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T-Paw’s Iowa operation hit for ‘coziness’ with oil industry

AFTERNOON EDITION ALSO: State bridges on the mend; debt ceiling deal fallout; loans drying up for U grad students; county gang database ending; and more.
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The T-Paw campaign — the one that’s all about “Sam’s Club Republicans”  is now battling back complaints that it is too cozy with … the oil industry. Says Jon Collins in The Washington Independent: “It was revealed by the Des Moines Register last week that Pawlenty advisers Karen Slifka and Chuck Larson are also working for the Iowa Energy Forum, a nonprofit consortium of oil industry lobbying groups that’s shooting to influence the outcome of the primary in early states, leading to accusations of conflict of interest from other campaigns. ‘Since 2009, Tim Pawlenty’s been trying to sell himself to Iowa Republicans,,Kent Sorenson, a state senator from Indianola told the Des Moines Register last week. “Now, he’s attempting to hijack nonprofit organizations for his own political gain.’ The Pawlenty campaign denied there was any illegal coordination. The nonprofit is expected to play a high-profile role in early primary events, including providing tents, tickets and transportation to the Iowa Straw Poll on Aug. 13, which could help the struggling Pawlenty campaign.”  If this presidential thing doesn’t work out for him, T-Paw might just be covering his bases for a job on the next pipeline.

Craig Robinson at The Iowa Republican, “News for Republicans, by Republicans,” says: “ is told that another Pawlenty consultant, Ed Failor, Jr., is also paid to consult [for] the Iowa Energy Forum. In addition to the three Pawlenty consultants who are also working with the Iowa Energy Forum, an entity that intends to have a major presence at the upcoming Straw Poll in Ames, a fourth Pawlenty Iowa consultant, Nicole Schlinger, is using her skills to plan and organize the Iowa Straw Poll for Pawlenty while serving in the same capacity for Strong America Now. Strong America Now a debt reduction organization that is also looking to impact the caucuses. Like the Iowa Energy Forum, Strong America is offering people who sign the group’s pledge free transportation and tickets to Ames. These interest groups that are aggressively trying to impact the presidential race in Iowa essentially pay all four of Pawlenty’s main Iowa consultants.  The dual roles that these consultants fill gives the Pawlenty campaign an advantage that no other campaign has. Being closely associated with interest groups that are transporting and purchasing tickets for people who wish to attend the Straw Poll is a huge advantage.” Well, we’ll expect him to make the most of it then.

Fifty-nine down. Seventy-five to go. The Strib’s Pat Doyle reports on bridge work in Minnesota: “In the four years since the collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge, the state has repaired or replaced 59 deficient bridges, with the last of those jobs to be completed by the end of this fall. But 75 more bridges remain scheduled for work through 2018. The projects are part of a $2.5 billion long-range program to deal with troubled bridges before they become safety hazards. … The program will be funded through $1.2 billion in bonds and $1.3 billion from state and federal tax revenues. [Nancy] Daubenberger [head of bridge inspections for the Minnesota Department of Transportation] said Tuesday that the bridge work is on schedule.” The only way to stop this kind of reckless spending is to cut those taxes … and put people back to work.

… And the best way to get them back to work is to lop off their unemployment benefits. Baird Helgeson of the Strib writes: “The debt ceiling deal adopted in Washington on Tuesday has left state officials bracing for an unknown crush of new budget cuts and thousands of jobless Minnesotans facing the harsh knowledge that their benefits could expire within months. ‘As of right now, it’s certain — unemployment insurance will end,’ said Lee Nelson, chief attorney for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. ‘If you are laid off today, there’s no extension’ beyond the 26 weeks the state offers. Minnesota budget officials, fresh from beating back their own massive state deficit, now must scramble to deal with a round of possible cuts in federal spending outlined in the deal President Obama signed Tuesday. While the agreement averted the calamity of a potential U.S. default and the freezing of federal funds, it also sets in motion a slow wave of reductions that will wash across all states. In Minnesota, it could mean less for road projects, school funding, medical assistance and services for low-income Minnesotans.” But relief for our “jobs providers.”

The Strib runs a Washington Post commentary by Alexandra Petri on the only middling popularity of God in a modern America that is disgusted with both political parties: “If God were to behave anything like the present Congress or administration, God would probably be in panic mode, redesigning all the giraffes; making cuter, more innocuous bears, and canceling all the currently scheduled natural disasters. And if this teaches us anything, it might be that approval ratings are meaningless. ‘Lord,’ we say, ‘assuming You exist and wish to be capitalized, we have a few suggestions. We think only good things should happen to everyone all the time. Also, disasters are terrible and poll badly with the youth. Twice as many young people in the coveted 18-to-29 demographic disapprove of the way you’ve handled them.’ President Obama endures dark nights of the soul when he fails to maintain an approval rating above 46. But even among people who believe, God rates no higher than a 52.” He really needs to work on his messaging. And maybe some snappier TV ads.

Despite pressure from the House GOP, which wanted Pell grants red-lined in the budget deal, they did survive. However … says the AP, “Billions of dollars in Pell Grant funding for undergraduate students was preserved in the law to raise the federal debt ceiling, but it was financed by curbs to student loan subsidies that helped graduate students, which has some students at the University of Minnesota concerned. ‘Once again we’re seeing graduate and professional education school pitted against undergraduate education,’ said Abou Amara, president of the University’s Graduate and Professional Student Assembly. Under the debt ceiling deal signed into law on Tuesday, government-subsidized loans for graduate and professional students across the nation will be eliminated in July 2012. Those students will begin paying interest on their loans while still in school, or let it accumulate.”

Ramsey County’s gangbanger database is biting the dust. Bradley Gervais of the PiPress writes: “An independent report in 2009 raised community concerns about the database and urged changes. In response, the sheriff’s office deleted more than one-third of the names and added a parental-notification component for juveniles listed in the database. Law enforcement officials still have access to a state-run gang database, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s Pointer File. It has stricter guidelines than GangNet did for including suspected gang members. At one point last year, the Legislature considered an outright ban of databases of apparent or existing gang members. When [Sheriff Matt] Bostrom took office in January, GangNet was among several issues brought to his attention, he said. His office surveyed law enforcement agencies by email to glean whether it was important to their jobs. He learned that few agencies had been updating the database during the past nine to 12 months, he said.”

The funky Fringe Festival starts Thursday, MPR’s Euen Kerr offers links to shows and checks out the “traveling Fringe”: “Courtney McLean traveled the circuit for a couple of years with her one-woman show. The fringe travelers find each other and trade tips on the best places to stay and tricks of the fringe trade, McLean said. ‘You kind of have this sense of ‘Oh we don’t belong,’ and so you glom on to each other,’ she said. ‘And you meet people from all over the world. It’s so cool.’ And that’s how she learned about other fringes. ‘I have friends that have been to the New Zealand Fringe, I have friends that do the Canadian circuit all the time. People who have been to Edinburgh, the Amsterdam Fringe …’ The Fringe circuit changed MacLean’s life. She upped stakes and moved to Minneapolis from New York after performing here twice.”

Does this sound familiar? Larry Sandler of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports: “The new state budget has pushed Milwaukee County more than $21 million deeper into a fiscal hole, increasing the chances that massive service cuts could be needed to fill the gap, a nonpartisan local think tank says in a report being released Wednesday. Transit, parks and social services all could be chopped, while layoffs and benefit cuts could be ahead for county workers, the Public Policy Forum report says in its preview of the challenges in crafting the 2012 county budget. For revenue, the county has one last chance to raise property taxes by $10 million, in addition to boosting fees and imposing a controversial wheel tax, the report says.”

More good publicity for our fine state. The Huffington Post has picked up on the lawsuit filed against the Red Wing School District for tolerating “Wigger Day” in 2009. Steven Hoffer tells America: “A Minnesota school district allowed a homecoming event called “Wigger Day,” during which students wore clothes and behaved in a manner that “from their perspective, mimicked black culture,” according to a federal class action lawsuit filed against the district on Friday. The suit alleges that despite student council voting on a ‘tropical theme’ for homecoming in 2009, a group of approximately 60 students from the predominantly white school instead attended the event dressed for ‘Wigger Wednesday’ in ‘oversized sports jerseys, low-slung pants, baseball hats cocked to the side and ‘doo rags.’ ‘Wigger’ is a pejorative slang term for a white person who emulates the mannerisms, language and fashions associated with African-American culture,’ the complaint explains.”