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Five More Questions: Attorney Gilmore chides media for not contesting closed Brodkorb files

MinnPost photo by Bill Kelley
John Gilmore: "Everywhere you look you see personal animosity toward Michael Brodkorb getting in the way of doing what's right for the people of Minnesota."

Editor’s note: Five More Questions is an occasional series by Brian Lambert that follows up on people who recently made news.

St. Paul attorney John Gilmore is a familiar presence among Twin Cities’ conservative activists. His well-written, frequently amusing blog, “Minnesota Conservatives,” is a must-read among the political chattering class — and among his current clients he counts resigned/deposed Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch and Michele Bachmann’s former chief of staff, Andy Parrish.

In a recent blog post supporting his close friend, Michael Brodkorb, Gilmore argued that the local political media had a journalistic obligation to raise objections to Judge Arthur Boylan’s June 6 protective order that essentially sealed from taxpaying eyes what Republican leaders (primarily) said and did as Koch was, shall we say, “encouraged” to resign and Brodkorb was fired. (The contents of one of the audiotapes did become public over the weekend as the result of a leak.)

The public tab for Brodkorb’s lawsuit already has reached $226,000 … before entering discovery and trial phases.

Said Gilmore: “[T]he protective order effectively renders [Brodkorb’s] federal lawsuit invisible to the public. Worse, though, than one private litigant’s discomfort, the protective order keeps the people of Minnesota from knowing how their elected officials handled this by now very public matter.”

Adding: “Minnesota media should intervene in this lawsuit for the sole purpose of challenging a shockingly over broad protective order. I’d feel the same way if the litigant was a democrat suing what was then a DFL controlled senate.”

So, we had five questions for Mr. Gilmore:

1. As we speak, I detect no movement among anyone in the media — anywhere — to join an opposition to Judge Boylan’s order. How do you explain the indifference of the local political press to this? I presume they’d all be eager to publish whatever was said by people like Sens. Dave Senjem, Geoff Michel and David Hann.

John Gilmore: I don’t know why, and it is curious. The press still likes to think of itself as the defender of the public’s right to know. But apparently not in this case. I don’t know why they decided to abdicate what they think of as one of their primary missions.

After all, this is an example of what I think of as a troubling precedent. And look, I don’t want to be the guy who is always whining about the press. But this seems so egregiously broad — everything the Senate wants restricted is deemed “confidential” — that I think the media should get involved, for the public’s sake, not Michael’s.

And yes, I’ve had a couple conversations with individual political reporters who have told me they’ve brought it up with their bosses and that it’s being “looked at.”

2. Beyond the professional media, how do you explain the tepid to non-existent support Brodkorb has received from other conservative activists and bloggers? The irony that these are people who share his ideology and aggressive style of partisan politics and now have all but completely abandoned him is kind of striking. Some of them are pretty flaky, but others, like at Power Line, have law degrees and you’d think would be able to argue some merit for someone in his predicament?

5 More QuestionsJG: Well, I think I see things a bit differently than others. As I say, I’m a friend of Michael’s. Others really don’t like him. It may be that simple. They can’t see past their animosities. Maybe that’s why I’m the only one arguing in his defense.

But again, the issue of this overly broad protective order has much more significance to the public — who has a right to know what its elected officials did and are doing with taxpayer money — than it does with one man.

This’ll sound like hubris, but the fact I think this way explains a lot about why I’m not on True North [an aggregate site for local conservative bloggers]. As for Power Line, I can’t speak for them, but as I said in my post, they should get involved if only to show they’re still relevant.

3. Then we have the general public. I think it’s fair to say that in Michael Brodkorb, you have one of the least sympathetic plaintiffs in recent memory. Those who knew him prior to the scandal regarded him as a singularly ruthless political operator, and those who didn’t, know him only as the guy who had an affair with a woman who was his superior and then turned around and sued the bosses the next level up, and is now running up a huge tab on the public dime. You can understand why the public doesn’t much care what happens to him, right?

JG: Yes, I understand that. But I also believe that as much as people want this over, and no one wants this to go to a federal trial, the cost of that would be staggering, the public also wants to see a fair process, without too much information.

And to that point, I remind people that Michael has been consistent about confidentiality for other staff people he knows about who have had similar relations.

What I’m arguing is different. It involves decisions made by elected officials in their official capacities. The public has a basic right to know what they said and did. But yes, the public sees a guy who had an extramarital relationship and who is arrogant in suing.

Michael is a very talented political player. But there are things I wish he’d done differently. Again, how you feel about Michael colors how you feel about the issues. The real issue, though, is that we don’t have people in the Senate who have the skill set to know when to settle a case like this.

4. Well, in the context of settling, I had a conversation a year or so ago with a prominent Republican money man, and I asked him if he had been approached to help pay off Brodkorb, or employ him somewhere, in exchange for dropping a long, embarrassing legal action that only further damages the party’s brand? His response to me was that he had, but that “the whole thing is so nefarious,” he didn’t want any connection to it.

What’s more, I’ve often thought that among elected Republicans, people who put themselves through the meat-grinder of campaigns, there was quite a bit of resentment toward a guy like Brodkorb who was flexing so much authority, with so much attitude, without having ever exposed himself to the electoral part of the game. Point being, they’re only too happy to see him die, figuratively speaking. What’s your sense of that scenario?

JG:  I have no doubt that’s true, and that paybacks are hell. And that’s probably all I should say about that on the record.

5. The laugh line in your post on this was when you said, “I’m entitled to know what Sen. Bakk has said to others about this lawsuit, including political calculations not covered by the attorney-client privilege. I’ve always thought Senator Bakk should settle this lawsuit and hang it around Senator Hann’s neck. But that’s just lovable me.” Why Hann, exactly?

JG:  Because David Hann was absolutely instrumental in handling this whole thing in the worst way possible. Everyone knows Dave Senjem is not an effective leader. But Hann is supposedly smart. Again, everywhere you look you see personal animosity toward Michael Brodkorb getting in the way of doing what’s right for the people of Minnesota.

And that includes watching expenses on this case going through the roof, without any kind of review or challenge that I can see. $330 an hour is a nice rate. But has the Senate challenged any of those charges from [Dayle] Nolan? That’s usually a pretty routine process, asking a firm to delete things like fees for research by some aide. I don’t even see that happening.

Comments (10)

  1. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 06/24/2013 - 09:27 am.

    The recording (does anyone still use tape?) revealed this weekend was the unagreed recording by Brodkorb of a personal conversation between Brodkorb and Fishbach. It is clear the Brodkorb had a purpose in capturing the candid conversation, and I have no doubt that similar conversations (and recordings) were had with the other players in the mix.

    Is is clear that Fishbach did not want a record of the conversation and that she wanted the conversation to go no further than the two of them. Who knows, were the Fishbach comments her true, deeply-held opinions, or phoney commiseration with the person she helped to boot out the door?

    The only thing that is really known from the revealed tape is that Brodkorb truly is a “burn the building down” type of person. It’s a sort of blackmail game going on now, and I’m sure everyone in the public eye who had a conversation with Brodkorb (via phone or in-person) is trying very hard to remember what they said and to think through how it would sound in print or in court.

    And there is why Brodkorb is persona-non-grata and he has zero future in the paid politico game, “Burning down the house” ensures you will not be invited back. Who would be stupid enough–you’d never have a phone call with him and you’d have to check him for a wire before in-person meeting, and, for god’s sake, you would never leave a permanent written communication with him.

    And in the end, all he is doing is ruining his future. All of the others have track records and history outside of this incident. This is a minor part of their careers, Fishbach’s cravenness revealed in her “don’t tell anyone of my opinions” in her conversation with Brodkorb does not materially change the balance of what people’s opinion of her is. But thate same minor issue for Fishbach is THE major issue for Brodkorb.

    “Burning down the house” is self-immolation for Brodkorb. The only future left is the big payday of winning the lawsuit.

  2. Submitted by Kenneth Kjer on 06/24/2013 - 11:05 am.


    I agree, everything in case should be made public. The GOP has already spent 250,000 dollars of tax payers money, for what? What are they hiding? As a taxpayer I want to know. They went to great lengths to pass a bill to make transparency for public employees, legislators are public employees. If they have dirty laundry, air it in public. The press has the responsibility to do it for the public.

  3. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 06/24/2013 - 12:29 pm.


    Yes, I’d like to see what political games our tax money is paying for. But then, perhaps Brodkorb could go to the political and media oubliette where he belongs–it may turn out to be cheaper that way. What is best about this interview isn’t Mr. Gilmore’s opinion on why this should be a bigger media hoopla than it is, but the cattiness with which he refers to the other conservative bloggies. I can agree with his assessment on them, though. It’s just amusing that Brian Lambert on Minnpost considers Power Line relevant, but conservative blogger John Gilmore questions it. While I agree with Gilmore on that particular point, but then, unlike Mr. Gilmore, I believe that something is only as relevant as you make it. That puts Brodkorb in the same category as Power Line.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/24/2013 - 02:29 pm.

      It Isn’t About Michael Brodkorb

      I am no fan of Mr. Brodkorb, whose role in Minnesota politics is best described by metaphors that would not pass moderation. The point is, are we to be allowed to see where our money is going? Just as importantly, shouldn’t we be allowed to know why it is going where it is going?

      The bickering among conservatives is entertaining, but Mr. Gilmore raises some excellent points that should be addressed. Michael Brodkorb may be irrelevant, but the damage writ by the Republican attempts to get rid of him are not.

      • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 06/24/2013 - 05:43 pm.

        I don’t really disagree

        However, I get the feeling that Mr. Gilmore’s concern rests mainly on getting Brodkorb face time with the public. I would love to see some investigative journalism done to ferret out exactly what’s happening behind the MN GOP’s closed doors. And shame on MN journalism for not doing it. But, really, it can be done without giving Brodkorb the attention he wants.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/25/2013 - 04:59 pm.

          I wish that were true

          I would like to see the whole thing be explained without more attention for Mr. Brodkorb. I don’t know how that’s possible.

          Remember that the publicity is not making him look any better. He’s just the monkey-house denizen with more to fling.

  4. Submitted by jody rooney on 06/24/2013 - 12:55 pm.

    Look let’s forget the characters for a moment

    A boss has an affair with a subordinate. The next level of management finds out. If the firm was ethical most would put the majority of the blame on the boss that had the affair, and it may even be grounds for firing. No firm would fire the subordinate, it would leave them in the position of a huge discrimination or harassment suit.

    It seems to me politics and personalities aside (I frankly don’t like any of them) this is a classic case of discrimination and harassment.

    The fact that there is gender role reversal is clouding the issue.

  5. Submitted by John Ferman on 06/24/2013 - 02:30 pm.

    Brodkorb Ho Hum

    The whole thing is just one tempest in a teapot. About the Senate and Bakk laments: exactly why should any Democrat even think of rescuing a Republican from the hole they dug themseves into. About the money – suck it out of Republican districts and let the people know why.

  6. Submitted by Carole Heffernan on 06/25/2013 - 12:50 am.

    The R’s

    The pusher of the republican parties tort reform now wants to sue, the personal responsibility folks now refuse to take responsibility for their actions, the protectors of the taxpayers pocket book now are spending without a thought to the taxpayer. Do I hear an opening bid for hypocrisy.

    The R’s are the very definition of cognitive dissonance.

    The legislature is not a business people are elected and select their staffs the staff jobs come and go with the legislators. The legislator that poor, pitiful Michael Brodkorb worked for left. When she left there was no need to keep her personal assistant on. What did he expect lifetime employment?

    I really don’t care about others dirty laundry and as far as this voter goes there is no there there.

    This is just a sordid story about some very sad people one of whom picked the wrong meal ticket.

  7. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 06/25/2013 - 07:54 am.

    As a “close friend” of Brodkorb, and a lawyer as well as a political operative, it is worth asking what Mr. Gilmore is trying to achieve with this interview. Is he trying to say undisclosed illicit (or even illegal) recording of personal conversations is acceptable and once the recording is made, the recoding should be accessible to all via the media?

    Trying to build a groundswell of “release the recordings” is probably more about accelerating the settlement negotiations than actual transparency.

    After all, I bet if enough money passed hands in the settlement, we would hear no more about “release the recordings” from Brodkorb or Gilmore

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