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Joe Atkins, one of the co-chairs of the MNsure Legislative Oversight Committee, insists that Tim O’Driscoll’s editorial was misleading. Actually, it’s Atkins’ editorial that’s misleading:

Republican Rep. Tim O’Driscoll’s recent op-ed (“Insurance premiums are going up,” Oct. 12) was very misleading and continues the practice of attacking MNsure, celebrating technical problems and distorting the facts about rate increases.

The fact is that Minnesota’s rates remain the lowest in the nation and our uninsured rate dropped by 40 percent, to the lowest level in state history.

Republicans ignore the $20 million in federal tax credits that Minnesotans received this year. When tax credits are accounted for in next year’s rates, many Minnesotans statewide will actually see a decrease in their premiums.

In Region 8, which includes Stearns, Sherburne and Benton counties, a 25-year-old selecting a silver plan, the most commonly selected plan, will see an average increase of 3 percent with tax credits. A 40-year-old on a silver plan will see an average increase of 1 percent, and a 60-year-old will see no increase.

Talk about misleading. That’s stunning. From Rep. Atkins’ perspective, premiums didn’t increase because taxpayers are footing the bill for MNsure’s premium increases.

Rep. Atkins, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Someone’s paying for those premium increases. When premiums increased by 22% in Benton, Stearns, Sherburne and Wright counties, the premiums really skyrocketed. When premiums increased by 43% in Meeker, Kandiyohi, Chippewa or Yellow Medicine counties, premiums really increased. When premiums increased by 34% in Cottonwood, Lyons, Nobles and Murray counties’, premiums really increased.

Let’s remember Chairman Atkins’ happy talk in Atkins’ interview with Julie Bartkey in mid-September, 2013. After that, let’s fast forward to January, when KSTP’s reporter Jay Kolls interviewed Jim Nobles, the Legislative Auditor. Here’s what Kolls reported:

KOLLS: There are all kinds of red flags popping up at MNsure and Jim Nobles tells me that MNsure has not delivered what it promised to taxpayers and the agency needs to be held accountable.

In the interview, Jim Nobles said this:

So I think everyone agrees that we simply have not delivered what we promised.

Watch this video of Atkins talking about whether the rollout would be smooth:

This interview happened a week before MNsure and HealthCare.gov went live.

BARTKEY: How are you feeling with everything? Are you feeling confident? Off camera, you said that the whole nation’s eyes are watching.
ATKINS: I’m actually feeling better about it every day. One of the best news days that we had was when we found out that this would have the best rates of any insurance marketplace in the country. My understanding is that tomorrow — I don’t know when this all gets shown — that the federal rates are going to be released for all 50 states and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Minnesota will lead the nation of having the lowest rates anywhere in the country.
BARTKEY: What about any of the technical aspects, any concerns that it will crash or that people won’t be as trained as they should be to make sure that consumers can pick the right plan?
ATKINS: When you’re as technically unsavvy as I am, anything like an iPad or a computer concerns me. But that’s why you hire the professionals that you do and I’m — from all that I hear — we’ve got the best folks involved both at the state level and externally coming in and taking a look at how we’re doing business to make sure that we’ve got those protections, to make sure that we’ve got the IT network in place to handle it.

That’s proof that Rep. Atkins is a king of happy talk, the point person to deliver sunny-sounding statements that everything’s just fine whether that’s true or not.

Having Atkins say that rates are really cheap because they’re heavily subsidized is like saying Northstar Rail is inexpensive because taxpayers, not riders, pay for most of the cost of transporting people. Rep. Atkins shouldn’t be trusted because his op-ed is spin:

Compare that with rate increases over the last decade as high as 19.5 percent. In Region 8, some carriers are offering plans that are 18 percent cheaper than they were last year. When was the last time you heard of health plans going down in price?

Let’s compare that with the truth:

From 2003 to 2010, individual market insurance premiums rose a total of 35 percent in Minnesota, compared with 47 percent in our first year under Obamacare.

Rep. Atkins’ spin and cherrypicking is anything but the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Rep. O’Driscoll’s advice is good advice:

Keep a copy of this article, and when open enrollment begins Nov. 15, take a look at your new premiums and compare my math to the 4.5 percent number being marketed by MNsure.

Rest assured that Chairman Atkins’ spin won’t withstand strict scrutiny.

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Apparently, the DFL is trying to pander to MnSCU executives. This article sounds like the DFL’s attempt to pander to MnSCU voters:

DFL leaders said today they would work to provide more money for higher education and work closely with the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system to ensure each system is becoming more efficient in order to better direct state dollars toward tuition stabilization and reduction.

That’s DFL demagoguery at its worst. The DFL never insists that government becomes more efficient. The next time they insist on MnSCU spend the taxpayers’ money efficiently, it’ll be the first time that the DFL will have insisted that MnSCU spend the taxpayers’ money efficiently.

The DFL chairs of the House and Senate Higher Education committees didn’t find out that Chancellor Rosenstone had gotten a big raise and a new contract until 9 months after the fact. They didn’t know that Chancellor Rosenstone paid McKinsey and Co. $2,000,000 until after the fact. Here’s how important it was to hire McKinsey:

Dean Frost, a professor at Bemidji State University and a former management consultant who reviewed some of the documents McKinsey produced, said the playbooks feature general, common-sense instructions on conducting a task force. He said the supporting research mostly includes publicly available materials rather than reports generated specially for MnSCU.

In other words, the work McKinsey did wasn’t particularly enlightening but it was expensive. Now the DFL expects me to buy the notion that they’ll actually pay attention? They expect me to buy into the notion that they’ll reform MnSCU? Why would I buy into that? This part leads me to think that the DFL isn’t trustworthy:

In an election year where candidates are promising to make education more affordable, the Minnesota House DFL says it wants to freeze tuition at Minnesota’s public higher education institutions until 2017. The effort would build on an existing tuition freeze through 2015.

That isn’t what happened in 2013-14. First, the DFL legislature imposed a tuition freeze on MnSCU universities in 2013. In 2014, the DFL legislature passed a supplemental appropriation of $17,000,000. Then it negotiated a contract with the IFO. When MnSCU got the $17,000,000, it didn’t spend the money on the new contract, which is what the supplemental appropriation was supposed to pay for. It went elsewhere.

That means the DFL legislature froze tuition, raised the universities’ biggest cost substantially, then told the universities that they’d have to figure out how to pay the higher contract costs without raising tuition. Meanwhile, Chancellor Rosenstone paid McKinsey $2,000,000 for work they could’ve done in-house and President Potter insists that losing $7,500,000 in 5 years on the Coborn’s Plaza Apartments is a great success for SCSU.

That last part is especially galling considering the fact that a) Zach Dorholt is the Vice-Chair of the House Higher Education Committee and b) SCSU is in his district. He’s paid no attention to SCSU except to rally students for his campaign this fall.

These aren’t the actions of politicians that are committed to making sure that the taxpayers’ money is spent efficiently on necessities. They’re the actions of politicians pandering to voters. Period.

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After fleecing taxpayers, Community Action Partnership of Minneapolis has shut its doors:

DHS auditors accused the corporation of spending more than it helped. The state wants Community Action Minneapolis to repay more than $850,000 in grant money that was spent incorrectly. The audit showed more than $200,000 paid for unallowable costs like cruises, golf trips and alcohol. William Davis, the Chief Executive Officer, is accused of receiving an excessive bonus and spending thousands on a personal car loan.

Initially, Davis tried rationalizing the expenditures:

Auditors blamed Community Action’s board, which includes several well-known politicians and community leaders, for a lack of oversight and for personally benefiting from $34,892 worth of activities that “do not appear to serve a business purpose, and are considered waste and abuse as defined in state policy.”

Those activities included two weekend trips, between 2011 and 2013, to Arrowwood Resort in Alexandria, where board members and senior management spent $9,000 for lodging, $3,200 for food and $900 for spas.

Davis defended the trips as a “small gesture on our part to offer them a moment of relaxation or entertainment. It’s not like we do this every single week of the year.”

What’s telling is that Davis didn’t think he’d done anything wrong. The only thing more appalling than Davis attempting to rationalize his reckless spending was Gov. Dayton’s statement denying that something like this could happen:

Initially, Mark Dayton responded to Jeff Johnson’s call for an extensive audit of NPOs by saying “The decades-old accusation that Minnesota government recklessly wastes money on people who are poor, sick, or elderly is unfair and unfounded.”

Later, Dayton backtracked quickly:

Gov. Mark Dayton on Monday said that a Star Tribune report of a nonprofit using state funds to subsidize cruises, a director’s car lease and spa treatments was very concerning and alarming. “I was personally really appalled,” Dayton said. “I take it very seriously.”

Let’s revise Gov. Dayton’s statement. Gov. Dayton was “personally really appalled” the minute he thought that the fiasco might damage him politically. Prior to that, he pretended that Community Action was totally trustworthy.

The truth, I’m afraid, is that Gov. Dayton knew about this audit prior to the story going public. Since the Strib article was published, DHS has tried pushing the notion that they should get credit for spotting this during their audit of the organization. Gov. Dayton can’t first say that he’s surprised by this, then say that his administration spotted this during an audit.

I’ve never bought into Gov. Dayton’s I-didn’t-know-about-[Fill in the blank] schtick. I’ve always thought that he used that gambit to get through a politically embarrassing situation. See FarmFest. The DFL legislature should’ve taken their oversight responsibilities seriously. Then again, with tons of prominent DFL politicians and activists on Community Action’s board, it probably didn’t take much to get them to look the other way.

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Tom Hauser’s Truth Test of Gov. Dayton’s ad might’ve gotten an A in accuracy if he hadn’t tried marketing himself as a tax cutter:

NARRATOR: Cut taxes while increasing our rainy day fund and investing in education.
HAUSER: It’s true that Gov. Dayton increased the rainy day fund and invested more in education but it’s false to say that Dayton cut taxes, so false that it nearly overwhelms everything else that’s true in this ad. In fact, Dayton and the DFL legislature raised taxes by $2,000,000,000 in the 2013 session. In 2014, they cut taxes $508,000,000, partially by repealing taxes that they’d increased the year before. So over those 2 years, there’s a net tax increase of $1,500,000,000.

Later in the segment, Hauser said that “He admits it. He ran for governor by promising he’d raise taxes.” I’ll repeat what I’ve said previously. Repealing taxes that you just raised and/or created isn’t a tax cut. It’s a reduction in the size of the tax increase.

Gov. Dayton’s first instinct, which is shared by House and Senate DFL leadership, is to propose raising taxes first, then submitting a mulligan budget later when political pressure mounts:

In 2011, Gov. Dayton proposed massive tax increases, including a top income tax bracket of 10.95% and a 3% surcharge for people making $1,000,000 or more. When the deficit forecast was revised down from $6,200,000,000 to $5,030,000,000, Gov. Dayton immediately dropped the income tax surcharge. Eventually, the GOP majority forced him to drop his tax increases.

Raising taxes won’t be Jeff Johnson’s first instinct. He’ll ride herd on bureaucrats that don’t have the taxpayers’ best interests at heart because that’s who he is:

The difference between Jeff Johnson and Gov. Dayton is stunning. Gov. Dayton starts with the assumption that every state agency should have its budget increased. Jeff Johnson doesn’t start with the assumption that agencies’ budgets should be automatically increased.

Jeff Johnson has a lengthy history as Hennepin County Commissioner of highlighting government spending money foolishly. He’ll continue that habit as governor.

Minnesota families don’t need a governor who raises taxes first, spends money foolishly second, then tells them that he’s cut taxes on the campaign trail. Minnesota families deserve a governor who’s proven that he’ll be the taxpayers’ watchdog.

Jeff Johnson is the only gubernatorial candidate who fits that last description.

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It’s beginning to look like the Democrats are giving Tom Harkin’s Senate seat away. First, Bruce Braley insulted Iowans by criticizing Chuck Grassley for being a hog farmer. Now Braley is fighting for his political life for ignoring his committee assignment on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee:

Over a two-year period, Democratic U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley missed 75 percent of meetings for a committee that provides oversight over the Veterans Administration, including one meeting on a day he attended three fundraisers for his 2012 campaign.

A few months later, news reports exposed systemic problems in patient care that have since resulted in the resignation head of the federal department of veterans affairs.

Of course, Democrats were quick to defend Braley:

Democrats who back Braley, a trial lawyer and seven-year congressman who is now running for U.S. Senate, say he has been an outspoken voice for veterans and it’s wrong for his GOP rival, Joni Ernst, to “try to inject partisan politics into veterans issues.” He missed the veterans affairs meeting on the day of the three fundraisers because he went to another congressional hearing, his aides said.

Veterans don’t need someone who’s all talk. What they need most is someone who’s committed to solving the VA crisis. Clearly, Rep. Braley doesn’t fit that description. By comparison, Ms. Ernst does. In fact, she’s currently away from the campaign trail so she can fulfill her commitment in the Iowa National Guard:

Republicans are appealing to Iowans to help campaign for Joni Ernst while she’s on leave for two weeks for active duty training.

Ernst, a candidate for Iowa’s open U.S. Senate seat and a battalion commander in the Iowa Army National Guard, leaves Friday for Fort McCoy for annual training.

“During this time, she will not be able to fund-raise, walk in parades, door knock or do other political activity,” Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann said in a letter posted on the party’s website this afternoon. “We know Bruce Braley and his liberal D.C. pals will continue their slash-and-burn campaign against Joni while she’s on duty, so anything you can do to help us until Joni returns is greatly appreciated.”

If Braley continues making major mistake after major mistake, he’ll be Ms. Ernst’s best weapon against Bruce Braley. That seems likely considering the fact that he wasn’t where he said he was:

Braley’s aides said he skipped it to attend a 9:36 a.m. Oversight and Government Reform Committee meeting on the “Fast and Furious” gun trafficking scandal. The congressional record marked Braley “present,” but reveals that he offered no testimony during the three-hour hearing, which ran until 12:45 p.m.

Video caught no sight of Braley. His seat isn’t always visible, but the multiple times it’s within camera view during the window the Veterans Affairs committee was in session (10:19 a.m. to 11:54 a.m.), Braley wasn’t seated, a Register review of C-SPAN 3 and committee footage found.

Skipping a House VA Committee hearing for a trio of fundraisers is bad enough. Saying that you’re participating in another commitee hearing might get you off the hook…if you’re where you said you were. Apparently, he couldn’t even manage that.

This race isn’t over by a long shot. Still, it won’t help Democrats if Braley continues his litany of major mistakes. Insulting hog farmers in Iowa is as foolish as insulting Packers fans in Wisconsin. Attending a trio of fundraisers while saying you’re in a committee hearing is foolish, too.

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This afternoon, I was sent a copy of a letter that Jim Grabowska sent to MnSCU Chancellor Steven Rosenstone about MnSCU’s hiring of McKinsey and Co. as consultants. Grabowska is the president of the Inter Faculty Organization, aka the IFO. Here’s part of Grabowska’s letter:

You can well imagine our dismay this morning when we found out about the $2 million contract that existed with McKinsey to support Charting the Future. We are writing to ask what the firm actually did for the $2 million they collected from Minnesota taxpayers and students. What assessment/criteria lead to the conclusion that the System Office needed a consultant firm to assist staff on implementation? Of specific concern is why it was determined before our collective internal implementation teams were even formed, or allowed to make recommendations for an implementation plan.

What’s disappointing (infuriating?) is that the IFO president asked more probing questions in that paragraph than the St. Cloud Times reporters have asked of President Potter since he was hired years ago.

The IFO asked substantive questions that question Chancellor Rosenstone’s justification for hiring McKinsey in that paragraph in a respectful fashion. Here’s more from the IFO’s letter:

From the story in the Pioneer Press, it sounds like consultants were hired on January 2nd, began work in March and finished in June. What could they have done in three or four months that wasn’t noticed but was worth $2 million?

I suspected that this consulting contract wasn’t legitimate. The fact that the IFO is questioning what McKinsey did to earn the money highlights why they’re questioning Rosenstone’s decision. There’s nothing that I’ve seen that suggests McKinsey’s work product was worth $2,000,000.

In the article, you justify the expenditure by saying students and their families might save $14 million if 10% of the students graduate faster. The problem is there is no indication that the $2 million spent will result in $14 million of savings — or any savings at all.

In the past decade, MnSCU has spent money by the tens of millions on IT consultants that claimed they would create efficiencies that would result in efficiencies for students — student tuitions still continued to skyrocket. The only savings we have seen for students in recent years came from the legislative buy down of tuition rates.

As much as this letter is an indictment of Chancellor Rosenstone, it’s an indictment of MnSCU’s trustees and the chairs of the higher education committees the past few years. This has been a bipartisan failing, with Bud Nornes and Michelle Fischbach failing to conduct proper oversight before Gene Pelowski and Terry Bonoff failed in their oversight responsibilities.

It’s a frightening statement that the IFO’s oversight of MnSCU outdistances the oversight provided by the MnSCU Trustees and the higher ed committees in the legislature. Combined.

At this point, it’s reasonable to ask whether MnSCU serves as anything more than another do-nothing bureaucracy. Further, it’s reasonable to ask whether the higher ed committees’ leadership pays attention to anything other than appropriating money. I haven’t seen proof that they’ve paid attention to what’s happening at MnSCU or the universities.

Taxpayers can’t afford this consistent nonchalance from Chancellor Rosenston, the Trustees or the higher ed committee chairs. Their performance, or lack thereof, has been infuriating.

UPDATE: Here’s the IFO’s letter to Chancellor Rosenstone:

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Greg Riegstad’s LTE is short because he accepted the task of explaining why Zach Dorholt deserves re-election:

Zach Dorholt deserves re-election to the Minnesota House of Representatives.

After years of gridlock in our state government, this last session made real progress. The Legislature made a real commitment to education, reduced taxes for the middle class, and turned the budget deficit to a surplus.

The second paragraph is utterly laughable. First, the DFL spent more money on education. That isn’t the same as saying that they “made a real commitment to education.” Dorholt was the vice-chair of the Higher Ed Committee. As vice-chair of the committee, Dorholt didn’t pay attention to the corruption within MnSCU. Clarence Hightower, then-chairman of the MnSCU Board of Trustees, negotiated a contract renewal with MnSCU Chancellor Steve Rosenstone.

What’s stunning is that the House Higher Ed Committee did’t even know that it’d been negotiated. The other thing that’s stunnning is that Hightower negotiated the contract extension before giving Rosenstone a performance review.

During the 2014 ‘Unsession’, the House Higher Ed Committee met 4 times, twice to hear bonding presentations, once to hear about a supplemental appropriation and another time to move a bill onto the General Register. Noticeably missing are any oversight hearings.

Thanks to Mssrs. Pelowski and Dorholt, $2,000,000 was quietly spent on a consulting firm that prefered to “work in the background.” Saying that oversight wasn’t a priority for Mssrs. Pelowski and Dorholt is understatement.

Second, the DFL promised property tax relief. That won’t happen because school districts are raising property taxes. A tiny percentage of people will see the property tax relief that the DFL promised.

Third, saying that they started with a deficit and turned it into a surplus isn’t an accomplishment. Thanks to the fiscal restraint of the GOP legislature, the deficit was $624,000,000. When the DFL controlled the legislature from 2007-2010, the deficits were more than $5,000,000,000.

Fourth, what the DFL isn’t telling people is that they spent one-time money on ongoing expenses. The surplus that they’re bragging about doesn’t exist.

Let’s also remind people of some other things that this “working group” accomplished. They spent $90,000,000 on a plush office building that’ll be used 4 months a year. They spent it on that instead of using that money to fix Minnesota’s roads and bridges. That money could’ve fixed ton of roads. Instead, Mr. Dorholt chose to spend it on his friends in the Senate.

Mr. Dorholt also voted to raise taxes and fees by $2,500,000,000. Then he voted to reduce that tax increase by $300,000,000, which he’s now calling a tax cut. The taxes he raised has sent companies scurrying from Minnesota.

We can’t afford more of Zach Dorholt’s accomplishments. That’s why he needs to be replaced by Jim Knoblach.

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Heather Carlson’s and Brianna Jett’s reporting is damning to the Dayton administration. According to their reporting, Lucinda Jesson, the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services, was notified that people weren’t getting notified that the state needed more information to process their applications for MinnesotaCare:

The recent revelation that the state failed to send out letters to 16,000 low-income Minnesotans seeking medical assistance to let them know their applications had not been processed and they were not covered does not surprise Olmsted County Community Services Director Paul Fleissner.

“Every county has been screaming that we didn’t think notices were going out, and the state kept saying yes, yes, yes, people are just forgetting this. We had a really strong sense that they weren’t and finally it’s been confirmed that they weren’t going to our people,” Fleissner said.

Gov. Dayton and Commissioner Jesson were either incompetent or disinterested in making sure the workarounds actually worked. Either way, the Dayton administration let 16,000 applicants down because they didn’t do what they were supposed to do.

Some of these 16,000 applicants have been without health insurance for 6 months. Some have accumulated significant personal debt through no fault of their own.

The process to send out the letters was supposed to be fully automated, but it still requires manual workarounds. The lack of letters sent was a known issue in January, but late last week the problem was not resolved and many people still did not know that their applications were incomplete. Often, more information was needed such as verification of income, citizenship or tribal membership.

Gov. Dayton’s and Commissioner Jesson’s inaction and inattentiveness is unacceptable. Why did’t DHS verify that these letters would be sent before the end of January? It’s disgusting that nobody verified that important step.

Fleissner said the failure of the state to send out the letters is just the latest in a string of software problems related to the state’s healthcare exchange.

“It’s incredibly frustrating,” Fleissner said. “It’s wearing (county employees) out, to be honest with you. It’s been disheartening just because any time you are in a job you want to have the right tools to do the job, and we don’t have the tools right now.”

Gov. Dayton pushed hard to create MNsure. Unfortunately, he’s been as disinterested in verifying that MNsure was working as he was excited in pushing for its creation. Governing isn’t just signing bills. That’s just the first step. Governing requires people actually verifying that the things required by those laws are being followed. If nobody is interested in verifying that these things are happening, then government collapses.

This should end any possibility that single payer should be considered. Single payer requires the government to do everything, including paying the customers’ bills. Based on what we’ve seen in both St. Paul and DC, does anyone think that government is capable of handling that responsibility?

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Now that it’s been revealed that Lois Lerner targeted sitting US Sen. Chuck Grassley with an audit, the debate over whether to prosecute Ms. Lerner should be over. I say should be because we don’t have a real attorney general or a real Justice Department. If we did, we’d already have an indictment in hand and a trial date would’ve been set.

The emails appear to show Lerner mistakenly received an invitation intended for Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, in 2012.

The event organizer, whose name is not disclosed, apparently offered to pay for Grassley’s wife to attend the event, which caught Lerner’s attention. The December 2012 emails show that in response, Lerner suggested to an IRS colleague that the case be referred for an audit.

“Looked like they were inappropriately offering to pay for his wife. Perhaps we should refer to Exam?” she wrote.

Her colleague, though, pushed back on the idea, saying an offer to pay for his wife is “not prohibited on its face.” There is no indication from the emails that Lerner pursued the issue any further.

What’s disturbing is the fact that Lerner is a lawyer within the IRS. Apparently, she didn’t know that this offer didn’t violate the law. Last night on Greta, she said that Lerner should know better. Then she said that everything is fine if the Grassleys report the payment on their income tax filings. Then Greta threw in a final caveat of import: At the time she wanted Grassley audited, it wasn’t clear if Sen. Grassley would accept the speaking engagement.

It’s stunning that Ms. Lerner targeted a sitting US senator. This clearly proves that, at least in her mind, the IRS should be weaponized against conservatives. This also proves that President Obama’s statement that there “isn’t even a smidgen of corruption” within the IRS is pure BS.

Lois Lerner is exceptionally corrupt. Ditto with John Koskinen and Steven Miller.

Grassley said in a statement that this kind of incident fuels concerns people have about “political targeting” at the highest levels. “It’s very troubling that a simple clerical mix-up could get a taxpayer immediately referred for an IRS exam without any due diligence from agency officials,” the senator said.

That type of corruption should make indicting and prosecuting Ms. Lerner an imperative. Unfortunately, like I said before, that won’t happen because Attorney General Holder and President Obama are as corrupted by ideology as Ms. Lerner is.

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On the bright side, the St. Cloud Times is attempting to commit journalism, albeit after the facts are known. This editorial is, at best, after-the-fact journalism. A week after this story broke, the Times’ Editorial Board weighed in:

When the state’s top public official, the governor, names you one of 15 public trustees to oversee the state’s $1.9 billion public Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, it should be understood you must operate with the public’s interests top of mind.

When newspapers and legislators don’t pay attention to low-profile institutions like MnSCU, they quickly turn into fiefdoms. The Times is now covering this story because what was just exposed is so outrageous that even the Times can’t ignore it. Here’s what just happened:

Sadly, as recent news reports have noted, the MnSCU board of trustees failed to come anywhere close to that when it allowed just one trustee, Chair Clarence Hightower, to set up a new three-year contract with Chancellor Steven Rosenstone eight months ago!

I’ll be brief. Hightower shouldn’t have had the responsibility of negotiating a new contract with Chancellor Rosenstone. Chancellor Rosenstone should’ve been told that his contract wouldn’t be extended. Two MnSCU university presidents are ‘retiring’ rather than getting fired. Another president just cost his university hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and $100,000 in back pay for wrongfully terminating their head football coach.

Still, the Times is right that the MnSCU Board of Trustees disgraced themselves. Consider what they said in their evaluation of Chancellor Rosenstone:

In the public summary of the evaluation, Renier said Rosenstone excelled at focusing on the key question of what’s best for MnSCU students.

Renier also commended Rosenstone’s handling of a new strategic plan for MnSCU, “Charting the Future,” which calls for the system’s colleges and universities to work more collaboratively.

“We are extraordinarily enthusiastic about the new and powerful ways in which our colleges and universities have begun to work together under Chancellor Rosenstone’s leadership,” Renier said.

That’s astonishing. Chairman-Elect Renier is acting like Charting the Future has been implemented and that it’s producing incredible results. That isn’t close to the truth. Charting the Future is a document that hasn’t been implemented yet. What, exactly, is Chairman-Elect Renier gushing about?

The Board of Trustees’ performance review of Chancellor Rosenstone came months after they’d negotiated a contract extension. Given the difficulties within MnSCU, they should’ve written Chancellor Rosenstone’s performance review before authorizing Chairman Hightower to negotiate a new contract.

This recommendation isn’t satisfactory:

Gov. Mark Dayton and legislators should follow the dismay and disgust they expressed about the new contract with a new protocol for such contracts.

First, the legislature and the next governor should pay attention to what’s happening at MnSCU. That would be a major improvement from what they’ve done the last 4-8 years. Further, the DFL shouldn’t just throw more money at MnSCU. They’ve done that the last 2 year, then patted themselves on the back for what they did.

Meanwhile, they didn’t hold hearings on whether Chancellor Rosenstone deserved a contract extension. Obviously, the MnSCU Board of Trustees has the final say on that because they’re the part of the executive branch that deals with that. Still, holding hearings would’ve allowed public input on whether Rosenstone deserved another contract.

The Times’ brand of journalism is an indictment against institutional journalism. It’s just a matter of time before the Times is history.

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