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Economic contest: ‘Wisconsin’s not even in the game’ with us

“Free spirit” ad man Joe Culligan dies; Minnesotans split on IRS scandal; Wells
Fargo suits pending; MNsure’s two-tier approach criticized; day-care provider’s “bad day”; and more.

At MPR, Paul Tosto updates the latest in his series of Minnesota v. Wisconsin in the matter of economic health. “[A]s we’ve noted repeatedly in past posts (find a sampling here, here and here) Wisconsin talks a better game than it plays when it comes to economic success. The facts show Minnesota performed better than the Badger State in keeping people employed during the Great Recession and adding jobs in the recovery. This spring, though, there’s been mounting evidence that, economically, Wisconsin’s not even in the game. … The separation between Minnesota and Wisconsin has become even more pronounced this spring. In fact the Philly Fed’s Leading Index forecasts Minnesota’s economy continuing its solid growth the next six months. Wisconsin? It was one of only five states to show an expected decline.”

In the PiPress, Emily Cutts offers an obit/profile of a free-spirit ad man: “Whatever Joe Culligan did, he did it dramatically. And, in the case of his 50th birthday celebration, he also did it nude. The Culligan family had planned a party at their cabin on the St. Croix River and Culligan, a prominent Twin Cities advertising executive, had planned a surprise for his guests: He was going to dive off a 35-foot-tall railroad bridge into the St. Croix nude. But first he needed to learn how to dive, his family recalled Sunday. … Francis Joseph Culligan died Friday of Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a progressive lung disease. He was 73. … he was a managing partner of Fallon McElligott/Fallon Worldwide ad agency for 26 years before retiring.”

Monday’s Minnesota Poll asks the public about the IRS scandalCorey Mitchell of the Strib says: “Targeting of conservative political groups by the Internal Revenue Service has Minnesotans split on whether the practice was intentional, a Star Tribune Minnesota Poll has found. Two thirds of Minnesotans say the IRS was wrong to apply extra scrutiny when determining whether to grant nonprofit status to Tea Party and other conservative groups. But when asked who was to blame, poll responses split largely along party lines. About 47 percent of respondents, including three-fourths of Democrats, think the IRS acted on its own in investigating the conservative groups.”

Beth Hawkins (also of MinnPost fame) and Margaret Cronin Fisk report on another Wells Fargo securities trial for Bloomberg:Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) faces a second Minnesota trial over claims by institutional investors that the bank marketed a risky securities-lending program as safe and cost them millions of dollars in losses. The case is one of at least five in Minnesota against Wells Fargo over its securities lending. Wells Fargo lost the first to go to trial in 2010, when a state court jury awarded Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Reinsurance Association and three charitable foundations about $30 million, a judgment that was upheld on appeal. Wells Fargo is scheduled for a third trial on the same claims from different plaintiffs in September, brought as a class action, or group lawsuit on behalf of about 100 institutional investors. Two other cases are also pending in federal court.” I’m certain this is yet another in a series of purely inadvertent accounting errors by low-level employees …

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Low-income advocates are unhappy with MNsure’s two-tier system. Elizabeth Stawicki of MPR writes: “Because they are new, and tens of millions of Americans will use them to enroll in health insurance for the first time, the federal health care law requires states to help consumers understand and sign up for coverage. MNsure will pay these consumer assistance partners $70 for each person enrolled in a commercial health plan. But for people whose income is so low that they cannot afford to pay for health insurance and must rely on Medicaid, the federally sponsored program for the poor, MNsure will pay just $25. That difference is prompting complaints that MNsure is treating lower-income Medicaid enrollees like second-class citizens. Doing so is unfair to the organizations that help them and the potential Medicaid enrollees, said Sarah Greenfield, Health Care program manager of TakeAction MN, a coalition of unions and other advocacy organizations.” So, $45 … or the cost of an aspirin at free-market hospital prices?

The GleanIn The Washington Times, Annie Z. Yu interviews state GOP Chairman Keith Downey on the party’s predicament in the 6th District: “But state Republican Party Chairman Keith Downey says he is optimistic about his party’s prospects in the district and pointed to its strong Republican demographics — Mitt Romney easily carried the district last year, as did GOP nominees George W. Bush in 2004 and Sen. John McCain in 2008 — as evidence of how it just might be ‘a perfect district’ for Republicans in a largely blue state. He also predicted renewed GOP enthusiasm in the midterm in reaction to the Democrats’ takeover of the state legislature in 2012. … With a rare favorable playing field, the Republican list of candidates is likely to grow, with several state lawmakers, veterans advocate Pete Hegseth and onetime state party chairman Pat Shortridge eyeing the race, according to The Associated Press.”

Charges have been filed … Paul Walsh of the Strib reports: “A day-care operator didn’t realize that one of the 10 children she was caring for had been missing and was walking amid traffic on an east-central Minnesota highway, admitting that she had gotten drunk because she was having a bad day, according to gross-misdemeanor charges. Carrie A. Richardson, 56, of Sandstone, was charged late Friday afternoon in Pine County District Court with child neglect and child endangerment … . she said she had three or four glasses of wine but could not produce the bottle, the complaint read. Ultimately, she said she had been drinking vodka since early in the afternoon, then recovered an empty vodka bottle and added that she also had taken at least four tablespoons of cough syrup so far that day, the complaint added.” This day probably isn’t a whole lot better.

It always looks bad … Maya Rao of the Strib writes: “Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin has repeatedly voted for multimillion-dollar trash-disposal agreements tied to the law firm where his wife works — and never disclosed the connection. The contracts are with Great River Energy, which owns the Elk River processing plant where Hennepin County sends garbage to be converted into electricity. The company retained McLaughlin’s wife, Nancy Hylden, and her law-firm colleague Richard Forschler, as lobbyists in the fall of 2009 as Great River made a desperate pitch to keep the county’s business. … As for disclosure, he said: ‘I don’t need to reveal that — she hasn’t ever tried to influence me on these things, so there’s nothing that would require a declaration, or worse yet, denying my residents my participation on these matters that affect how much they pay for garbage.’ ” Mmmm. Might want to re-phrase that one.

He probably thought it was buckthorn … Stribber Kelly Smith writes: “The owner of a $2.6 million mansion in Eden Prairie has been slapped with a nearly $25,000 fine after the city said he illegally cut down more than a dozen protected, towering trees in his back yard, which overlooks the scenic Minnesota River. … During negotiations with the city, Mitchell Coopet admitted that he had cut down 17 of the trees, but said the previous owner of the 13,048-square-foot house had cut down even more to make way for a back yard patio. The settlement with Eden Prairie allowed Coopet to deny any liability for cutting down trees in the easement area.”