Strib on Wilfs: ‘From now on’ we’ll be watching closely

The Strib includes several reminders of its, um, watchdog status relative to Zygi and Mark Wilf and Minnesota taxpayers’ money by way of editorializing that “from now on” we’re going to be watching the books really, really closely. In an editorial (worth framing) it says: “Off the field, like it or not, they have successfully played the stadium game by the unofficial rules established by their counterparts in the National Football League. … The question whether we could really trust these guys has long been in the air. … A team spokesman quickly labeled the case a “private business matter.” But in Minnesota, the Wilfs are involved in a business matter that is public, and that makes their conduct in other business dealings of great and legitimate interest to their partners— state and city taxpayers. … an NFL franchise is important for any metro area that aspires to major-league status in economic vitality and quality of life. … every business dealing they have in Minnesota from now on is likely to face greater scrutiny.”

As someone who was on the verge of a psychotic incident what with 494 reduced to one lane and every eastbound ramp until 12th Avenue closed … I didn’t need to read this. Tim Nelson of MPR reports: “A variety of road, bridge and other construction projects will slow traffic on Minnesota roads this week, state Department of Transportation officials warned … In Duluth, right lane of northbound Interstate 535 on the Blatnik Bridge is expected to close today as part of a two-year restoration project on the bridge between the city and Superior, Wis.. It is due to reopen in October. The right lane of southbound I-535, which has been closed, will reopen Wednesday. In north central Minnesota, delays are likely on Highway 71, where today crews start resurfacing a 10 mile-stretch of the road south of Bemidji.”

And she doesn’t look happy in her mug shot … . Emily Gurnon of the PiPress reports: “A St. Paul woman set up the murder of her allegedly abusive husband, telling a relative, ‘I want him dead,’ prosecutors said. She also offered to share the proceeds from the victim’s life insurance with the shooter, a criminal complaint said. Heather Leann Horst, 24, and Aaron William Allen, 25, of South St. Paul were charged Monday with second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit a felony in the shooting death of Brandon James Horst, 25. Brandon Horst worked as a security officer and belonged to the Minnesota Air National Guard. … Heather Horst told police at the house that she and her husband had been arguing in recent days about his desire to have an open relationship.

The tax collector had a bad July. Baird Helgeson of the Strib says: “State tax collections slumped in July, falling 20 percent below projections for the month. Income tax collections were off 13 percent, to $603 million. Corporate income tax receipts were down $12 million, about 12 percent. Sales tax collections were a bright spot, up 22 percent over estimates. Total sales tax collections totaled $201 million for the first month of the new budget cycle. State budget officials say there is nothing unusual or concerning about the sharp revenue changes. July is a month of relatively low revenue collections, so slight variations in dollar amounts can cause dramatic swings in the percentages.”

I’ll make a note to check my favorite blogs for the first reference to “jack-booted union thugs.” Jim Ragsdale of the Strib reports: “About 32,000 unionized state employees have ratified contracts that call for pay hikes of 3 percent per year, the biggest increases they’ve received since the national economy nose-dived in 2007-08. Members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), representing 19,000 workers, and the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees, (MAPE), representing 13,000, announced their ratification vote on Monday.”

The recently wrapped Fringe Festival showed an 8 percent increase in attendance over last year. Graydon Royce of the Strib says: “According to preliminary figures, 49,991 tickets were distributed for the 11-day performing arts festival, which ended Sunday. That’s an 8 percent increase from 46,280 in 2012. The highest-attendance year for the Fringe was 2010, when 50,222 tickets were distributed. However, there were more performances this year, so the per-show average held steady at 56. Buttons were required for most festivalgoers and the Fringe Festival estimates that 16,493 individuals attended shows, based on the number of buttons sold, an increase of 69 from a year ago. The top 15 selling shows (out of 176 total) accounted for about 25 percent of all tickets. ‘These Old Shoes,’ by the company Transatlantic Love Affair, topped the list with 1,408 attendees, an average of 235 for each of six performances.”

Speaking of the Fringe … Sheila Regan, writing at the TC Daily Planet says: “Hat tip to Marianne Combs for posting on Facebook the latest attack on artists by Tom Steward from Watchdog.org, who, you may remember was the guy that also wrote a blog post that decried artist travel stipends, which got picked up by KSTP and eventually incited the Minnesota Legislature to change the laws surrounding Minnesota State Arts Board funding. Because of what went down last spring, artists may no longer receive State Arts Board funding for study out of state, and arts organizations may not use State Arts Board funding to bring in out of state artists. Yay! Steward’s latest rant is about a Fringe play by Natalie Rae Wass about growing up with a nudist family, which, god forbid, contains nudity. … While Watchdog may call itself an “investigative news site,” it’s actually the propaganda arm for the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, a nonprofit organization that was started by $2 million in seed money from the conservative Sam Adams Alliance, according to the Columbia Review of Journalism. Watchdog received 95 percent of its 2011 funding from Donor’s Trust, which receives funding from Koch-supported foundations, according to the Center for Public Integrity.”

And I suppose Babe the Ox wasn’t really blue? The AP says: “The tourism chief in New Ulm admitted Monday that his office faked a story of finding a mysterious concrete cast footprint that the southern Minnesota city promoted as that of Hermann the German, the statue of a Germanic warrior that stands guard over New Ulm. Terry Sveine, manager of the New Ulm Convention and Visitors Bureau, had told the Free Press of Mankato and insisted later to the Associated Press that officials found a 4-foot-long, 425-pound cast of a footprint crated up in the office basement, along with a mysterious note suggesting it might have been made in Germany. But Sveine called the AP back to admit he had lied and to apologize. ‘I felt I was playing the role I was asked to play, and we’re not going to do that anymore,’ he said.” That guy has no future in marketing.

Another piece on big harvest & low prices. Mark Steil of MPR reports: “[T]he 1.4 billion bushels of corn that the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates Minnesota farmers should harvest would be the second largest crop in the state’s history. Soybeans should yield about 272 million bushels, about an average crop. But many parts of the state have potential bumper crops developing, a trend that is reflected nationwide. … Nationwide, corn crop will be the largest ever at 13.8 billion bushels, according to the USDA estimate. The U.S. soybean harvest should be the third largest in history at about 3.3 billion bushels. As a result, there should be plenty of grain supplies this fall, which would send the prices farmers receive for their crops lower.” Great news though for corn syrup buyers.

And did you hear that Minnesota Majority … isn’t dead yet? Aaron Rupar at City Pages writes: “Voter ID may be a dead issue, but the state’s leading pro-voter ID group lives on — barely. … In a statement released [Monday], Dan McGrath, president of the group, said: ‘I’m overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from our grassroots members. Over the last several days, we have been receiving a steady stream of mostly small contributions, ranging from $5 to $25 each. I’m pleased to announce that we currently have sufficient funding to meet our immediate obligations’. But read close and you’ll see hints that while Minnesota Majority may have the funds to stay in operation for now, there’s no guarantee that’ll remain the case for long.” Boy, I sure hope they ID’d every contributor and can swear none of them gave twice or ever served hard time.    

Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 08/13/2013 - 10:34 am.

    Wilfs simply not acceptable as recipeients of public monies

    The compromised Star Tribune, through its editorial, assumes and prays that the stadium is a done deal, and therefore that THEIR bonanza is also secure. This newspaper is so false that you can’t even call their editorial “truthiness”. Maybe someday they can aspire to fake candor. Right now, even fake candor is out of reach for this outfit – they’ve never met candor, so they don’t know how to fake it !! Try something else.

    The stadium project should be stopped at once, dead in its tracks, while we find out the true financial facts about the Wilfs and the Vikings. This cannot possibly be accomplished within the time frame of the proposed activities of concluding written agreements, selling bonds, breaking ground – these must ALL be put on hold.

    Although the Vikings finances are deliberately murky, a black box, we can be pretty certain that we have not gotten a truthful financial statement from these Wilfs. How long did it take the NJ legal system to finally conclude that the Wilfs didn’t make a SINGLE truthful financial report to its Courts in the racketeering trial ?

    The idea that the fraud in NJ is somehow separate and distinct, insulated from the Vikings in MN, the one having nothing to do with the other, is belied by the Strib’s own 2011 story:

    ‘Among other things to which money was illegally diverted, according to the complaint: “Airfare and football related expenses … incurred by the Wilfs in connection with their ownership of the Minnesota Vikings, and other NFL related activities.”‘

    Will the NJ Judge’s legal findings of fact and orders confirm this transfer of proceeds from a fraud to the Minnesota Vikings ? I understand that it will be available in printed form soon – and surely, some local journalists will obtain and share it with the public. There could be more interesting revelations there that have not gotten any exposure yet.

    My point being that this is not a case of a neat separation between here (MN, Vikings) and there (NJ, racketeering and fraud) – MONEY has gone back and forth, according to the allegations. If so, the Wilfs have involved the MN Vikings in the same fraud as took place in New Jersey.

    And I keep asking the following question, being a non-lawyer, hoping someone will pipe up here – but isn’t it a crime to defraud business partners in one state, then transport the ill-gotten monies across state lines to an entity in another state ?

    And another question: since the potential financial impact of the fraud trial would naturally have to be part of anything you could call “full disclosure” by the Vikings, WAS IT IN FACT DISCLOSED to the public officials considering the stadium funding ? Does it APPEAR in those financial documents which the Wilfs praise as the fruit of 2 years of “due diligence” and “review” by the public authorities ? Or is this a case of con men pulling the wool over the eyes of over-anxious public officials ?

    If it was NOT disclosed, then the Vikings non-disclosure in seeking public monies is ALSO a fraud, and the entire deal must be voided.

    In Minnesota, our generosity does not extend to fraudsters and racketeers.

    This is hundreds of millions in public money. The Governor, Mayor, Legislature, and City Council OWE us better.

  2. Submitted by Pat McGee on 08/13/2013 - 01:19 pm.

    Wilfs and Strib

    Well said, Steve. I might add that when the Editiorial Board of the Strib goes to look up “candor” in their online dictionary that they will likely get a “Not found” message.

    Brian, agree with this is worth framing. Good thing I was reading it in print this morning when I sputtered my coffee all over it in disbelief. The print version will recover better than my monitor and keyboard would have.

  3. Submitted by James Hamilton on 08/13/2013 - 01:42 pm.

    And she doesn’t look happy in her mug shot

    No one does. I’ve long believed that newspapers should not use mug shots, which always appear to have been taken at 3:00 a.m., after hours of interrogation. If more people read newspapers, I’d say that publishing mug shots taints the jury pool.

  4. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 08/13/2013 - 02:19 pm.

    Minnesota Majority Zombies

    There will always be a group of people who are SO convinced that they, and they alone, are correct about key issues in our state and our culture,…

    and so unable to allow to enter their awareness any of the massive evidence which proves that they are 180° off from correct,…

    nor any direct inspiration from God which might guide them toward a healthier perspective, and, therefore, to living lives more useful to God among their fellow humans,…

    that they dream of altering, by hook or by crook, the results of our state’s elections so that those results reflect, not the will of the majority of our state’s citizens,…

    but sufficient numbers of citizens who agree with their own dysfonic perspective that they win any and all contests.

    These are the folks who will continue to support “Minnesota Majority” and who will mourn its passing once it has collapsed.

    What they fail to realize, of course, is that, given their own will, they would only discover that they are not in agreement with each other nearly so much as they thought,…

    the only policies and procedures they would allow the government to pursue under their control would have precisely the opposite effect of that which they believe those things would have,…

    and in every way their touch on our society, our culture, our government, and our state institutions, will be that described in the old “Hollies” song:

    “King Midas in Reverse.”

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