Archive for the ‘Special Interests’ Category

I knew that the DFL and ABM would start spinning things after they created a mess but this is ridiculous. While the legislature was still in session, Susie Merthans started spinning things. She quoted Paul Thissen as saying “Modest victories are due to Gov Dayton & DFL Senate dragging GOP kicking and screaming across the finish line.” Then, as though that wasn’t enough, she added “Paul Thissen: GOP beholden to corporate special interests, it’s time for a change.”

First, it’s frightening that Ms. Merthans admits in her profile that she’s the “Communications Director for @ABetterMN by way of @mnhouseDFL.” Why should ABM’s communications director get paid by Minnesota taxpayers? That’s the definition of corruption. ABM doesn’t change when the session ends. It’s the same dishonest messaging as they used during the legislative session. The only difference is that ABM will spend more money on mailers and ads during the campaign. The dishonest themes remain pretty much intact.

That’s before talking about the dishonesty of Thissen’s statements. The DFL is the party that does whatever the environmentalists tell them to do. Actually, they don’t do what the environmental activists tell them not to do. Think about the DFL’s opposition to the Sandpiper Pipeline project. Think about the DFL’s opposition to a resolution at their State Convention in 2014 that said the DFL supported mining. At the DFL’s State Convention in Duluth in 2014, that timid resolution was pulled by Ken Martin said it was too controversial. Seriously.

Another example is how the DFL rammed through forced unionization on in-home child care providers at the end of the 2013 session. Despite a massive lobbying effort organized by in-home child care providers, the DFL ignored the in-home child care providers and sided with public employee unions. Again, the DFL didn’t care about the people. The DFL sided with their special interest allies. It isn’t surprising. That’s their habit.

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Zach Dorholt’s op-ed in this morning’s St. Cloud Times is a reminder of why he should be a one-term wonder. The Times asked what the legislature’s top priorities were. According to Dorholt, the answer is ” a constitutional one. The Minnesota Constitution obligates the Legislature to fund transportation and education.”

While it’s true that Minnesota’s constitution talks about transportation and education, it’s equally true that education was fully funded in last year’s budget. The budget that was adopted last year was a bipartisan budget that reflected both parties’ priorities. In short, neither party got everything they wanted but the people got a budget that funded everyone’s needs. What they didn’t get was everything on the special interests’ wish lists.

That’s why it isn’t worth paying attention to some of Dorholt’s drivel. In Dorholt’s op-ed, he brags about the fantastic job they did. Q: If you did such a magnificent job, why were you fired after your first term? Q2: If your education funding was so positive and so historic, why have school boards increased their operating levies? They’ve done that all across Minnesota. They’ve raised property taxes in both St. Cloud and in Princeton.

Simply put, Dorholt’s rhetoric doesn’t match Dorholt’s record.

The last Legislature — of which I was a member — left this Legislature a budget surplus for a reason: the next generation of Minnesotans deserves the same quality-funded education their predecessors got.

However, these legislators have let college and university tuition go up again, forcing students to foot another large bill, or take out more loans, or even forgo college altogether. We still have a lot of catching up to do for our schools and colleges.

Let’s talk about Dorholt’s time in the legislature. Specifically, let’s discuss his time as vice-chair of the House Higher Education Committee. During his time as vice-chair, Dorholt ignored St. Cloud State’s financial and enrollment problems. There’s a reason why Dorholt only talks about tuitions going up. It’s because his time on the House Higher Education Committee was a disaster.

St. Cloud State is pretty much the poster child for financial dysfunctionality. Dorholt’s solution was to throw more money at the problem without fixing the underlying problem. In fact, there’s little evidence that he was interested in finding out what the underlying problems were.

It’s just more proof that you can’t find what you refuse to look for. Dorholt’s ostrich strategy (burying his head in the sand) didn’t work the last time he was in the legislature. That’s why he shouldn’t be returned to the legislature. He was a failure then. Nothing he’s said suggests that he won’t be a failure again.

This morning, the Stearns County commissioners unanimously approved a resolution supporting “a bill requiring a state audit of public spending related to refugee resettlement.” Predictably, the special interest organizations that support writing a blank check to pay for refugee resettlement programs were upset.

For instance, #UniteCloud spoke “against the bills, calling them anti-refugee and potentially costly.” #UniteCloud’s about us page indicates that they’re a misinformation organization. That’s revealed by them saying “Often we allow misinformation and dehumanizing stereotypes to make untrue assumptions of our neighbors.” That, friends, is projection. Remember that the commissioners voted on a resolution that supported legislation that promotes transparency.

You’ve got to be either paranoid or dishonest to accuse citizens demanding transparency of being bigots. I’m leaning more towards dishonest than paranoid.

According to Commissioner DeWayne Mareck, “the bill is “‘all about transparency’ and any use of taxpayer money should require an audit.” That’s pretty noncontroversial. So is the text of the legislation:

(a) The legislative auditor shall conduct or contract with vendors to conduct independent third-party financial audits of federal, state, local, and nonprofit spending related to refugee resettlement costs and other services provided to refugees in Minnesota.

What’s controversial about knowing how much taxpayer funding is being spent on resettlement programs? I haven’t heard anyone complain about the legislative auditor auditing a government agency or NPO. Why is #UniteCloud complaining?

Jeff Johnson, a St. Cloud City Council member, said he’s been concerned about the lack of transparency with the refugee resettlement program. “The taxpayers have a right to have a good and fair audit,” Johnson said.

#UniteCloud has the right to complain because the First Amendment protects that right. Similarly, I have the right to ignore #UniteCloud’s fanciful accusations.

Jim Geraghty’s post, titled If You’re Explaining, You Los- Eh, No, Wait, You’re Doing Your Job., demolishes Donald Trump’s fanatical rant that voters were disenfranchised. When Geraghty wrote “You vote for delegates at your precinct March 1; the delegates you elect vote among themselves for delegates to district and statewide conventions; at the district and statewide conventions, those delegates vote on who goes to Cleveland. Boom. Done.” he gutted Trump’s whining complaints with the greatest of ease.

Still, I’d add that Trump’s done something much more disgusting than just lie about the process. By saying that “one million Republicans in Colorado were sidelined,” Trump essentially said that the 65,000 people that participated in Colorado’s precinct caucuses on March 1 don’t count as real Republicans. Shame on Mr. Trump. They did something he wasn’t willing to do. They participated in the political process. They didn’t just whine about how awful America is. They stepped forward. They offered solutions for fixing the mess left by 8 years of Barack Obama. By now, they’re working hard getting legislative and congressional candidates elected.

By comparison, Mr. Trump has flown around the country, held rallies where he complained about being treated unfairly, told people that they should punch protesters if they acted up and bragged about how he’s doing in the polls.

If saying outrageous things and lying are qualifications for being president, talk radio is filled with qualified presidential candidates.

Mr. Trump complains about the power brokers who’ve rigged the game in their favor while pretending to fight for working people. That’s another myth worth dispelling. Trump is for Trump. Period. If Trump cared about voters, he wouldn’t be disparaging them for their participation in the political process. Why isn’t he working as hard as they are in getting conservatives elected?

If Trump wants to make America great again, here’s a suggestion: don’t contribute to Democrats like Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. Here’s another suggestion: stop supporting single-payer health care. Stop supporting tax increases. Stop supporting economic isolationism.

Comparatively speaking, Trump isn’t a patriot. In fact, Trump doesn’t fit the dictionary definition of patriot:

  1. a person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion.
  2. a person who regards himself or herself as a defender, especially of individual rights, against presumed interference by the federal government.

Standing behind a podium and complaining isn’t defending “his nation and its interests with devotion.” That’s what whiners do. Here’s the definition of whiner:

to snivel or complain in a peevish, self-pitying way

It’s stunning that a man who’s received $2,000,000,000+ worth of free air time on TV and radio think that he’s being mistreated.

When Trump isn’t bragging about how good he’s doing in the polls, he’s complaining about getting mistreated. I can’t wait until we don’t have to deal with Trump’s complaining.

Comparing the GOP activists in Colorado with Trump isn’t fair. The activists work hard to make America the best it can possibly be. Trump complains, then passes the buck for his lack of leadership.

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A little over a week ago, the St. Cloud Times published my LTE in which I talked about how Speaker Daudt challenged Rep. Thissen. Specifically, I wrote that Thissen accused Republicans of throwing “controversial provisions into big bills right at the end” of session. Unwilling to let Rep. Thissen’s spin go unchallenged, Speaker Daudt asked him to name some specific controversial provisions that Republicans threw into big budget bills at the end of the 2015 session.

Rather than respond substantively, Rep. Thissen repeated the accusation.

Later, I wrote that “Tim Kelly, the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, wrote an op-ed saying that the next transportation plan Thissen submits ‘will be his first.'” I also said that it’s “a disgrace that the DFL would pick a dishonest man to lead them in the House.” I finished by saying that the DFL agenda is “all criticism and no solutions.” I must’ve gotten under Rep. Thissen’s skin with that. Earlier this week, the Times published Rep. Thissen’s op-ed.

Rep. Thissen’s op-ed addresses some items from the DFL agenda. He started by saying that the “reality is we have been the party of ideas, bringing forth common-sense solutions to address Minnesota’s biggest problem — too many Minnesotans are being squeezed in an economy tilted in favor of the insiders, elites and special interests.” With all due respect, Rep. Thissen, the DFL is the party of special interests.

Nobody’s been squeezed more than the Iron Range. They’ve been squeezed by environmental absolutists who demand that mining projects can’t produce any pollution ever. They’ve been squeezed so tight that it’s difficult to find middle class families on the Range. Minnesota’s poverty rate is 11.5%; compare that with Hibbing’s poverty rate of 20.6% and Virginia’s poverty rate of 26.5%. Then, Rep. Thissen, tell me who’s getting squeezed and who’s getting ignored by the DFL.

Rep. Thissen also wrote that “House DFLers proposed just a solution comprised partly of the House GOP transportation plan and Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposal.” That isn’t a solution. The DFL’s ‘solution’ would’ve imposed a major tax increase on the very middle class taxpayers that Rep. Thissen insists are getting squeezed by the special interests. FYI- Gov. Dayton’s transportation plan is virtually identical to Move MN’s transportation plan. Move MN doesn’t exist anymore. The new DFL-aligned transportation lobbyist organization is called Transportation Forward.

Rep. Thissen, when the DFL approved spending on the Senate Office Building, which group of squeezed people did that help? When the DFL legislature passed its Tax Bill, it included sales taxes on farm equipment repairs, warehousing services and other B2B taxes. This table offers a good explanation of the middle class tax increases the DFL imposed on Minnesotans:

Rep. Thissen, why did the DFL legislature pass this mountain of middle class tax increases in 2013, then vote to repeal them in 2014?

It’s crazy that Rep. Thissen thinks that this is a solution:

We have introduced legislation that would demand powerful drug companies be more transparent about profits to reduce costs of prescription drugs.

That’s right, Rep. Thissen. Central Minnesota has been insisting that the state government get involved in telling businesses how they’ll be allowed to conduct business. Minnesotans are getting squeezed by busybody politicians like Rep. Thissen have heaped piles of compliance costs, reporting requirements and regulations on businesses. That, more than anything else, is what’s driving up costs.

Finally, what’s interesting is that Rep. Thissen didn’t argue that he wasn’t truthful about the controversial provisions thrown into bills.

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When it comes to mining, the Mesabi Daily News doesn’t pull its punches. Their editor, Bill Hanna, hasn’t hesitated in calling Democrats or Republicans out if they’ve stepped out of line with the mining industry. In this editorial, the Mesabi Daily News didn’t pull its punches with Gov. Dayton, starting with them saying “Gov. Mark Dayton reached out to the Iron Range in an editorial page guest column last week and tried to defend the indefensible — his decision to not allow the Department of Natural Resources to enter into any Access Agreements for mining operations on state lands.”

Follow this link to read Gov. Dayton’s op-ed. Rather than siding with mining, Gov. Dayton’s defense hit the Range with another gut punch. The Mesabi Daily News wrote “The governor gets another F-minus in his explanation and attempted justification of that decision, which also graded out as an F-minus when it was announced on March 7.”

While they didn’t quote Gov. Dayton’s op-ed, I’m fairly certain that MDN is upset with Gov. Dayton’s statement that “I believe the best approach is to respect the invisible, but very real, boundary that was established almost 40 years ago, which permits mining activities within the existing industrial footprints on the Iron Range, and prevents them within or adjacent to the Boundary Waters. People who can accept that division will be able to at least co-exist, if not actually cooperate.”

Here’s what MDN thought of Gov. Dayton’s statement:

Here’s what the governor’s declaration by fiat basically said:

  1. NO to Twin Metals Minnesota, we don’t want you. But we do thank you for the $400 million you’ve invested already in our state. The greenbacks are appreciated.
  2. NO to mineral exploration on state lands, even through the state Executive Council approved the leases.
  3. NO, I don’t trust my own Department of Natural Resources to thoroughly do its job of due diligence and review of Twin Metals’ proposals.
  4. NO to scientific-based environmental review process of copper/nickel/precious metals mining. That would make too much common sense.
  5. NO to citizen participation. The extremist preservationist groups and their supporters, many of them from the Twin Cities area or out of state, know what’s best. They are my kitchen cabinet on this issue.

Rather than calling these environmental extremist groups part of Gov. Dayton’s “kitchen cabinet,” I think it’s more accurate to call them part of his Board of Oligarchs. Here’s the definition for the word oligarchy:

a form of government in which all power is vested in a few persons or in a dominant class or clique; government by the few.

He’s represented the environmental activists who fund the DFL’s campaigns. It’s indisputable that a significant portion of the DFL wants mining shut down regardless of what the facts say. I’ve written about Conservation Minnesota’s Mining Truth website more times than I’d prefer to. I’ve repeatedly highlighted the distortions published by CM through MT. Those organizations should be part of Minnesota’s Hall of Shame in terms of disinformation.

I’ll close with MDN’s closing paragraph because they’ve stated it perfectly:

On second thought, we grade it F-minus-minus.

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Friday night, Mary Lahammer’s article for Almanac, which starts 17 minutes into this video. She should be ashamed for airing such a dishonest article. The opening shot in the article shows a group of people singing “I’m gonna let it shine” while holding placards that say “FOR-PROFIT PRISONS ARE IMMORAL. BAN PRIVATE PRISONS. #StopCCA”

Rev. Brian Herron was captured on film saying “Why aren’t we here talking about resolving the disparities? Why aren’t we here talking about prison reform? Why aren’t we here talking about how we uplift people and uplift communities? Why are we here to do more damage? It ain’t right.”

Later, Joe Broge, a corrections officer at Stillwater State Prison said “I’ve talked to a number of inmates who spent time there and it is, without exception, a horrible facility and when they come to Stillwater Prison and say that they’re glad they’re there, that tells you something.”

First, the thought that Officer Broge thinks it’s wise to set public policy based on the input of criminals is frightening. Why would we want prisons designed that meet the prisoners’ approval? (I suspect that Officer Broge is just doing his best to vilify the CCA facility in Appleton. I don’t think it has anything to do with serious policymaking.)

As bad as those things are, though, they pale in comparison with what Tom Roy, Gov. Dayton’s Commissioner for the Department of Corrections, said during his testimony. Commissioner Roy said “The notion that we incarcerate people for profit, for corporate profit, is, I think, the antithesis of America.”

That’s an intellectually dishonest statement. When I wrote this article, I included this legislative language from HF3223:

(j) The commissioner, in order to address bed capacity shortfalls, shall enter into a contract to lease and operate an existing prison facility with a capacity of at least 1,500 beds located in Appleton, Minnesota.

Commissioner Roy knows that CCA would lease the facility to Minnesota’s Department of Corrections and that the Department of Corrections would staff the facility. Further, Commissioner Roy knows that CCA wouldn’t have anything to do with the operation of the facility.

Here’s the questions I have for Commissioner Roy:

  1. Is leasing a private building to hold prisoners “the antithesis of America”?
  2. How is leasing a building owned by a private company the antithesis but spending $100,000,000 of the taxpayers’ money morally justifiable?

Here’s my question for Mary Lahammer: How could you stand behind an article that’s more DFL spin than facts? Ms. Lahammer should be ashamed of herself for not questioning the propaganda contained in this article. It’s a pathetic excuse for journalism.

When I wrote this post about the so-called privatization of the CCA prison in Appleton, MN, I highlighted the legislative language of HF3223. The last paragraph of the bill states “(j) The commissioner, in order to address bed capacity shortfalls, shall enter into a contract to lease and operate an existing prison facility with a capacity of at least 1,500 beds located in Appleton, Minnesota.”

That language made the DFL activists howl with indignation. Minneapolis NAACP head Nekima Levy-Pounds said “Who we do business with is just as important as the business we do. Doing business with the CCA is like doing business with the devil, because their practices are diabolical.” Darnella Wade shouted “You cannot put my kids, my grandkids, in jail to save 350 Caucasian jobs in Appleton. This is abuse.” Imagine the screams Ms. Levy-Pounds and Ms. Wade will cut loose with when they read this article. Just the title alone (Dayton opens door to buying private Minnesota prison, someday) will cause these activists’ blood to boil.

The Democratic governor said the only way he would consider using the Appleton prison “would be to buy it.” He said he understands Correction Corporation of America would be willing to sell the 1,600-bed facility for $100 million. However, he said, the prison would need rehabilitation. “That is a hugely expensive proposition.”

On Twitter and in the article, people argued that leasing CCA’s empty prison was “building an economy on the backs of black and brown lives.” It might’ve been the most terrible thing imaginable. One person tweeted that leasing the building might (gasp!) help CCA profit from the relationship.

According to this article, the OLA report mentioned the loans the IRRRB made to Meyer and Associates. I’m not surprised. I wrote about Meyer in this post, which I titled “Crony capitalism & the IRRRB” and in this post, which I titled “Will the DFL repay taxpayers”?

In Crony capitalism & the IRRRB, I quoted an article that said “Meyer Teleservices in Progress Park has closed its doors on the Iron Range, leaving 104 people unemployed. The St. Cloud-based company also leaves behind a debt of about $250,000 to the Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation Board, which had issued two loans totaling $650,000 to the business for its Eveleth facility.” Later in the article, it noted that “Meyer Teleservices also on Monday shuttered its other Minnesota offices in St. Cloud and Little Falls.”

In “Will the DFL repay taxpayers”, I quoted Kevin Allenspach’s article that said “It was a company with direct ties and allegiance to the Democratic Party. After Republican President Richard Nixon’s resignation over the Watergate scandal the business created an ‘…innovative small donor fundraising program called the Dollars for Democrats program,’ according to the Meyer Teleservices website.” The IRRRB was foolish in granting those loans. Then again, they didn’t care because this company was helping Democrats raise money and because they weren’t loaning their money. They likely wouldn’t have made the loan if they had ‘skin in the game’.

That’s the problem with this situation. You don’t need to have a PhD in Business Finance to understand that the number of reckless loans increases when it isn’t your money. This paragraph should highlight how foolish the IRRRB was with other people’s money:

But the business model proved too outdated in recent years for today’s mobile phone society. Land lines are decreasing eight to twelve percent per year.

According to the article, Meyer Teleservices “launched on the Range in Eveleth in 2007.” It isn’t like we couldn’t see the end of the line for telemarketing companies. In 2003-04, Howard Dean used the internet to raise tens of millions of dollars for his presidential campaigns. In 2007-08, then-candidate Obama was using the internet to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for his presidential campaign.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out that these loans were made because they benefited Democrats. The motivation for these loans was to keep the company going through the 2014 election cycle.

The IRRRB has failed the people of the Iron Range. They’ve done nothing to diversify or strengthen the Iron Range’s economy. I wrote here that the statewide MHI (Median Household Income) is $60,828 and the statewide poverty rate is 11.5%. Compare that with the MHI for Hibbing, which is $38,112, and the MHI for Virginia, which is $33,143.The poverty rate in Hibbing is 20.6% while the poverty rate in Virginia is a disgusting 26.5%.

It’s time to make the IRRRB as extinct as the Passenger Pigeon. It’s failed its mission to the hard-working people of the Iron Range.

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According to this article, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce intends to throw its weight around on putting a transportation bill together. The good news for the DFL is that the Chamber wants some spending on transit. The bad news for the DFL is that the Chamber doesn’t want a tax increase for fixing Minnesota’s roads and bridges.

Harry Melander, the president of the Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council, recently said “When the labor groups and the Chamber get together, it’s usually when stuff gets done. If it doesn’t, then I think we have a much bigger problem with the people up at the Capitol.” Meanwhile, the Chamber isn’t pushing for a gas tax increase like they did in 2008, the last time the gas tax was increased.

The Chamber can supply a little political cover for a middle class tax increase in some years. This year, that’s a (pardon the pun) a bridge too far. Further, the DFL majority in the Senate isn’t likely to pass a middle class tax increase if they aren’t convinced that House Republicans will join them in voting for the tax increase.

Republicans have been steadfast in their opposition to raising taxes to support new transit projects. Charley Weaver of the Minnesota Business Partnership probably is serious about pushing transit but it’s still possible that he’s bluffing. When Weaver said “We wanted to be crystal clear that this is a priority for us. This isn’t an afterthought. This isn’t, ‘Gee, if you get around to it.'”, it’s possible that they aren’t willing to expend much political capital pushing transit as part of a transportation bill.

If Weaver insists, however, on pushing transit, he should expect tons of pushback from citizens. There isn’t a great groundswell of support for transit. There is a significant groundswell of support for fixing Minnesota’s roads and bridges. If Weaver pushes too hard for transit, he’ll lose the entire package.