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Stadium politics played role in Koch and Brodkorb dismissal, insiders say

Political fallout continues for Sen. Amy Koch, center, and Michael Brodkorb, right.
MinnPost photo by Terry Gydesen
Political fallout continues for Sen. Amy Koch, center, and Michael Brodkorb, right.

Some legislative and GOP insiders tell me politics over the proposed Vikings stadium was a factor in the ouster of the two most powerful people in the Minnesota Senate.

That would help explain the brusque, even brutal, dismissal of Amy Koch as Senate majority leader and Michael Brodkorb as Senate communications director.

One GOP source close to the drama claims that Brodkorb’s participation in the legislative stadium working groups drew out the knives that carved him out of a job.

Brodkorb, a vocal stadium supporter, was seen as an effective contributor to the Vikings stadium discussion, which could have resulted in legislation in 2012 that uses gambling revenue to finance the project.

“The House Republicans didn’t want to deal with the issue before 2013,” said the source. “They wanted the Senate hearings to blow up, but they [the hearings] were in fact highly successful.”

Brodkorb’s forceful, combative style certainly contributed to this animosity. His enemies then took advantage of the opportunity to damage him when his boss, Koch, was forced out of her leadership post after allegations she had an affair with a subordinate staff member. Koch, by comparison, was an American sweetheart, as well as a successful leader, and may well have been collateral damage in the effort to destroy Brodkorb.

The Republican from Buffalo resigned her leadership post and announced last week she would not seek re-election after GOP legislative leaders confronted her last week about an inappropriate relationship with a staff member. Brodkorb then was later dismissed from his Senate staff position.

Backed using gambling
For opponents of gambling expansion, the removal of Koch and Brodkorb has its advantages. Koch backed the stadium and supported consideration of gambling to pay for it.

“There’s no question that the way Amy was treated was in direct retaliation for her connection to Brodkorb,” said the source with direct knowledge of the incident.

One state senator — a woman who, like others involved in this intrigue, would speak only on the condition of anonymity — was disgusted at the way the Koch dismissal was handled.

“Amy and Geoff Michel [assistant majority leader] share an office suite,” she said. “Why didn’t he just walk over to her and say, ‘Cut this stuff out’?”

‘A difficult situation’
Senate members disagree on how the extraction of Brodkorb and Koch was handled.
 “A difficult situation is more heightened in a political setting,” said a former Senate senior staff member. “You don’t know what your opponents know or what they’re going to do.”

A power play could well have been the motive. Without Koch and Brodkorb leading the charge, the future of a new stadium for the Vikings is in limbo, dependent on the priorities of the new majority leader.

“I believe that whoever is elected majority leader has a lot of control over the agenda, so if a strong anti-stadium leader is elected, I don’t think you’re going to see a stadium — with or without gambling,” said Pat Anderson, a lobbyist for gambling at Canterbury Park and a member of the executive committee of the state Republican Party. “In picking a new leader, the senators are having to think through all these possibilities — it’s not just a personality.”

Ted Mondale, chairman of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities, told me this morning that he’s seen no evidence that the stadium played a role in the departures of Brodkorb and Koch, adding that he worked with Brodkorb on the stadium issue and that Brodkorb’s political judgment was well-respected.

He dismisses the claim that the leadership change will have a major effect on stadium legislation. “We have strong authors and we are going to keep on,” he said. “With business, labor, bipartisan, and the governor’s support, we’re going to get this done.”

In an interview with me Tuesday night, Brodkorb would not comment on the record about these developments except to say: “I believe passionately in the stadium issue and I hope it succeeds and I’m willing to do whatever I can to make sure the Vikings stay in Minnesota.”

The Senate, meanwhile, is expecting some kind of response from Brodkorb contesting his dismissal.

Even with the election of a new majority leader scheduled for Dec. 27, the turmoil will continue.

Comments (33)

  1. Submitted by Tom Clark on 12/21/2011 - 10:50 am.

    Heh, as Michele Bachmann once said to a fellow Republican: YOU WILL PAY. Dude, pass the popcorn… 😉

  2. Submitted by Dee Ann Christensen on 12/21/2011 - 11:16 am.

    “…Brodkorb’s political judgment was well-respected.”. One must ask, “by whom?”. Certainly not by many of the commenters to this respected newsletter. Could it be that Mr. Mondale respects Mr. Brodkorb’s political judgment because he is aligned with Mr. Mondale’s political views?

  3. Submitted by Zoey Mann on 12/21/2011 - 11:16 am.

    I don’t buy it. I highly doubt either would have been ousted were it not for their affair. I’m no insider, but disagreements about politics alone is what happens at the Capitol!

  4. Submitted by Karl Sullivan on 12/21/2011 - 11:35 am.

    The Majority Leader is “collateral damage” to taking out a staffer. Give me a break. I’m sure there is some slimy reason this blew up but blowing up the party with this kind of collateral damage is usually not how republicans operate.

  5. Submitted by Lora Jones on 12/21/2011 - 11:44 am.

    I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss it, Zoey #3, note it says house republicans don’t want to deail with the stadium until after the election. I suspect all those freshment don’t want to run on “gettin ‘er done” for Ziggy after their constituents have seen their property tax bills and know that the Legislature directly caused any increase by changing the calculation method.

  6. Submitted by Richard Pecar on 12/21/2011 - 11:54 am.

    “…inappropriate relationship with a staff member.”

    Yeah sure…and is it only the women legislators given the boot for affairs of the heart? And by the way, where is the National Organization of Women where you need them?

    Com’on Cindy…dig deeper. My nose smells a lot of money moving through in this story and it’s not being written about. Just my speculation…

  7. Submitted by larry boss on 12/21/2011 - 11:57 am.

    Can you say, “Smokescreen?”

  8. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 12/21/2011 - 12:04 pm.

    “Inappropriate” is a word used often lately about the trials and tribulations within the Republican Party.

    The word itself is a careful, cautious word with so many varied definitions like “improper”,”unseemly”,”unfit”,”unsuited”,
    “inept”,”infelicitous”,”ill chosen”…take your pick.

    Turmoil unfolds daily for whatever appropriate or inappropriate reasons. Now throw in another, the stadium as scapegoat; victim of such inappropriateness? Dare I cry, or laugh hilariously but ‘inappropriately’ here?

    Could it be the Party itself that has become unseemly, inept, infelicitous, ill chosen?

    Looks like an implosion is evolving folks as an improper, unseemly domino theory emerges and another person or policy hits the carpet?

    Bad things happen to good people some conservative, infelicitous theologian once said…happened in my church as a child when pastor developed an inappropriate relationship with the deacon’s daughter…unseemly indeed.

    Leaves one with the knowledge; and some degree of doubt…is the Republican Party, as-is, infected with too much inappropriateness, to be appropriate?

  9. Submitted by Tim Walker on 12/21/2011 - 12:34 pm.

    Sen. Koch was “an American sweetheart”?


    I snorted out loud when I read that line … for several reasons:

    1. It’s sexist

    2. It’s an opinion that doesn’t belong in a news story

    3. It’s not a universally shared opinion.

    Regarding point #3: A heck of a lot of Minnesotans, maybe even a majority of them, believe that Sen. Koch did a great disservice to the state with her obstructionist stance during the budget crisis and resulting state shutdown.

    And finally when I conjure up an image of “an American sweetheart” — union bashing, millionaire-protecting, Sen. Koch most certainly does not come to mind.

  10. Submitted by Rachel Weisman on 12/21/2011 - 12:39 pm.

    Is your thesis that Koch’s ouster was because she supported a new stadium? Huh? Are you kidding? I think you are attempting to pin this on a bogeyman beyond her own behavior. No way.

  11. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 12/21/2011 - 12:41 pm.

    What is the MinnPost policy on the use of anonymous sources? Does Brucato have any evidence to support this incendiary story, or is it some kind of political spin? Seems to me on a story of this import this site would have required some on-the-record sourcing. Is this the “high quality” journalism MinnPost touts? Do any of Brucato’s private clients have a dog in this fight?

  12. Submitted by John Ferman on 12/21/2011 - 01:05 pm.

    What rights do legislative employees have. Regular state employees are represented by bargaining units and all discipline actions are appealable that can go to an outside, independent arbiter. Brodkorbs public firing will affect his future employability and the way it was done was clumsy and heavy-handed. All that for an ‘alleged’ roll in the hay or two. Brodkorb in his official capacity could allow him where all the GOP skeletons are buried – what a tool to have. Think about the messages this action sends – would a talented person think thrice before taking a job with thd GOP? I am no fan of Brodkorb, but he didn’t deserve this. What about those Senators who drive drunk on their way to their mistresses.

  13. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 12/21/2011 - 01:55 pm.

    It all comes down to the fact that if you don’t want you initiatives to go off the track, keep you zipper up–male or female.

    Weren’t we supposed to feel sorry for Brodkorb, a day or so ago?

    Now we’re supposed to feel sorry for our “American sweetheart”?

    She’s “collateral damage”? How can that be–a relationship between two smart consenting adults with giant egos? They did what they wanted, because they wanted to do so, fully aware of all the dangers to those who trod that path before them.

    The collateral damage is to their family members.

    Keep your zipper up!!

  14. Submitted by Charlie Quimby on 12/21/2011 - 02:29 pm.

    This piece [} posted yesterday said:

    “When contacted by MPR News, Brodkorb said he is not commenting to reporters.”

    According to Brucato’s story he was doing interviews with media members he figured he could manipulate.

  15. Submitted by Betty Folliard on 12/21/2011 - 02:33 pm.

    Cyndy – When in doubt, obfuscate. Or, let Sarah do your work for you.

  16. Submitted by Charlie Quimby on 12/21/2011 - 02:35 pm.

    #4 “The Majority Leader is “collateral damage” to taking out a staffer. Give me a break.”

    This may not be how the part operates, but it sounds consistent with a certain staffer’s view of the world.

  17. Submitted by Roger Buoen on 12/21/2011 - 02:40 pm.

    In response to comment No. 11: Stories like this one that include confidential sources raise issues of credibility for many of our readers. For that reason, we limit the use of anonymous sources to significant information in important stories and to information that cannot be obtained from other sources or in other ways.

    In such cases, we require our reporters to gain the approval of an editor for the use of a confidential source and to tell their editor the name of the source and how that person has knowledge of the information. In general, we require a second source to verify or confirm the information.

    When we use a confidential source in a story, we try to include in the article information that helps the reader understand the source’s expertise or reliability and, when possible, a description of how the source is in a position to know the information attributed to that source.

  18. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 12/21/2011 - 02:57 pm.

    Roger – Thanks for your explanation of the MinnPost policies. I still have a problem with the story. 1) These are *political* charges – there really isn’t a way to prove or disprove them. Sure, someone or someones said these things – but is it a factual claim or spin? and 2) Brucato seems to have an inside track on this story. How come she never says anything about who Koch was having an affair with, and if that person was Brodkorb? Answering those questions seems a lot more pertinent than political speculation about dark underlying motives.

    This is the problem with Cyndy Brucato – because she is a political insider you never know WHY she is telling you something, or what she ISN’T telling you because that would hurt her insider status.

  19. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 12/21/2011 - 03:06 pm.

    Stadium politics may have had something to do with Senator Koch’s ouster. The idea of tax money going to a new stadium for the Vikings is very unpopular, but it’s just so darned hard to say “No” to a billionaire. Seriously, if the party does not want to expand gambling, and does not want to build a new stadium, they don’t have to do it. Mr. Brodkorb had no power to dictate legislators’ votes.

    Let’s look at the bigger picture. Under Tony Sutton’s regime, the GOP was run into the ground. The party is over $1 million in debt (why? Any guesses?). There are no statewide Republican officeholders, and the best candidate for Governor they could find in 2010 (a year that trended Republican) was the rodeo clown Tom Emmer. The Republicans control both houses of the Legislature, shut down the government, and are getting the blame for the whole thing. The shutdown was the signature accomplshment of the session, unless you count the pointless distraction of the anti-marriage amendment. Amy Klobuchar has no serious challenger, and I wouldn’t bet money on picking up any seats in the state House in 2012.

    The party is in bad shape. It’s run by a group of obstructionist social conservatives who don’t have the first clue of how to govern. It seems reasonable to blame the leadership and their consigliere. What we saw was not an ouster over ideology, it was a purge.

    Dice are rolling.

  20. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 12/21/2011 - 03:40 pm.

    John (#12) — Thank you for writing about the value of unions. Since it’s far right Republicans who are doing their best to destroy unions throughout the US – including Minnesota – perhaps it is also good experience for at least one of them to see what it’s like to be fired and to have no way to challenge the firing or to, as you say, protect his reputation in future job searches.

  21. Submitted by Tommy Johnson on 12/21/2011 - 04:26 pm.

    #19 – it was a purge indeed, and it reeks to the high heavens – which is why I’m referring to this whole affair as a “Pew d’ Etat.” To get to the bottom of this sordid story, follow the ages old directions: follow the money.

  22. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 12/21/2011 - 04:33 pm.

    “How come she never says anything about who Koch was having an affair with, and if that person was Brodkorb? Answering those questions seems a lot more pertinent than political speculation about dark underlying motives.”

    Why? Unless there is a minor involved (and there is no evidence that there was) what possible business do you have with that information?

  23. Submitted by Lora Jones on 12/21/2011 - 06:06 pm.

    OMG — I’m actually agree with Swift on something. I still don’t care who Koch’s paramour was, and I don’t really see how making his/her identity public makes any difference (although if it WAS a female staffer, it’s more likely, given the historical GOP playbook, that her ouster was for the relationship alone and not part of an internal power struggle).

    Poor Tester, though! He’s pretty thoroughly lost the GOP-is-just-so-much-more-moral-high-ground by now.

  24. Submitted by Stephan Flister on 12/21/2011 - 06:12 pm.

    #18 says”This is the problem with Cyndy Brucato – because she is a political insider you never know WHY she is telling you something, ”

    Yes, you do.

  25. Submitted by will lynott on 12/21/2011 - 06:52 pm.

    Oh jeez, people. What’s with all the drama? Brucato’s job for ages has been “Republican Spinmeister.” Don’t EVER mistake her for a reliable nonpartisan source. Step back, take a breath, all together now:

    “Cyndi, nice try. But no banana.”

    #23, it might not be such an issue except that Republicans are such pious family values hypocrites, a word I think has lost much of its impact in our latter day era of Republican philandering. They are absolutely relentless in demanding that we all do as they say, not as they do. Koch has earned every brickbat she gets.

  26. Submitted by David Hanners on 12/21/2011 - 07:18 pm.

    I’m not sure I’m following the logic here. As I read this story, it basically boils down to:
    A) The GOP’s legislative leadership didn’t like Brodkorb because he was a “vocal stadium supporter,” so
    B) they decided to get rid of him and
    C) in order to get rid of him, they confronted his boss, Koch, over allegations she had an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate which
    D) prompted Koch to resign which
    E) allowed the GOP legislative leadership to get rid of Brodkorb.

    If the GOP leadership’s beef was indeed with Brodkorb and he was the one they wanted to get rid of, why didn’t they just get rid of him — or at least confront him before confronting Koch?

    Occam’s razor comes to mind, and the explanation laid out in the article strikes me as much more complex and convoluted than a much simpler explanation: An elected official failed to live up to the moral and ethical expectations of the peers who put her in a leadership position, and when confronted with that, she resigned her post. I’ve not seen a public explanation for Brodkorb’s firing.

    One last note: I would be the last to impugn another writer’s reputation, but given Ms. Brucato’s employment history, as a reader I want some assurance Brucato & Halliday does no “strategic communications” for any of the people named — or unnamed — in the article, nor is the firm planning to solicit business from any of those people. I believe readers are owed those two assurances.

  27. Submitted by Paul Scott on 12/21/2011 - 10:10 pm.

    Ummm, total sidebar here, but willya just look at the way she’s looking at him…

  28. Submitted by Tony Dodge on 12/21/2011 - 10:28 pm.

    You should take this story down. She has admitted the inappropriate relationship. Keeping this up makes Ms. Brucato and MinnPost appear to be more of a GOP tool than when the “story” was first posted.

  29. Submitted by Neal Gendler on 12/21/2011 - 10:57 pm.

    David, thanks for mentioning Occam’s Razor. Perhaps there are some sinister undercurrents, or perhaps the simple answer is the sufficient and correct one. (Some people never will believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.)
    In the increasingly rare momoments when I’m not sick of reading/watching/hearing about the Amy business, I do wonder: If the gender roles were reversed, would the outcome have been the same? Or the news coverage?

    I certainly see the irony of a GOP leader’s actions flying in the face of the GOP’s insensitive and impossibly Puritan agenda. But maybe this is just an instance of two people succumbing to a strong, even primal human impulse as have so many others.

    It seems that no one was killed or assaulted and nothing was stolen. The GOP may or may not lose standing, but the only lasting losses are of trust and honor — high prices that the two individuals never will quit paying (the incident even will be in their obituaries).

    This isn’t the end of the republic — or even the state. Enough already.

  30. Submitted by Roger Buoen on 12/22/2011 - 11:34 am.

    In response to comment No. 27: Cyndy does consulting work with her husband. But she and her husband have not worked for – nor are soliciting work from — the gambling industry, the Vikings, stadium interests, Minnesota tribes or any of the individuals involved in this story.

  31. Submitted by David Hanners on 12/22/2011 - 01:58 pm.

    That’s good to know, Roger. But I’m still of the belief that you can be a journalist or you can do public relations. You can’t do both.

  32. Submitted by J'M S on 01/12/2012 - 01:28 pm.

    All these CHILDISH game playing, cliquish and covert shenanigans reek of elementary school children playing at television villains and superheroes, etc. They are supposed to be GROWN-UPS doing the jobs they were elected and ARE BEING PAID to do – – THE BUSINESS OF THE PEOPLE, not playing out their own little personal peccadilloes and revenges. This makes them look like fools and delusional individuals. When is all this “clandestine” nonsense going to stop? These are people SUPPOSEDLY representing US. It seems more like they are into their own “war games,” and we should stop paying them until they begin doing their jobs.

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