Archive for the ‘Special Interests’ Category

This article highlights how special interests acquire political influence. It starts innocently enough, with volunteers gathering “the 2,000 signatures from registered Republican voters that the senator needs to get on the Republican primary ballot.” Because it’s part of Utah’s state statutes, the law has the same requirements for Democrats.

Getting volunteers to knock on doors to collect signatures isn’t corrupt by itself. In fact, if that’s all that was involved, that would be a great way to test citizens’ enthusiasm. Unfortunately, that isn’t what this is about. Far from it, actually.

Knocking on doors is so much easier if you have the address of people who are likely to support you. Why knock on every door in the neighborhood when a friendly special interest group has put together and maintained a list of people who will support you? Apparently, that’s what the Utah Association of Realtors has put together. What’s more, they’re offering incumbents a special introductory price for that list:

Chris Kyler, executive director of the Utah Association of Realtors, said the app his group offers tracks the voter registration file and lets a candidate keep track of which doors have been knocked on and who has signed the petitions.

The idea is that candidates can send out volunteers, or Boy Scout troops or cheerleader squads looking for a fundraising opportunity, with the app to round up the signatures they need.

The Realtors, among the most politically influential groups at Utah’s Capitol, are letting incumbents use the app free of charge. Kyler said they have not decided whether to give the same privilege to challengers or candidates for open seats.

It isn’t surprising that the Utah Association of Realtors is a politically powerful special interest group in Utah. Incumbents can’t afford to get them upset.

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Gov. Dayton, Sen. Bakk and the DFL in general are upset that Republicans want to include long-term relief for the Iron Range in a special session. The DFL insists that the time to deal with that is during a regular session. Their problem is that Sen. Bakk wants to use the special session to address challenges facing the black community in Minnesota.

Gov. Dayton agrees with Sen. Bakk on that, saying “Sen. Bakk rightly expressed the urgency of the challenges facing communities of color in Minnesota. I thank Sen. Bakk and his caucus for their leadership. I agree that any special session concerning the economic hardships of steelworkers on the Iron Range should also begin to address the serious economic disparities facing black Minnesotans.”

The article says that “Jeffrey Hayden, who is one of three black state lawmakers, says the Legislature could provide job training grants for minority workers or start-up money for black entrepreneurs. The AP says it could also provide incentives to encourage businesses to hire minority employees.”

By definition, that means the DFL’s plans for addressing “challenges facing communities of color” is old-fashioned throwing money at a valued special interest group without fixing the underlying problem. It’s the DFL’s version of saying ‘here’s some money. Vote for us, then go away.’

Gov. Dayton and the DFL say that special sessions shouldn’t be about working out long-term solutions for economically-depressed parts of the state. Republicans should say that special sessions shouldn’t include spending money on the DFL’s special interest allies.

In a session that saw tons of weird things happen, finding out that Sen. John Marty and other Twin Cities DFL senators tried ousting Sen. Bakk as majority leader ranks right up there:

ST. PAUL — How successful of a job did Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk of Cook do for the Iron Range while also being a key player in making split government in Minnesota work? Well, some disgruntled DFL liberal legislators from the Twin Cities area tried to unseat him in caucus as leader of the majority party in the Senate.

Their attempted DFL coup in the early morning hours of the Saturday finale of the 2015 legislative special session fizzled like a bad fuse on an unexploded firecracker. Bakk’s support within the caucus was unwavering.

The Senate majority leader told the Mesabi Daily News Saturday afternoon that while he preferred not to comment directly about the caucus dust-up, he was pleased with the intra-Senate DFL backing he received and also his role in a session that relied for success on bipartisan partnerships with the GOP House majority.

By now, saying that the DFL is fractured isn’t news. That’s been established for at least a month. In fact, we’ve known that the split is essentially a geographic split.

It isn’t hyperbole to say that the Metro DFL, in their minds, have put up with Range DFLers on environmental views because they needed the Range delegation’s votes on their economic policies. This feud was obvious during the DFL’s 2014 State Convention. That’s when the Twin Cities activists, led by DFL State Chairman Ken Martin, fought off a resolution saying that the DFL supports mining. When that was deemed too controversial, it was clear that a fight was brewing.

It looks like the special session was when the fuse reached the explosive.

This should make for an interesting session in 2016. Sen. Bakk doesn’t strike me as someone who forgets these things quickly.

UPDATE: Briana Bierschbach’s post says that the DFL caucus discussion about whether Sen. Bakk should continue happened after the special session had adjourned:

ST. PAUL — The Minnesota House and Senate had adjourned their one-day special session to finish passing the state budget and most lawmakers had gone home, but at 3 a.m. Saturday Senate Democrats were just getting started.

I was originally told that it happened after the Agriculture/Environment Bill had been defeated. This explanation makes more sense. Consider this my correction to my original post.

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This special session wouldn’t play out true to form if there wasn’t a major fight on the Ag/Environment bill. This session hasn’t run smoothly since Sen. Bakk ambushed Gov. Dayton on the commissioners’ pay raise. Since then, the signs of a slow-motion DFL meltdown have been quite visible. Don’t expect that to change.

First, the Metrocrats defeated the Ag/Environment bill. There was much rejoicing amongst the Metrocrats. Now they’re getting worried because the arm-twisting has started to get one of the 32 senators who voted against the bill to a) call for reconsideration of the bill and b) to switch his/her vote against the bill initially to being for the bill this time.

This tweet says it all:

Apparently, DFL legislators and special interests don’t like having to deal with people who don’t agree with them. They think that opposition needs to be squashed immediately and permanently. This is their way of saying that it isn’t fun when they don’t get their way because uppity peasants (that’s us) highlight the foolishness of their policies.

Time after time this session, the DFL fought for policies that the people rejected. First, a plethora of organizations fought against Gov. Dayton’s universal pre-K initiative because it was expensive, filled with unfunded mandate and was unsustainable. Other than that, people liked it. Next, it was Gov. Dayton fighting to repeal a bill he’d already signed. That’s becoming a trend with him. (See repealing B2B sales taxes, though this time, he called for it sooner. LOL)

This year’s biggest difference is that the fighting has been DFL vs. DFL for the most part. Rural DFL is getting more and more upset with Metrocrats by the day. This Ag/Environment bill is just the highest profile example of this fight.

Whatever the outcome today, things won’t end up well for the DFL in November, 2016.

Zach Dorholt is back for another bite at the apple:

Former state Rep. Zachary Dorholt announced Monday he will run for the Minnesota House District 14B seat. Dorholt was elected to the House of Representatives in 2012, but was defeated by Rep. Jim Knoblach by a narrow margin in the 2014 election.

The news isn’t surprising. The next announcement I expect is that Dan Wolgamott will run for John Pederson’s SD-14 Senate seat.

It’s true that Jim Knoblach’s margin of victory was thin but that’s soon forgotten. Since getting elected, Rep. Knoblach has become the chair of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, which essentially is the nerve center in the House for the budget. That’s why he’s frequently been part of the budget negotiations, starting back in March.

When Dorholt represented HD-14B, he was vice-chair of the House Higher Education Committee. During his watch, St. Cloud State’s enrollment declined precipitously and SCSU’s financial troubles got worse. Then-Rep. Dorholt did nothing to push President Potter to get SCSU’s financial house in order. Thanks to Dorholt’s inaction, there’s a huge budget deficit and dozens of professors will get laid off.

I’ll be clear about this. President Potter’s decisions caused the problem. Dorholt’s inaction sent the message to President Potter that he could do whatever he wanted with impunity.

Dorholt, a mental health professional and small business owner, said he is running to put the priorities of St. Cloud-area families, students and businesses first, according to a news release.

That’s pure BS. During his term in office, Dorholt consistently voted with the special interest groups. Dorholt’s version of putting businesses first is raising their taxes by $2,000,000,000 dollars while temporarily creating new business sales taxes. After the business community expressed their outrage, Dorholt voted to repeal the sales taxes he’d just voted for.

The biggest difference between Chairman Knoblach and Mr. Dorholt is that Dorholt is Rep. Thissen’s puppet while Chairman Knoblach is an important leader in the House of Representatives. The question HD-14B voters have to ask is whether they’d rather vote for a puppet or for an influential leader.

I’ve made my decision. I’ll vote for Jim Knoblach because he’s a leader, a man of integrity and someone who gets important things done.

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It’s amazing that the DFL is working itself into a tizzy over the changes to the State Auditor. It’s even triggered a fight within the DFL over whether to dump Sen. Bakk as the Senate Majority Leader. It’s now accelerated to the point that a bunch of the DFL’s most loyal special interest allies are weighing into the fight. Check out the list of DFL special interest allies that’ve signed onto the letter:

Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness
Sierra Club – North Star Chapter
Center for Biological Diversity
Friends of the Cloquet Valley State Forest
Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness
Save Lake Superior Association
League of Women Voters – Minnesota
Izaak Walton League of America – Minnesota Division
Protect our Manoomin Water Legacy
Save Our Sky Blue Waters
Wilderness Watch
Land Stewardship Project
Clean Water Action
Alliance for Sustainability
Climate Generation

The letter was signed by Jeremy Schroeder, the executive director of Common Cause Minnesota. Check out this paragraph:

Preserving the State Auditor’s audit authority protects taxpayers and is critical for accountability and transparency. Concerns about the effects of allowing local units of government in Minnesota to select their own auditor are bipartisan and significant. State Auditor Rebecca Otto has made a compelling case for the value to taxpayers of maintaining transparent and open audits of local government units in Minnesota. Allowing local units of government to shop for their own auditors opens the door to potential abuse and corruption. Our organizations believe in good governance, and this change decreases transparency and accountability.

That’s a flimsy argument. There’s nothing standing in the legislature’s way of passing a law that establishes criteria that the private auditors would have to meet. That would eliminate any “potential abuse and corruption.”

Preserving the State Auditor’s audit authority protects the Minnesota Constitution and upholds basic standards for transparent lawmaking. The attempt by the Minnesota Legislature to privatize one of the primary functions of a Minnesota constitutional officer raises significant legal as well as policy questions.

Actually, there aren’t any constitutional questions. Minnesota’s Constitution establishes the office of State Auditor. It doesn’t establish what the State Auditor’s responsibilities are. They’re established through the legislative process.

Finally, it’s interesting that these organizations give a rip about the issue.

Hillary is getting desperate in rebuilding the Obama coalition. There’s no policy too stupid that Hillary won’t support if she thinks it’ll win a handful of votes. Check this out:

Speaking by telephone, Clinton told the more than 1,300 fast food workers gathered at a convention in Detroit that every worker deserves a fair wage and the right to unionize. “I want to be your champion. I want to fight with you every day,” said Clinton, who kicked off her presidential campaign in April saying she wants to be the champion for “everyday Americans.”

The call was another step to the left for Clinton, as she vies for the Democratic nod with progressive candidates Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley. She told the assembled crowd that they should continue building the Fight for 15 movement, which is pressing employers to raise workers’ pay.

Bill Clinton, John Kasich and Newt Gingrich put policies in place that created a vibrant economy, something that President Obama hasn’t done. While Wall Street got rich during the Obama administration, Main Street workers got left behind. By pushing for a doubling of the minimum wage, Hillary is signaling that she’ll fight for the same economic principles that’ve led to this stagnant economy.

Paying fast food workers $15/hr. won’t improve the economy. It’ll cause fast food operations to trim the number of employees. Unemployment rates for young people and minorities will go higher.

Clinton’s support for the movement also comes at a time when a growing number of states and cities are raising their minimum wage. Los Angeles is among the latest locales to boost minimum pay to $15 an hour. Just how high a wage hike Clinton supports, however, remains a mystery. The candidate has not provided a figure yet.

Since Hillary explicitly supported the Fight for Fifteen movement, that means Hillary supports a $15/hr. minimum wage. If Hillary wants to explain why she isn’t supporting an increase to $15/hr., let her. That’ll just expose her as a political opportunist to the Fight for Fifteen people. It’ll say that she isn’t one of them like Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders are.

Frankly, I’d love seeing people attack Hillary as a parasite feasting off of corporate largess while pretending she’s fighting for “everyday Americans.”

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AJ Kern’s monthly column highlights shortcomings in Gov. Dayton’s universal pre-K proposal. Here’s one incredible statistic from Gov. Dayton’s own administration:

We’ve gone from implementing a scholarship program targeting at-risk 4-year-olds in 2013, universal all-day kindergarten in 2014, to tantrum-level urgency to implement free universal preschool.

Yet in 2013, the Minnesota Department of Education reported 72.8 percent of children were prepared to enter kindergarten. Nearly 73 percent of Minnesota children prepared for kindergarten is hardly a crisis justifying an inflated agenda.

While it’s important to prepare all children for kindergarten and beyond, it’s foolish to spend billions of dollars on children who are already prepared for kindergarten and beyond. I’ve often cited Art Rolnick’s estimate that Gov. Dayton’s proposal will require many suburban schools to expand their buildings. Those new classrooms will cost these taxpayers in excess of $2,200,000,000.

Because the DFL deceitfully wrote the legislation, it’s difficult to spot the unfunded mandate. The DFL’s legislation requires school districts to provide this service. Then they’re told that the state won’t pay for the things that the school districts will need to provide this service. That’s called an unfunded mandate and it’s almost automatically followed by a major property tax increase.

The Daudt-Rolnick-GOP plan spends money on scholarships that parents can use to send their preschoolers to places like New Horizons Academy and other private facilities that are already doing this type of work in modern facilities. That plan doesn’t come with well-disguised unfunded mandates. It doesn’t impose hidden property tax increases, either.

Ms. Kern highlights this, too:

Universal preschool would require new classroom space, teachers, teaching assistants, transportation, books and materials through questionably long-term sustainable budgets.

It’s one thing to require schools to build onto their schools. That property tax increase would have to be approved by voters because it’s a capital investment. Paying for “teachers, teaching assistants, transportation, books and materials” is another property tax increase but it wouldn’t go before the voters because it’s part of the district’s operating levy.

The DFL will insist that they didn’t raise property taxes while pointing to there not being any taxes in the bill. That’s slight of hand. Had the bill passed, it would’ve set in motion a process that required school boards and districts to raise property taxes.

I’d love hearing DFL legislators and propagandists explain that away.

Finally, I love how Gov. Dayton said that he gave up his demands for universal pre-K. He didn’t give anything up. He was defeated because the Minnesota School Board Association and the Association of Minneapolis School Districts fought against Gov. Dayton’s proposal. If he hadn’t relinquished, the DFL would’ve gotten trounced in the 2016 election for imposing these property tax increases on their citizens.

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There’s no secret that Minnesota environmental activists are trying to stop the Sandpiper Pipeline project that would transport oil from the Bakken oil field across Minnesota to Wisconsin. This article highlights what’s behind the environmentalists’ protests and who’s funding them:

Now the Sandpiper Pipeline from North Dakota’s Bakken shale region across Minnesota to Superior, Wis., is meeting similar resistance. As with Keystone, the protesters say they’re concerned student, hiker and Native American grass-roots activists. The facts do not support their narrative.

Putin-allied Russian billionaires laundered $23 million through the Bermuda-based Wakefield Quin law firm to the Sea Change Foundation and thence to anti-fracking and anti-Keystone groups, the Environmental Policy Alliance found. Sandpiper opponents are likewise funded and coordinated by wealthy financiers and shadowy foundations, researcher Ron Arnold discovered.

Several small groups are involved in Sandpiper. But the campaign is coordinated by Honor the Earth, a Native American group that is actually a Tides Foundation “project,” with the Tides Center as its “fiscal sponsor,” contributing $700,000 and extensive in-kind aid. Out-of-state donors provide 99% of Honor’s funding.

The Indigenous Environmental Network also funds Honor the Earth. Minnesota corporate records show no incorporation entry for IEN, and that 95% of its money comes from outside Minnesota. Tides gave IEN $670,000 to oppose pipelines. Indeed, $25 billion in foundation investment portfolios support the anti-Sandpiper effort.

Isn’t that interesting? At the very time that Russia’s economy is tanking because the oil revenues they rely on have shrunk dramatically, “Putin-allied Russian billionaires” reached out to organizations that fund environmentalists to protest the building of the Sandpiper Pipeline project.

In reaching out to the Tides Foundation, these “Putin-allied Russian billionaires” reached out to an old ally. Teresa Heinz-Kerry is a major contributor to the Tides Foundation. Not coincidentally, she’s married to John Forbes Kerry. His current job title is U.S. Secretary of State.

But I digress.

Like most things progressive, the progressives’ attempt to sabotage the Sandpiper Pipeline project is being led by an organization (Tides) that specializes in AstroTurf campaigns. Think of it this way. The party of the little guy is sabotaging a project that would make people’s gas prices cheaper and their home heating bills less expensive. That’s happening because a company supported by one of the wealthiest families in America is funding them.

When she’s campaigning, Elizabeth Warren frequently states that the game is rigged against the average person. When that message caught fire, Hillary adopted the campaign theme of being “everyday Americans” champion. The truth is that the game is rigged against the little guy. One-percenters like Teresa Heinz-Kerry do their utmost to make sure average people pay more.

Gov. Dayton and the DFL certainly haven’t fought against these AstroTurf organizations who’ve protested the building of the Sandpiper pipeline. That’s because they’ve decided to side with environmental activist organizations that are funded by big corporations that don’t give a damn about Minnesota.

Since the end of Minnesota’s legislative session, Move MN has campaigned across the state. Their message is deliberately intended to misrepresent their agenda. Here’s an example of Move MN’s deception:

Move MN was joined at Thursday’s event by representatives of labor and local business and civic leaders. A long-term funding bill “creates jobs in all corners of Minnesota,” said Russ Hess, the political coordinator for the Laborers District Council for Minnesota and North Dakota.

Bemidji Mayor Rita Albrecht said she, too, was disappointed a bill couldn’t be reached, saying transportation projects are needed throughout the area, including in Bemidji, Walker, Bagley and Cass Lake.

Having safe, reliable transportation infrastructure helps businesses ship and receive goods, as well as benefitting tourism, an important economic driver in Bemidji, Albrecht said. Long-term funding solutions allow communities to better plan long-term for growth, she said.

A long-term transportation bill, as proposed this session, could mean as much as a $2 million increase per year in state aid funds to Beltrami County and a $200,000 increase in municipal state aid to Bemidji for projects, officials said.

Move MN has shown that they won’t prioritize fixing Minnesota’s potholed roads and highways. They’re interested in an all-of-the-above transportation solution. Minnesota’s top priority is fixing Minnesota’s roads and bridges, not raising taxes for more rail projects.

Further, we’ve seen that raising the gas tax doesn’t fix Minnesota’s potholed roads. The DFL passed a gas tax increase in 2008. Attached was the promise that that tax increase would provide sufficient revenue to eliminate Minnesota’s backlog of transportation projects. It’s had minimal positive effect on that backlog.

“We can’t keep kicking the can down the road … we’ll be on a gravel road,” said Bethany Winkels of Move MN at a news conference Thursday in Bemidji.

Ms. Winkels is a drama queen and then some. The reality is that Republicans put together a fantastic plan that didn’t raise taxes but provided greater stability and reliability. Move MN and the DFL picked a tax increase and instability instead.

The duct tape symbolizes the patchwork approach legislators have taken to find a long-term funding solution for transportation infrastructure, including for roads and bridge projects, as well for transit systems and bike and pedestrian routes.

That’s just dishonest. There was nothing patchwork about the GOP plan. It was well thought out. It fixed the problems. It provided funding stability without raising taxes. Most importantly, it focused on asphalt instead of rail lines and “pedestrian infrastructure.”