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Twin Cities family at center of organized crime ring

PLUS: primary election winners; meet Minnesota’s biggest political donor; state employees’ sweet health care coverage; and more.

We’re some kind of #1 worldwide. Paul McEnroe of the Strib says, “A Twin Cities family directed thieves to steal tens of thousands of smartphones nationwide and then sold them to buyers in the black markets of the Middle East and China, federal authorities said Tuesday following the indictments of 20 people involved in the organized crime ring.”

In the state primary election, Jeff Johnson won the right to face Gov. Mark Dayton in November, but apparently that “friend of Muhamud Noor” mailer didn’t do the job when it came to the DFL race for State Auditor. AP coverage of the primary election says, “State Auditor Rebecca Otto has survived a primary challenge from former House Minority Leader Matt Entenza. Entenza dipped deep into his personal wealth to try to grab the Democratic nomination. But Otto had the party’s backing and cruised to an easy victory.” Yeah, 3.5 to 1 is pretty “easy.”

Also victorious: Phyllis Kahn, Jenifer Loon and Mike McFadden. The Strib story on the latter, by Allison Sherry: “Republicans far and wide congratulated GOP Senate candidate Mike McFadden on his quick victory Tuesday. McFadden clinched the primary election against state Rep. Jim Abeler within an hour of polls closing.”

At the PiPress, Doug Belden says of the McFadden-Franken race: “McFadden faces a prodigious fund-raiser in Franken, who has been buying TV ads of his own that seek to inform voters of his work in job training, food and drug safety and other issues over the past six years. The former ‘Saturday Night Live’ comic, best-selling author and talk-radio host reported bringing in close to $17 million for the election cycle as a whole and had $4.3 million in the bank as of July 23.”

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Speaking of prodigious, Robbie Feinberg at City Pages reminds readers of Democratic money man Vance Opperman. “Wealthy businessmen are still spending like crazy on Super PACs in the 2014 race, led by former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer, who’s already given more than $20 million. And the cream of the crop in Minnesota is Minneapolis businessman Vance Opperman, who’s already thrown $260,000 to Super PACs this election, making him one of the top 100 super PAC donors in the country, according to data from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. … As for the $260,000 that he’s given to super PACs, all of that money has gone to one place: the WIN Minnesota Federal PAC.”  

Sometimes candidate Chris Fields, currently deputy chair of the state GOP, set off a mini-firestorm yesterday with a ham-handed tweet about the death of Robin Williams. By evening dozens of outlets around the country had seized on it. At Wonkette, the satirical site, “Doktor Zoom” writes, “It all got started when Fields took the opportunity to piggyback a completely relevant political message onto a political opponent’s remembrance of Williams. Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party (yes it’s a thing) social media director Ellen Anderson mentioned, in a tweet from her personal account, that she called her cat ‘Nanu-Nanu,’ and added ‘The world is lucky Robin Williams was able to share his genius with so many.’ To Fields, this seemed like a perfect opportunity to do some social media of his own. ‘How very 80’s, Fields tweeted at her. ‘Want an economy like we had in the 80’s under Reagan…Vote @Jeff4Gov tomorrow in the primary.’” It’s worth dialing in for some remarkably tone-deaf responses.

Another one for the talk radio mill: Steve Karnowski of the AP reports, “Minnesota state employees get 94 percent of their health care costs covered by insurance, according to a new report released Tuesday by the Pew Charitable Trusts. That’s higher than the national average for state workers of 92 percent. It’s richer than the average plans offered for sale under the federal health care law, roughly equivalent to platinum plans sold on the state’s health insurance exchange, MNsure. And it’s better than the plans most private employers provide, which are generally in the 80 percent range.” So maybe private plans should be better?

You almost think the make of the automobile is critical to the motivation for the crime. Stribbers Paul Walsh and James Walsh continue coverage of the Arden Hills gas station killing, in which both victim and suspect arrived in a … BMW. “Earlier in the day, police swarmed an area near the Anoka County-Blaine airport, not far from where authorities found the BMW belonging to the man who shot Phillips. … They also searched the area where the BMW was found just outside the airport, next to a golf course. … investigators Tuesday were busy trying to figure out how he and Phillips met up Monday morning, and whether Hoffman may have caught Phillips by surprise before they left in the BMW, a Ramsey County law enforcement official said. Phillips was shot in the back and head about 8:40 a.m. Monday allegedly by Hoffman who was in the BMW with him.” So do we have less of a story if they drove a Ford?


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