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Delegation not expecting D.C. ‘supercommittee’ success

AFTERNOON EDITION ALSO: Cain’s Wisconsin connections; Power Line praise for Strib; a life sentence; Kim & Kris news, of course; Halloween blizzard memories; and more.
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Unequivocal optimism is in short supply with the state’s congressional delegation as they try to assess the work of the so-called “supercommittee.” Brett Neely of MPR writes: “Rep. Collin Peterson agrees that partisanship and the election cycle are likely to get in the way of budget cutting. ‘My guess is they’ll do something that won’t be the entire $1.2 trillion and then punt the rest into next year,’ Peterson said. If the super committee does wind up deadlocked, former Rep. Tim Penny said its failure could be politically convenient for both parties ahead of the election. ‘They are most likely to opt for a campaign strategy that allows us, for one more year, to simply point fingers and place blame,’ he said.” That is, after all, a revered tactic in serious problem-solving.

Hermain Cain is having a pretty tough day, what with accusations of sexual harassment and pay-outs and the like. Back in Milwaukee, Craig Gilbert of the Journal-Sentinel serves up a quickie profile of Cain’s campaign manager, Mark Block, (aka “The Smoking Guy”): “Block’s calling card was grass-roots organization. ‘That was his niche,’ says Jim Klauser, a longtime Thompson aide and adviser. ‘If you asked him to do messaging and communication, that was really not his niche.’ In the 1990s, Block ran a number of judicial campaigns, a practice that ended in controversy and personal crisis when he was accused of illegally coordinating activities with an outside group. After a protracted legal fight, Block, his candidate (Supreme Court Justice Jon Wilcox) and another aide settled with the elections board in 2001 and paid fines. Block agreed not to work in Wisconsin politics for three years. His fine was $15,000, but the legal fees were far steeper, nearly breaking him financially. ‘The only thing I didn’t lose was my house,’ says Block, who staved off foreclosure proceedings. ‘It was devastating.’ Block acknowledges being arrested twice for drunken driving. ‘That’s one of the reasons I haven’t had a drink for six years,’ he says. He admitted no wrongdoing in the judicial election, but for his critics the episode cemented a reputation for taking risks and stretching the rules. ‘To this day, I still don’t think I did anything wrong. … I think I got screwed. Politics is a tough, tough business,’ he says.

And it appears to be getting tougher. Journal-Sentinel columnist Daniel Bice isn’t alone in noting that a Cain funding maneuver looks as though it violates quite a few pretty basic campaign finance rules: “Herman Cain’s two top campaign aides ran a private Wisconsin-based corporation that helped the GOP presidential candidate get his fledgling campaign off the ground by originally footing the bill for tens of thousands of dollars in expenses for such items as iPads, chartered flights and travel to Iowa and Las Vegas — something that might breach federal tax and campaign law, according to sources and documents. Internal financial records obtained by No Quarter show that Prosperity USA said it was owed about $40,000 by the Cain campaign for a variety of items in February and March. … Prosperity USA was owned and run by Wisconsin political operatives Mark Block and Linda Hansen, Cain’s current chief of staff and deputy chief of staff, respectively. … The candidate’s federal election filings make no mention of the debt, and the figures in the documents don’t match payments made by the candidate’s campaign. In addition to picking up these expenses at least initially, Prosperity USA also paid as much as $100,000 to the Congress of Racial Equality, a conservative black organization, shortly before Cain was a featured speaker … Election law experts say the transactions raise a host of questions for the private organization, which billed itself as a tax-exempt nonprofit, and the Cain team. ‘If the records accurately reflect what occurred, this is way out of bounds,’ said a Washington, D.C.-based election lawyer who advises many Republican candidates and conservative groups on campaign issues.”

The Strib’s Neal St. Anthony can rest comfortably for a while knowing that Power Line’s John Hinderaker has expressed approval of his story on Herman Cain’s brief time with Pillsbury. Says Hinderaker: “Today’s big news story is the revelation that while he was with the National Restaurant Association, Herman Cain was accused of some sort of impropriety by two women. It is impossible to know what to make of this story. Apparently no formal claims were brought, Politico’s description of the events that gave rise to the complaints is too vague to evaluate, and the amounts reportedly paid to the women in connection with their departure from NRA were small enough to be consistent with just about any scenario. Still, Politico’s story makes this article in today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune timely: ‘Herman Cain’s career at Pillsbury is a tale of two turnarounds.’ … The article is both flattering — it almost seems that the paper forgot that its subject is a Republican — and highly relevant to today’s attack in Politico.” .

Life, with no parole. That’s the sentencing in the case of the Seward Co-op triple homicide. Abby Simons in the Strib reports: “Mahdi Ali, 18, was convicted in September in the January 2010 slayings of Seward Market and Halal Meats employee Osman Elmi, 28; his cousin Mohamed Warfa, 30, and customer Anwar Mohammed, 31. In Hennepin County District Court on Monday, Judge Peter Cahill gave Ali consecutive life sentences. ‘It may seem terrible to take away liberty and any hope you have for release,’ Cahill said during sentencing. ‘But terrible or not, it is a just result.’ Ali did not speak during the proceeding.”

This one is getting a lot of Halloween attention around the country. The AP reports: “[A]n intoxicated man in zombie makeup has been arrested after allegedly walking into a residence in Moorhead before dawn Sunday. The incident began about 1:20 a.m. Sunday when police responded to a burglary call. Officers learned an intoxicated man in zombie makeup walked into a residence, where he was confronted by a homeowner with a gun. The zombie fled, but officers found a man matching the description hiding in the attic of another home on the block. He was known to people there.” And you try administering an alcohol test to a zombie.

I usually avoid this stuff like a zombie plague, if only because it is so predictable, but …  the AP and 15,000 other “news sites” are reporting: “The producers of Kim Kardashian’s reality show say the reality TV starlet will file for divorce today from Minnesota native and NBA player Kris Humphries after two months of marriage. Kardashian wed Humphries, who played basketball for the University of Minnesota Gophers and grew up in Hopkins, on Aug. 20 in a star-studded wedding that was made into a television special.” Is it too cynical to wonder if a quickie divorce —- as a story line for her reality TV show — wasn’t agreed to before the $10 million wedding?

It was 20 years ago today … and various news outlets are up with Halloween Blizzard ‘91 reminiscences. At Fox 9, News Director Bill Dallman recalls: “I was working as a newscast producer at KSTP during the big Halloween Blizzard of 1991. Somehow I made it from my house in South Minneapolis into the station, which is on University Avenue on the border of Minneapolis and St. Paul. I drove a Honda CRX at the time, with a ground clearance of about 10”. I did get stuck on the ramp from 35W to I-94 but someone with a big truck came and pushed me right out. I think I stayed at the station working and producing newscasts for more than 36 hours straight, covering for people who ‘couldn’t get in because of the snow..The best part was about two days earlier, we had received a memo from news management saying how, ‘Snow is no big deal in Minnesota, and we are not going to go crazy with coverage of snowstorms.’ ”

At the media archive site TCMediaNow, Tom Oszman puts up new videos of a slightly younger Paul Douglas trying to keep up with the wintry blast … and for good measure, since it Halloween, MinnPost’s own Don Shelby — closing tonight in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” — in a somewhat odd conversation with a clown. Say what you will, His Don-ness knows shtick.