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Judge in Wilf case allows $1.2M more for plaintiffs’ lawyer

Fixes suggested for faulty campaign records;  cellulosic ethanol ramps up; another U of M campus crime; more on “militia leader”; renewed MNsure criticism; tax-bump “explanation”; and more.

The omens are not good for that final judgment against Zygi Wilf and clan. Camped out in New Jersey, Jim Spencer of the Strib says: “A New Jersey state judge on Monday approved $1.2 million in extra legal fees for a lawyer who took on the uber rich Wilf family in a law suit that exposed widespread wrongdoing in the clan’s real estate empire. … ‘The defendants in this case have very large means,’ Judge Deanne Wilson noted. [Josef Halpern and his sister Ada Reichmann] face a legal battle that is being ‘fought rock to rock and tree to tree,’ the judge said.  The Wilfs ‘could simply outlast Halpern if he didn’t have an attorney who would take the case on a contingency basis.’ ” Can Minnesota taxpayers get one of those guys?

Transparency remains elusive … . Rachel Stassen-Berger of the Strib says: “At a time when millions are pouring into suddenly expensive campaigns, the Star Tribune discovered that one in seven electronic records of donations are incorrect. The faulty records, dating to 2001, mean that groups may have donated as much as $143 million or as little as $122 million, depending on which side of the ledger is to be believed. Before a joint House-Senate committee on Monday, campaign finance board executive director Gary Goldsmith offered lawmakers some explanations for how the data may have ended up including so many mismatches and pledged various changes that could correct problems going forward.”

This has always seemed a better alternative … Mark Steil of MPR reports: “After years of being on the drawing board, the first commercial cellulosic ethanol plants are scheduled to start operation next year. Instead of using kernels of corn, they’ll make the fuel from ‘biomass’ — corn stalks, wood chips and other low-value plant material. But just as the process is set to become a reality, some question whether it can fuel a viable business without considerable government support. … Leading the effort to reduce the renewable fuel standard is a coalition of groups that oppose the policy. Oil industry leaders say the standard is unrealistic because it requires more ethanol usage than there’s demand for. Many livestock farmers don’t like it because it’s helped boost corn feed prices to record levels. Environmental organizations say ethanol-related demand for corn has prompted farmers to grow the grain on marginal land, like erosion-prone acres.”

The U of M crimes continue … Nicolas Hallett of the Minnesota Daily says: “A University of Minnesota student was the victim of an attempted armed robbery in the Carlson School of Management Sunday afternoon, according to an email crime alert sent by University Police Chief Greg Hestness to faculty, staff and students on Monday. The student was in the atrium studying when the suspect asked for his laptop, saying he had a gun but not showing one, according to the alert. After giving the suspect his laptop, the victim cried for help and then chased the suspect through the doors facing South 19th Avenue and South Fourth Street, the alert said. … This is the 16th crime alert for 22 crimes University police have sent this semester.”

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Our local “militia leader” will be kept under lock and key for a while more. Randy Furst and Pam Louwagie of the Strib tell us: “Disturbing new information was offered Monday at a court hearing for a self-described militia leader and Minnesota National Guard member accused of stealing private identification data from the Army and selling it to undercover FBI agents. … Novak was a bit of a conspiracy theorist, the man [from Novak’s Guard unit] said. He would accuse the president or Congress members of treasonous activity, saying someone needed to march in and arrest them all, for instance.” And if that didn’t work, he could run for Congress himself …

The GleanOver at MPR, Tim Pugmire says: “Republican leaders in the Minnesota House and Senate are calling on DFL Gov. Mark Dayton to answer key questions about the state’s new health insurance exchange. House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, and Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, want the governor to reassure all MNsure applicants that they will have coverage beginning next year, even if they haven’t received an insurance card. … Dayton’s press secretary, Matt Swenson, described the GOP event as ‘unsurprising’ and ‘unproductive.’ ” James Nord has MinnPost coverage here.

You knew it wasn’t going to just go away … . At the Strib, Baird Helgeson writes: “Republicans intensified criticism of the state’s fledgling health insurance exchange Monday as Minnesota consumers are one week from the MNsure enrollment deadline to receive health coverage next year. … MNsure Executive Director April Todd-Malmlov is under fire following revelations that she took a nearly two-week tropical vacation with state Medicaid Director James Golden in late November … . Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Honour on Monday called for Todd-Malmlov’s resignation.”

City Pages’ Aaron Rupar posts an ad the Minnesota Jobs Coalition (i.e., opposed to all things Obamacare) sent over mocking the Todd-Malmlov getaway. “The Jobs Coalition’s ad alludes to the surprisingly controversial Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox imagery MNsure used earlier this year to promote the exchange.”

Jennifer Vogel of MPR offers a couple examples of why cities are bumping up levies, despite increased state aid: “The city of Grand Rapids, on the Iron Range, is raising property taxes next year, despite receiving a bump in state aid of more than $300,000. It’s the kind of perceived double dip that has vexed Minnesota lawmakers and Gov. Mark Dayton, who expected state largesse would be reflected in lower city tax levies across the board. But in the case of Grand Rapids, as with many other out-state cities, budget setters want to make up some ground lost during years of cutting and austerity. It is investing in streets, storm sewers and biking and hiking trails and wants to hire an additional police officer to reduce call response times. The police department in Grand Rapids went from 21 officers to 17 during the lean years, said City Administrator Tom Pagel. Now the city of nearly 11,000 residents is  back up to 19, thanks to federal grant dollars.” Cops!? Will the outrageous government waste never end!?