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First, no Bachmann … and now, no Graves

Data centers likely to grow here; fraud scheme draws two-year sentence; latest Petters-related trial; Wisconsin photo ID law passes one test; new Ely anti-mine group; and more.

Following Eric Black’s scoop here, Mike Mullen at Politics in Minnesota writes: “Graves stopped short of saying his candidacy had driven Bachmann from the race. But the announcement of his second bid had clearly drawn attention from wealthy Democratic boosters across the country, who flooded his campaign fund with $100,000 in the first week following his announcement, not to mention from Bachmann herself. … Graves’ departure creates a vacuum on the DFL side of the election, while the Republican field is already overflowing with possible and likely candidates looking for a chance to run in the traditionally conservative district. Former GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, former Republican U.S. Senate candidate Pete Hegseth and former state legislator Phil Krinkie, who lost out to Bachmann for the Republican endorsement in 2006, have all expressed interest in running for the seat.”

In the Strib, Jim Ragsdale says: “Without Bachmann as a flashpoint for opposition, the 6th could be a GOP slam-dunk. The largely suburban and exurban district surrounds the Twin Cities on the east, north, and western sides, including Benton, Sherburne, Stearns, Wright, Anoka, and Washington counties. GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney defeated Democratic President Barack Obama by 15 percentage points in 2012 even though Obama carried the state of Minnesota. … It is not as clear that national Democrats will put money into a district with another GOP candidate running. Brandon Lorenz, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said the national organization will ‘monitor the race as it develops.’ ‘We expect this district will feature a bitter Republican primary fight over who can get the furthest to the right the fastest,’ Lorenz said.” The right candidate could have the job for a decade, at minimum.

MPR’s Mike Mulcahy puts up Graves’ official statement. In it, he says: “This is the most difficult message I’ve ever had to write. A year ago, we set out on a mission: To restore civility, functionality and honesty to Washington by removing Michele Bachmann from office. Her hateful rhetoric and dangerous policies fueled an extremist movement unlike anything we’d seen in a long time. The tone it created was a poison pill that crippled Congress, preventing government from performing its most basic duties, like passing a budget. … But after struggling with this decision — agonizing over it with my friends, supporters and family, I’ve decided to suspend my campaign indefinitely. As I said, I’ve never faced a more difficult decision. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support and dedication.” It’s not hard to imagine the conversation Graves had with the DCCC.

Not sure if this is a big “jobs”-creating move … Chris Newmarker of Finance & Commerce writes: “Minnesota could end up winning even more data centers now that it is expanding the sales tax exemption it offers for equipment, software and electricity used in such projects. Gov. Mark Dayton signed a taxes bill last week that allows refurbished data centers to also claim the exemption. As of July 1, projects have to be more than 25,000 square feet versus a previous 30,000. And for brand new data centers, total project costs have to be more than $30 million over four years instead of a previous $50 million over two years. Refurbished data centers will require a $50 million investment over two years to qualify. … Only 15 to 18 jobs would be created in Shakopee, at an average salary of $68,500, according to city documents.” So where are they building the hardware?

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On the fraud & scam watch … Paul Walsh of the Strib says: “A onetime real estate agent from White Bear Lake is going to prison for running a mortgage fraud scheme for two years that involved more than 100 homes and cheated lenders out of at least $7 million. Robert L. Rick, 52, was sentenced Wednesday in federal court in St. Paul to three years in prison for committing mail and wire fraud. Details about restitution have yet to be determined. … From 2005 through 2007, Rick worked with developers, builders and people seeking to “invest” in residential real estate. Rick secured investors to buy multiple residential properties and then receive kickbacks from the loan proceeds. To fund the kickbacks, builders sold the homes at reduced prices, appraisers assessed the homes at inflated prices, and the loan lenders were informed only of the inflated prices, leading to them to award mortgage loans to the buyers based on inflated prices.”

And, David Phelps of the Strib covers the latest Petters-related trial: “Michelle Palm on Thursday offered the portrait of a disheveled Arrowhead Capital Management as her former employer’s investments with Petters Companies Inc., started to unravel in 2008. … The onetime vice president for special operations at the Twin Cities-based hedge fund also testified that investors were routinely misled about the source and nature of their investments and were never told about the precarious condition of the firm’s financial relationship with PCI when the specter of default was looming. … Palm called it ‘a huge selling point’’ for investors to believe that purchase orders came from highly rated retailers. ‘You needed to know where the money was coming from.’ She said the investments were also marketed as promissory notes that paid off in 90-day increments, which gave investors a sense of ‘safety, security and liquidity.’ ” Investors’ suspension of disbelief in Petters is endlessly fascinating.

On, Wisconsin! Todd Richmond of the AP says: “A Wisconsin law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls is constitutional, a state appeals court ruled Thursday in a decision offering hope for Republicans working to reinstate the mandate. The 4th District Court of Appeals ruled the Legislature has the power to make voters identify themselves and the photo identification requirement extends from that authority. The decision reversed Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess’ finding last year that the law was unconstitutional because it would disenfranchise voters who lack the resources to obtain photo identification. The ruling doesn’t mean the requirements are back in effect; another injunction blocking the law in a separate case still stands and two federal challenges are pending. Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s spokesman released a statement calling the ruling a victory.”

The GleanHeck, another coffee shop would “divide” some people … Dan Kraker of MPR reports: “The polarizing divide over the future of mining around Ely will be on display this weekend, when an anti-mining group opens shop on Sheridan Street, the canoeing mecca’s main drag. Workers in the new center, dubbed ‘Sustainable Ely,’ will encourage tourists to take action urging President Barack Obama to protect the region’s environment from copper-nickel mining. They also want people to urge Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration to expand a mining protection zone around the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.”

It’s tough being a baby moose. John Myers of the Duluth News Tribune writes: “Back in January, wildlife researcher Glenn DelGiudice promised Minnesotans they would see results very quickly from his planned study of moose calves in the state’s northern forests. Unfortunately for the moose, he was right. Within days of finishing a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources effort to capture 49 moose calves and fit them with GPS transmitter collars, 22 of the newborns already have died, most killed by black bears and wolves. While it was expected — calves, like fawn deer, are most vulnerable in their first few days and weeks — the high level of mortality is a reminder, even for veteran researchers, of the harsh realities of the north woods food chain.” Bear and wolves … they’re like private equity firms … only with fur and bigger teeth.

Did you catch the photobomb prank U of M baseball coach John Anderson’s players pulled on him? Via USA Today, Mike Foss: “Even as the coach walked away, he appeared to have absolutely zero clues as to what was occurring, despite the broadcast crew’s attempt to tip him off.”