition


T-Paw may not being doing much in the polls, but he’s got something (or his GOP competitors have too little) that the money guys like. Patrick O’Connor of the Wall Street Journal writes: “Mr. Pawlenty’s backers include Bob Perry, the Texas home builder who gave more money than any GOP donor to conservative groups like American Crossroads, which spent heavily in the 2010 election, and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which was active in the 2004 campaign. In 2008, Mr. Perry supported Mr. Romney. Ray Washburne, a Texas real-estate developer and restaurateur who raised money for former President George W. Bush, is backing Mr. Pawlenty because ‘he’s got a great story to tell.’ The Pawlenty campaign held its biggest fund-raiser to date in Dallas on Tuesday at the home of Tom Hicks, the private-equity and sports investor, who once owned the Texas Rangers baseball team. Co-hosts included heirs to the H.L. Hunt oil fortune, Dean Foods Chief Executive Gregg Engles, billionaire buyout investor Harold Simmons and Excel Communications founder Kenny Troutt.”

Steve Kornacki of Salon posts a piece on the various “flaws” in GOP presidential candidates: “Tim Pawlenty’s flaw is that he’s a ‘a former Minnesota governor most Americans have never heard of (and when they have, he gets overshadowed by others),’ while Jon Huntsman’s is that he ‘faithfully (and uncritically) served in the Obama administration’ (as ambassador to China). What do these flaws have in common? They really only matter within the Republican Party.  … [As for Pawlenty:] His tendency to blend in with the furniture is a problem now, as he tries to stand out from his fellow Republicans and build excitement among influential party leaders, activists and commentators. (His past support of cap-and-trade, for which he’s now aggressively apologizing, could also hinder him in this regard.) But if he were to secure the nomination, this trait would probably be helpful. The less edgy and polarizing next year’s GOP nominee is, the easier it will be for him or her to take advantage of rotten economic conditions (if they exist) and unseat Obama.”

MPR’s PoliGraph looks at the claim by GOP Sen. Warren Limmer that 78 percent of Minnesotans want to vote on banning gay marriage and reiterates (and credits) something Andy Birkey of The Minnesota Independent posted last week. Says Catharine Richert: “One recent poll backs Limmer’s contention that a broad majority of the public wants the issue on the ballot, about 74 percent of Minnesota voters. (Limmer’s spokeswoman Susan Closmore said that he incorporated the 4 percentage point margin of error when making the statement.) But it’s important to highlight where those numbers are coming from. The poll, which surveyed about 600 Minnesota voters Jan. 10-13, 2011, was commissioned by the Minnesota Family Council and the National Organization for Marriage, two organizations that support the amendment. Furthermore, the company hired to conduct the poll, Lawrence Research, is operated by pollster Gary Lawrence, who, according to news reports in the Minnesota Independent and the Washington Post, organized members of the Mormon Church in support of Proposition 8, an amendment to the California Constitution that prevents gay marriage from being recognized by the state. Lawrence did not return calls to provide more details on his polling results. So, Limmer is basing his claim on one poll commissioned by organizations that support putting a marriage amendment to a vote.”

Speaking of Birkey, he checks back in with DFL Sen. Scott Dibble, the Senate’s only openly gay member. He’s got some pretty tart things to say about the anti-gay marriage bill. Birkey writes: “Reaction to the passage of a Republican anti–gay marriage amendment in the Minnesota Senate on Wednesday was swift. ‘They have made a grave, grave mistake, and I think they will see that soon,” Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, the only member of the LGBT community in the Senate. The bill’s author, Maple Grove Republican Warren Limmer, dodged questions by Dibble and reporters about whether he thinks same-sex marriage is immoral and whether the measure was really about morality. Though he didn’t answer, Limmer has made his opposition to homosexuality very clear in his 20 years in office. Dibble chastised Republicans who seemed shy to speak on the Senate floor in support of the amendment. During three hours of debate, only Limmer and Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Brainerd, spoke in favor of the amendment. ‘I think they are ashamed of themselves. I think they know they are wrong,’ Dibble told reporters after the vote. ‘I think the order from their operatives and party handlers was, ‘Be quiet, because what we are doing is not where Minnesotans are at.’ They are responding to the pressure of a very vocal minority.’ One reporter mentioned Dibble’s charge that GOP members are ashamed of their position and asked, ‘Do you believe gay marriage is morally wrong?’ Limmer refused to answer. ‘It’s up to the public to make a direction and advice to the Legislature and state government.’ ”

MPR’s Mark Steil breaks down a study that blames farming for surging sedimentation clogging Lake Pepin: “A new report from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency essentially blames farmers for the growing sediment. Agency officials say agriculture has transformed the land so that more water flows into rivers, dramatically boosting riverbank erosion and sediment deposits in Lake Pepin. ‘At that rate the upper lake from Frontenac on upstream would fill in by the time this century is out,’ said Norman Senjem, the agency’s basin coordinator for the Mississippi. ‘The whole lake would fill in within 300 years.’ That outlook has spurred the MPCA to draft a plan to reduce the Lake Pepin sediment. But some farmers and researchers say more rain, not farming, is to blame. Besides endangering Lake Pepin, the muddy Minnesota is also a problem for fish and other aquatic populations in the Minnesota River itself. A recent MPCA report said populations of insects, snails and mussels in the river continue to decline.”

The cops are the latest crowd telling legislators the GOP-sponsored bill to expand the so-called “Castle Doctrine” is a bad idea.  Tim Pugmire of MPR reports: “With fewer than two weeks left in the legislative session, Sen. John Harrington, DFL-St. Paul, said he would rather be talking about ways to erase the state’s projected $5 billion budget deficit. Instead, the first-term legislator and former St. Paul police chief was trying to derail a bill that he described as ‘broadly misguided.’ Harrington said the measure could put police officers at greater risk when chasing criminals through residential neighborhoods. ‘I don’t think we should expect our law enforcement, our peace officers, our sheriffs to have to be able to look both ways when they’re chasing a bad guy through the back yards,’ he said. ‘I don’t think this bill will increase public safety at all.’ Harrington was joined at a State Capitol news conference by Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan and St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith, who shared similar concerns. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom warned of the legal ramifications of the bill.”

Hey, thanks, Sen. Harsdorf. The River Falls legislator is dogging Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to pay back that $60 million BadgerLand owes us. Andy Rathbun of the PiPress writes: “In a statement Thursday, [Sheila] Harsdorf, R-River Falls, said she asked Walker to use part of a projected $600 million in additional income tax receipts through 2013 to pay about $60 million the state owes Minnesota from an expired tax reciprocity agreement. ‘The fiscally responsible thing to do with these new revenues is to pay down our debts,’ she said in a statement. ‘While Governor Doyle failed to meet our state’s obligations to Minnesota, our new governor is committed to paying Wisconsin’s bills.’ The reciprocity agreement allowed those who lived in one state and worked in another to file only one tax return. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty ended the agreement in 2009 in an effort to help balance the state budget. Wisconsin missed its final payment to Minnesota in December, causing Gov. Mark Dayton to send Walker a letter in January asking for the money.”

And good luck on this one. FEMA wants $1.1 million back from 400 Wisconsonites. Tom Held of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says: “More than 400 Wisconsin residents have been ordered to return about $1.1 million in disaster assistance that the Federal Emergency Management Agency now says it distributed in error. The letters demanding repayment angered and frustrated those who thought the agency’s disaster assistance would help after they lost furnaces, water heaters, valuable possessions and thousands of dollars because of floods. ‘All these other people that had disasters; I almost want to tell them, “Don’t call FEMA. You don’t know what kind of a can of worms you’re opening up,” ‘ said Stewart Wells, a Wauwatosa homeowner. Wells and the other disaster aid recipients in Wisconsin were targeted as part of a larger effort by the federal agency to recoup roughly $22 million distributed by mistake or to people who were ineligible for assistance. According to an Associated Press report, FEMA is seeking payments from more than 5,500 people who were affected by 129 separate disasters since 2005, including floods, tornadoes, hurricanes and other calamities from Arkansas to American Samoa.”

Sally Jo Sorensen of the Bluestem Prairie blog links to a story in the Fergus Falls Journal in which Sen. Gretchen Hoffman explains her reasons for supporting the gay marriage ban referendum: “While Hoffman would not say how she would vote if the amendment makes [it] to the 2012 ballot, she did say that ‘redefining what marriage means’ could lead to social and societal ills, ills she already sees as she sits on the Health and Human Services Committee. ‘(The cause of) just about all of our programs that we … spend so much money on I can point to the dissolution of families,’ she said, adding that non-traditional family structures are not as conducive for raising children and forming productive societies. ‘It’s been proven (that) what children need is a mother and a dad,’ she said. Hoffman added that she does not see the issue as one of civil rights. ‘Marriage is not a right,’ she said. ‘It’s a responsibility and an obligation.’ She added that homosexuals are free to assemble, bear arms, worship how they chose and access every other right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. ‘I would defend anybody’s rights,’ she said.” Especially the part about heavily armed gays.