Republicans debate fairness of Amy Koch treatment: Sexism or something more?

Sarah Janecek's assertion seems to be that Sen. Amy Koch was treated differently because there's something more to the story rather than because she's a woman.
MinnPost photo by Terry Gydesen
Sarah Janecek’s assertion seems to be that Sen. Amy Koch was treated differently because there’s something more to the story rather than because she’s a woman.

Questions about whether deposed Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch was treated differently than a male politician would have been, or whether there might be other reasons for her ouster, are echoing through the cyber world amongst Republican strategists.

Republican standard bearer Sarah Janecek wonders publicly on her Facebook page about the Star Tribune story today outlining how Koch was confronted by male Senate leaders about an alleged affair with a male staffer supervised by Koch:

When is the last time a MALE elected official was treated like this? Still thinking? That’s my point. This is NOT about an affair. Those are dimes a dozens. This is about something else. Given the facts as we know them, there is no way Amy Koch needed to resign. This is about something else. I find it almost criminal that all this is being reported the way it is. Come on, people. Dig.

Janecek’s assertion seems to be that Koch was treated differently because there’s something more to the story rather than because she’s a woman.

Janecek’s post had 59 comments this morning, including one from David Strom, who’d been research director on Republican Tom Emmer’s gubernatorial campaign:

I don’t know, but I suspect it would be news if Kurt Zellers slept with one of his staff, were confronted by 4 colleagues, and resigned as Speaker. And then the staff member left under a cloud. This is exactly the response that feminists have been fighting to get in cases of workplace sexual harassment. I love Amy Koch, but having affairs with direct subordinates and cutting them breaks based upon that relationship is against the rules. In today’s environment, the rules apply equally to men and women. I know these things happen all too frequently, but since my first job I have been endlessly lectured about the consequences of sexual relationships between bosses and employees. If the genders were reversed, don’t you think NOW would want the leader punished? (Unless he were a Democrat President)

In a further Facebook comment Janecek said:

Do you know how many DFL MN pols have had affairs with subordinates? Many. Some of them have promoted their love partners. Don’t even get me started on the higher ups in GOP gubernatorial administrations that had affairs with subordinates. This whole thing reeks. It’s not about the affair. It’s about something else.

In a phone interview this morning, Janecek said there are two parts to her Koch outrage: sexism — and a deeper reason why Koch was confronted and forced to resign her position.

“There’s the sexism component, for sure. Many a DFL leader, many other leaders, have had this issue before them. And I think it’s outrageous the way three male senators did this,” she said.

But Janecek said she’s digging deeper to find out whether there was something else that led GOP officials to go after Koch.

In a follow-up post this morning, Janecak raises a gambling-related possibility, though doesn’t specifically mention Koch:

Follow the Money in the MN GOP: Part 1.

The current MN GOP Platform reads: “We seek to eliminate all state-sponsored gambling and oppose any expansion of gambling in Minnesota. In regards to casinos already in place, current gambling laws should be changed so that Minnesota is allowed to tax profits and revenue of tribal casino gambling in the state.”

Tony Sutton, as former Chair of the MN GOP, was obligated to abide by and espouse that position.

Michael B. Brodkorb, as former Deputy Chair of the MN GOP, was obligated to abide by and espouse that position.

Now … who all in MN GOP party circles is getting paid to argue against the GOP party platform position and for expanding gambling?

“I’ve got a slow day. I’m going to play citizen-journalist and do some citizen reporting on Facebook,” she said.

And her next Facebook post:

Follow the Money in the MN GOP: Part 2.

How does money flow in MN politics? Some of it is traceable. Some of it is not. MN law requires people being paid to lobby to register with the MN Campaign Finance & Public Disclosure Board (but not specify the exact amounts of money). MN law requires full disclosure of all campaign contributions. But in my view, the limits on contributions made directly to candidates are low and not that meaningful. [I don’t think you can buy a legislator for $250.]

However, the traceable money starts to get interesting if you spend hours pouring over Board reports and look for who wants what and add up the amounts of these individual contributions, particularly the contributions made to political committees.

One big source of untraceable money is what is paid to public affairs consultants who are not registered to lobby. Another is who, exactly, is paying for interest groups who are lobbying the public, not the legislature.

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Comments (26)

  1. Submitted by Andrew Hine on 12/20/2011 - 11:19 am.

    I’m pretty sure Democrats made more of their Weiner fiasco than Republicans are making of their Koch debacle.

    Is being extra-shocked by the rarity of a woman in power (rare in itself) abusing her power to be equated with sexism? I’m just flabbergasted, and would certainly welcome another woman to take her place, especially after watching the four male “press conferencees” seeming to revel in her predicament.

  2. Submitted by David Greene on 12/20/2011 - 11:24 am.

    I think there’s another angle here. Those three Senators are among the vultures circling the Majority Leader. Their desire for the position is so transparent it’s laughable.

    You’ve got the previous Minority Leader passed over when it was his day in the sun. You’ve got the ambitious freshman who sees an opportunity. You have the true believer from Eden Prairie who finally sees a way to the promised land. You have the war horse from Edina who can finally cash in the chips for years of loyal service to the party. You’ve got the shapeshifter from East Bethel eager to prove his conservative credentials.

    Maybe Janecak is right that there’s a gambling lobbying scandal here, but in addition to the sexism (and it is sexism) this is also a blatant power grab.

  3. Submitted by Barbara Miller on 12/20/2011 - 11:32 am.

    If this were the state of Denmark, Hamlet’s Marcellus would say….oh, you know.

    I don’t often agree with Sarah Janecek, but I’m liking that she’s all over this one. And not just because it’s the GOP’s turn to squirm. (Full disclosure: there’s a boatload of schadenfreude amongst my people, but also a boatload of restraint re the tarring/feathering thing.)

    What’s intriguing is that he-whose-name-cannot-be-spoken is referenced in every story, and yet….

    There’s something more to this. Count on it. You go, Sarah.

  4. Submitted by Thomas Eckhardt on 12/20/2011 - 11:53 am.

    “When is the last time a MALE elected official was treated like this? ”

    Well, let’s see. Clinton was impeached, Spitzer resigned, Weiner resigned. Vitter got re-elected, Sanford finished his term and Gingrich is running for President.

    Maybe she’s upset that Koch is being treated like a Democrat, Republicans are supposed to get a free ride on these things.

  5. Submitted by Arito Moerair on 12/20/2011 - 01:09 pm.

    Since when does the GOP care about sexism?

  6. Submitted by Luke Soiseth on 12/20/2011 - 01:24 pm.

    Other than some possible favoritism (gee, that never happens anywhere else) I just can’t give a damn about any of this. Perfectly capable people are continually being drummed out of office for behavior that is absolutely unrelated to ability to perform in that office. (Yeah, I just got that perform in the office bit also.) We hold them to this weird standard we’d never hold our barber, financial adviser or even surgeon to. And let’s not pretend that our elected officials are anything all that special. They are citizens like all the rest of us – mostly middle-management types with a healthy ego and a little desire for fame and power, and hence flawed in the same ways we all are. But do we really need to fire them for some personal indiscretion with another willing adult? These are family issues, to be worked out with loved ones and spouses; hardly anything for the rest of us to stick our noses into. Unless of course it truly impedes their ability to fulfill duties or moves into criminal behavior with children, and so on, which this apparently did not. We should hang the likes of Jerry Sandusky from their cojones and allow Ms. Koch to do her job, even if we disagree with most of what she does on that job, as I do. We can always vote her out.

  7. Submitted by Chelle Blakely on 12/20/2011 - 01:42 pm.

    OK, I admit I am totally sexist. I’ve always expected more of women and thought they weren’t as driven by their hormones, or egos, as men. Add to that, every women in this kind of job knows that there are people gunning for her. Therefore, we are extremely careful to follow the rules. So, put me in the camp that thinks there is something additional going on here. Allegedly there were complaints from others on her staff? Probably something beyond complaints that the boyfriend got the best computer.

    (And, just for the record wasn’t Claire Robling involved in the first meeting? Not that having one woman there changes anything but…)

  8. Submitted by Lora Jones on 12/20/2011 - 01:52 pm.

    #4 Amen

  9. Submitted by Fran Sepler on 12/20/2011 - 01:56 pm.

    I think it is quite important to distinguish between a person in a leadership position having an affair, and a person in a leadership position having (presumably) an affair a) with a direct report that has b) caused others to be sufficiently uncomfortable that they complained. Such a situation compels a response under the law, and minimally requires that the relationship, creating a possibly harassing environment for others, come to an end. Not that I don’t think the questions raised are worthwhile.

  10. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 12/20/2011 - 02:15 pm.

    It seems to me that she was pushed from her leadership position with the proper justification that the leader should exhibit the behavior that is supposedly the hallmark of the party.

    I haven’t read anywhere where there is a push to remove her from office other than random statements of, “If it were me…”, by random legislators.

    The difference is between “leadership” and “member”.

    If someone can point out a pattern of a legislative leaders who remained in office unscathed by a public disclosure of a similar relationship, then I might be more convinced of “sexism”.

    Perhaps Janacek has some dirt to spill to prove her point…

  11. Submitted by Colin Lee on 12/20/2011 - 02:32 pm.

    Thomas, Mark Foley resigned. Republicans aren’t allowed to have affairs with the same sex. Otherwise, it’s mostly fair game.

    Sarah is one of the wiser Republicans who’s seen decades of inside politics. I agree with her that something unusual happened here. Clearly, other senators had designs on her seat and probably policy differences. Her gambling money scenario is plausible, but I won’t hang my hat on it yet.

    Personally, I’ve spent plenty of time digging through campaign reports looking into unusual donations from PawnAmerica. Take it from Senator Marty… when you see huge donors donating massive amounts to both parties, you can also expect to see results. It certainly worked for Pohlad.

  12. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 12/20/2011 - 04:07 pm.

    I’m not sure about whether this smells of sexism or power struggles or dirty money just beneath the surface. But it does stink of hypocrisy. I’m not necessarily *ok* with a political leader having an extramarital affair, but I understand that they’re human. That being said, when you are in a party that holds the rights of others hostage for fear of ruining “normal” relationships, and THEN you have an affair, it’s a whole different ballgame.

    Next year, we will be voting on whether we will constitutionally deny some Minnesotans the same rights as others based on the supposed possibility that if we don’t, heterosexual marriages will crumble. This is, in no small part, due to the tireless effort by MN GOP leadership to put a red herring on the ballot rather than, say, put together a budget that will work.

    I resent having to vote on whether my gay friends will EVER be able to marry while at least one of those who pushed that agenda is allegedly out ruining the sanctity of marriage without it.

    If nothing else, all of this hoopla should be less about Amy fooling around than it should be about exposing the fact that the supposed justification for constitutionalizing inequality is a complete and utter LIE. And THAT may be what the what the MN GOP is pushing her out over.

  13. Submitted by Karl Sullivan on 12/20/2011 - 04:19 pm.

    The more interesting question is why was Michael Brodkorp fired? If the roles were reversed and a male majority leader was having a sexual relationship with a female subordinate would she be the first person fired? I can’t imagine this would be the case. My feeling is that there is much much more to this story.

  14. Submitted by Joe Musich on 12/20/2011 - 05:16 pm.

    Okay how much money is flowing into the political coffers of whom and from what organizations regarding the marriage amendment? What the reasons there were great gyrations here recently over revealing who is giving to action committees regarding the amendment? How did the participants in the case stand? Who gained or brought money to the issue and what was their connection to all the stakeholders for the amendment ? Or am I imagining things?

  15. Submitted by Dale Hoogeveen on 12/20/2011 - 06:26 pm.

    Of course there is more to this story. There always is in politics beyond what gets published.

    There is certainly a sexual double standard and Koch herself participated in it. A Republican man would have fought and as opposed to most male Democrats charged with this sort of thing, the Republican would have stood a much better chance of surviving it, too; instead Koch meekly pulled out and just went away.

    Oh yeah, definitely a sexual double standard and a political one as well.

  16. Submitted by Alec Timmerman on 12/20/2011 - 06:42 pm.


    I agree you should never out the victim in a power abuse situation. This is a little more tricky because in the screwed up GOP, the unelected Brodkorb probably was the one influencing power, and the elected Koch was, in essence, his “subordinate”.

  17. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 12/20/2011 - 07:05 pm.

    “I resent having to vote on whether my gay friends will EVER be able to marry..”

    I understand. Why not start a “Stay at home” protest?

  18. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 12/20/2011 - 07:20 pm.

    I haven’t been following Minnesota politics long enough to have much of an informed opinion about the people involved in this latest scandal. I’ve read what they had to say in the ‘Strib and what they’ve been quoted as saying on MinnPost, and generally disagree with both their rationale(s) and their policies.

    But they’re human beings, and basically, I vote with Rachel (#12). Whether there’s something going on under the surface besides the banality of an ordinary affair – “love the one you’re with,” eh? – I can’t say, and will wait for further developments, if there are any. In the meantime, to say that this affair reeks of hypocrisy, that it absolutely cuts the legs out from under any credibility the state GOP might have had regarding the “sanctity of marriage” and the execrable proposed amendment to the state constitution, is an understatement of classic proportions.

    If Minnesotans really are as thoughtful as I was led to believe when I lived elsewhere, the latest implosions, from unexplained debt to this affair, to the gross hypocrisy of the so-called “marriage amendment,” and going back to the ridiculous policy positions of the recent gubernatorial candidate, Mr. Emmer, ought to spell the death knell of the current Minnesota Republican Party.

    There may be thoughtful Republicans out there who are not trapped in an ideological never-never land, and I would hope they’d organize themselves and do the necessary grunt work to resurrect the party in some recognizable and respectable form, and then compete for elected positions based on reasoned arguments. I’ve voted for such Republicans in the past, and might well do so again, but they’re now referred to disparagingly, as “RINOs,” as if thought, reason, compromise, and even the occasional admission that the people on the other side of the aisle sometimes have good ideas, too, are all characteristics out of some Machiavellian plot.

    Many – too many – of the party’s current leaders and members, however, seem genuinely delusional, and so far out of touch with the way the world works, the way science works, the way economics works, that I hope they are encouraged (that’s as politely as I can put it) to form their own political party – I’d suggest calling it the Right Wing Extremist Party. They can then talk among themselves during upcoming campaigns without the rest of us having to worry that – largely by mistake or inattention – some of them might actually win an election in a political system they manifestly do not understand.

  19. Submitted by Thomas Egan on 12/20/2011 - 09:07 pm.

    Having looked at much of the reporting I’ve come up with a few questions of my own.
    Is there a target/collateral damage relationship between the two principals, and if so, who is who?
    Is this really an outgrowth of senate gossip or is it rooted in MN GOP budget woes? Is there something in GOP budget/expense account records that would have become public?
    Really, who are the winners and losers here? How does the internal GOP political situation develop from here?

  20. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 12/20/2011 - 10:52 pm.

    “In the meantime, to say that this affair reeks of hypocrisy, that it absolutely cuts the legs out from under any credibility the state GOP might have had regarding the “sanctity of marriage” and the execrable proposed amendment to the state constitution, is an understatement of classic proportions.”

    Total nonsense. Failure of an individual to live up to a principle doesn’t invalidate the principle.

    People who oppose same-sex marriage do so because it violates ten thousand years of human cultural and societal norms, not because they think it’ll hurt their own marriage.

    You people are fighting a straw man. But then again, a straw man is the only kind you’d have a chance of defeating as you’ll see come next November.

  21. Submitted by David Greene on 12/20/2011 - 11:37 pm.

    It’s pretty obvious to me that Brodkorb was fired as a result of party interference in the legislative process. We heard some complaints from Republican caucus members that they didn’t enjoy being lorded over by the party. A relationship between the primary mouthpiece of that party with the person at the top of caucus leadership is going to make a lot of caucus members angry.

  22. Submitted by Kim Millman on 12/21/2011 - 08:40 am.

    Yes, Sarah, as I told many friends when this story broke, my B.S. meter was on high alert. This is not about an affair, there is something much bigger here and it ought to be exposed. And the optics relating to male Senators smuggly sitting before the cameras feeding the customarily bored captial media mysterious innuendo about their former female leader is really bad on a number of levels.

    More importantly, Koch/Brodkorp is not an ordinary case of a superior/subordinate relationship. Brodkorp made his career as the number one Republican mud slinger for years and has never acted in the capacity of a genuine subordinate to anybody or any campaign. Koch and Brodkorp couldn’t be more equally yoked. So anybody who tries to make a Clinton/Lewinski comparison is blowing a lot of smoke for a reason.

    I’ll admit to be one who just loves to see the Republicans caught leading hypocritical lives. There is nothing more entertaining than seeing the party who preaches fiscal responsibility and family values being exposed for exactly the opposite. However, if the GOP wishes to demonstrate any kind of integrity maybe it is high time for them to draw the line in the sand and say enough with delving into anybody’s personal life and/or religion.

    Maybe it is time for the public to demand that we end this type personal invasion about information we really don’t need to know. Granted we need to know if our leaders are being hypocrites. But if our leaders don’t base their entire political careers and campaigns on demonizing people for being different, being human and/or making mistakes, maybe we can finally concentrate on the issues relating to creating a good community and a responsive, efficient government. Maybe if we demand a stop to this type of personal invasion and media titilation we will see more smart people wishing to serve in government.

    Personal scandals sell papers, but they don’t provide us a path to being a strong state again. Our history is riddled with great leaders who had personal issues and yet none of us can imagine life without their extraordinary historic leadership. If we want a strong respected government, we need to change course.

  23. Submitted by jody rooney on 12/21/2011 - 04:07 pm.

    Seems to me a public persons affairs are private until they encroach on organizational decision making, harassment, or reprisal. Then it could cost the public money.

    If doesn’t do that then I would suggest everyone leave it alone.

    Jesus didn’t find a lot of takers on the “those without sin cast the first stone” offer in the bible. It looks like we are now asking for those without sin to run for office. Perhaps they are also with out compassion or a good memory.

  24. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 12/21/2011 - 04:27 pm.

    It’s not about living up to a principle. It’s about proving that the principle is false. That is, if you can screw up your own marriage all by your lonesome when gay marriage isn’t even legal, it proves that the existence of gay marriage has no effect on the viability of straight marriage.

    Regarding the 10,000 years bit–I don’t think it’s accurate to say that ONLY heterosexual marriage existed in the last 10,000 years or even that homosexual relationships were not considered normal in that time. There are plenty of examples showing otherwise.

    Further, if one was to follow your line of reasoning, we’d still have slaves. After all, slavery was a societal norm for probably even longer than ANY type of “marriage.” Regardless as to how you feel about slavery, I doubt you’d publically say that it should be protected because our ancestors have always done it. That argument was used in the past and that dog just don’t hunt.

    Being called out on the fact that the right has touted the same-sex marriage thing as an attack on heterosexual marriage and then changing that motivation for banning same-sex marriage doesn’t fool us. Moving the target doesn’t change the target.

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