Archive for the ‘Corruption’ Category
Wednesday night, Michele Bachmann was interviewed by Greta van Susteren about the IRS scandal. What she said is quite pertinent to the scandal:
Here’s the first exchange between Greta and Michele:
GRETA: And, of course, we’re all chewing on the news that Bret Baier sent me that he was at the end of his term at the end of the month and President Obama making the announcement that he’d resigned just a month early.
BACHMANN: Well, he was the perfect scapegoat. He was exiting the stage anyway and so they might as well make it look like they’re chopping his head off on the way out because it wasn’t going to happen anyway.
By the time Jay Carney gives the daily press briefing, people will be criticizing President Obama for attempting to pull a fast one on people. This scandal will hurt the administration because the IRS has a history of intimidating people and because of the fear IRS audits have caused.
Later in the interview, Ms. Bachmann talked about a major TEA Party press conference:
BACHMANN: This is a major press conference where all of the major TEA Party organizations from across the United States are coming together. We are having a major press conference at the Capital. Joining us will be Sen. Mitch McConnell, Sen. Rand Paul, Sen. Mike Lee. There’ll be many members of the House of Representatives. But it’s to give a voice to the TEA Party because they are livid as you can imagine and these leaders want to react and tell their story publicly.
People have asked where the TEA Party has been. Frankly, they’ve been hiding after the left successfully vilified them. Rest assured, though, that they’ll be fired up after they’ve been targeted by the IRS. Rest assured, people will sympathize with them because people hate and fear the IRS.
Later, Rep. Bachmann dispatched with the notion that a couple agents went rogue:
GRETA: So I’m curious with the IRS, doing this, what is the usual time period for people to get their tax exempt status from the IRS?
BACHMANN: Well, within a reasonable amount of time. Certainly within 2 years. It certainly doesn’t take the IRS to do it. But I knew this was a phony story last Friday, when the story came out because when I was a federal tax attorney and did this work, we had very strict jurisdictional limits within the IRS because we were handling people’s tax data. We had to act within that tax zone. We had very strict procedures where we check a lot of boxes. Our supervisors up the food chain check them. It’s impossible for them to go rogue.
In short, President Obama and his handlers are attempting to sell a BS story to the American people. The thing that’s going to trip them up are little details like this. If people “up the food chain” are checking these applications off, then this must be a cultural systemic problem, not a couple rogue agents acting irresponsibly. If you read the type of intrusive questions that the IRS asked some conservative applicants, you’ll realize that it’s ideological and possibly systemic.
A loyal reader of this blog has stepped forward with firsthand information on President Potter’s agreement with the J.A. Wedum Foundation. Here is this person’s account:
A Modest Proposal (with apologies to Jonathan Swift)
by Silence Dogood
Coborn’s Plaza apartments have been a well-kept secret since they opened in the fall of 2010. Even getting accurate occupancy numbers during the first two years was difficult and only given in whispers with those hearing the secrets being sworn to secrecy. Some of that secrecy ended November 13, 2012 when Len Sippel, Interim Vice President for Finance and Administration, released the list of approved funding for permanent investments that included $2,250,000 for the “Coborn’s Welcome Center.”
This eye-popping number actually covers the deficit for Coborn’s Plaza for the last two years so the loss only averages $1,125,000 per year. The amount of the loss for the first year for Coborn’s Plaza has never been shared with the Faculty Association or made public. As a result, one is left to imagine that it is even larger than the annual loss for the last two years. What has apparently been a tremendous deal for the Coborn’s Corporation and the J. A. Wedum Foundation has, without a doubt, been and will continue to be a financial boondoggle for SCSU.
The initial year (2010-2011) of the 20-year Coborn’s Plaza lease cost SCSU $3,408,360, which divided by the number of rooms (453) means that the annual rent per room (including parking) is $7,524. Because of the escalator clause in the contract, the rent for fall semester 2013 (including parking) works out to $7,828 (or $652 per month for 12 months a year). Rents for two semesters for the least expensive 4 bedroom unit is $7,274 and $7,874 for the most expensive studio apartment. So if there is a mixture of a lot more of the more expensive studio apartments and less of the 4 Bedroom Units and they are all occupied, SCSU will about break even.
Some lawyers who work in real estate law have informed me that no one would ever sign a contract guaranteeing 100% occupancy; this is simply “insane” (their word not mine). In the apartment rental business an occupancy somewhere about 91% is the level that is generally accepted as being ‘full’ since there are always rooms that need paint, carpet that needs replacing, roofs that are leaking, as well as a whole host of other reasons that prevent 100% occupancy [NOTE: SCSU's dormitory occupancy averages 95%, which is close to the national median.]. So unless SCSU charges more than the actual cost of the room, for each empty room the university is on the hook for the rent and, as a result, will always lose money.
This spring there are 317 of 453 rooms occupied for an occupancy rate of 70.0%. The administration predicts that next fall 334 rooms will be occupied, increasing the occupancy percentage to 73.7%. At this rate of growth, Coborn’s Plaza will be filled to capacity in 7 years. However, when the increase of 17 students for next year is broken down, 10 of the 17 is due to an expected expansion of the inebriate housing section. This is a unique housing opportunity for students with prior abuse problems that allow them to return to college. The question is, can the expansion of the inebriate housing continue into the future because if the occupancy increases by only seven students per year, it will take 17 years to get to 100% occupancy (just about the time the twenty-year lease ends).
At the April 30, 2013 meeting of the Budget Advisory Group, Patrick Jacobson-Schulte, Associate Vice President for Financial Management and Budget, informed the committee that even under the best scenario of 100% occupancy, Coborn’s Plaza would lose $50,000 annually (the high range was to lose over $100,000 annually). This is disturbing because the chance of Coborn’s Plaza having 100% occupancy is probably in the same range of winning the Powerball lottery (in case you didn’t know, the current odds of winning are 1 out 175,223,510).
MnSCU Board Policy 7.3.5 Revenue Fund Management states that Revenue Fund Facilities (i.e., dormitories) are required to be self-sustaining, which means that they can’t lose money. So in order for the university not to lose money on Coborn’s Plaza, the rents would have to increase significantly since the occupancy rate is only 73.7%. In order to just break even, at the current rate of occupancy, the rent needs to increase by 35.7% to $885 per month (for 12 months a year). The rent is significantly larger if you only want to stay for the two academic semesters.
The ‘good news,’ however, is that since Coborn’s Plaza is not considered a ‘Revenue Fund Facility’ the university rather than the students living in the dorms are on the hook for the extra cash needed to pay the lease. This is probably a very good thing because if the students in the dorms on campus were paying higher rents to fund the people staying in Coborn’s Plaza as well as for the empty rooms in Coborn’s Plaza, there just might be a rebellion on campus.
Originally, Coborn’s Plaza was intended only for upper-level undergraduate students. However, this restriction was quickly eliminated by the need to put bodies into the rooms and first-year students are housed there if they are willing to part with the necessary cash. It is even rumored that St. Cloud Technical and Community College students are being housed there but since it is not easy to get information from the administration, I had difficulty getting confirmation.
St. Cloud State is pretty well known as a kind of ‘blue collar’ university; there are more Hyundai’s and Hondas in the student parking lots than BMWs and Acura’s. So it is logical to ask who made the decision that the university needed luxury off-campus housing where each room has an individual bathroom?
It always seems that administrators are ready to appear at groundbreaking ceremonies and ribbon cutting ceremonies where they can slap each other on the back and congratulate themselves. ,However, has anyone stood up and taken responsibility for what appears to be a horrible financial decision? President Potter’s signature is on the contact.
The original contract called for a 3% per year increase in the lease payments for years 3 through 20. Personally, I wish some of my current investments would do so well. Is there any chance I can still get in on the action? The original contract was apparently ‘renegotiated’ reducing the annual increase to only 2%. Additionally, it looks like the university can get out of the contract after ten years—IF it makes a decision to do so before the end of year five of the lease.
At first glance, the revision of the contract seems like a victory for the University. However, until I can review the entire contract, I am reserving final judgment. But it must be understood that even under the new lease agreement, as it was previously mentioned, with even 100% occupancy, the annual loss will be at least $50,000 and possibly upwards of $100,000. Right now at 73.7% occupancy the university is losing over $1,100,000 per year!
At Meet and Confer on March 28, 2013 between the Administration and Faculty Association, President Potter said that “to admit a mistake would make his leadership team look weak.” He was referring to the closure of SCSU’s accredited Aviation Program and not Coborn’s Plaza. Most of us expect that our leaders continuously rethink their decisions in light of new information and, when warranted make a correction—even if it means admitting a mistake. I kind of like the idea of a leader who admits that they just might be wrong every now and then. To me, it doesn’t make them look weak; it makes them look like a true leader.
So for the ‘Modest Proposal,’ let’s sign an agreement with CentraCare and convert Coborn’s Plaza from dormitory apartments into a secure chemical treatment facility. With Lindsay Lohan as well as other Hollywood personalities available for treatment every few months, we could turn Coborn’s Plaza into a profit center and President Potter could ‘declare victory.’ Perhaps this ‘Modest Proposal’ is too reasonable to be rejected outright so my apologies to Jonathan Swift.
However, the original idea behind Coborn’s Plaza has certainly not been successful and it looks as if the administration has even admitted that it will never be financially successful. Unless, of course, you consider that with even 100% occupancy losing a minimum of $50,000-$100,000 per year is successful. All in all, with an estimated loss over $3,000,000 in the first three years of operation, Coborn’s Plaza could cost SCSU well over $20,000,000 over the twenty-year lease. Many people have lost their jobs over less.
First, what is a university doing getting into the rental property business? Next, it’s astonishing to hear of a university president signing a contract that essentially guarantees a private rental property company a profit. Third, it isn’t unreasonable to question whether these annual losses have necessitated the closing of academic programs. Losing $1,125,000 a year for 3 years doesn’t come out of SCSU’s petty cash fund.
This is only the first shoe to drop at SCSU. It’s a pretty big shoe to drop but it isn’t the only big shoe that’ll drop in the coming days.
After announcing that SCSU was shutting the Aviation program, 5 students met with President Potter to find out why he made that decision. Tonight, Logan Vold, one of the students in the meeting, sent me the email he sent to the student faculty. Here’s the text of that email:
Hi Redacted Name,
My name is Logan Vold and I’m a senior aviation student at SCSU. I wanted to mention to you that I was one of 5 students/graduates who met with President Potter personally regarding the aviation program closure.
5 students, including myself, took a meeting with President Potter back in August (second week of school). I wanted to let you know how that meeting went.
I never felt so embarrassed knowing we have a university president who acts like this. As soon as we sat down in the conference room (his office) we were told that and I quote, “I just have this to say about the aviation program being closed, the decision has been made, the chancellor signed off on that decision, and Dr. Johnson has been reluctant to accept that decision and I have held back from filing insubordination charges, because I find his actions to be insubordinate…”
My question to you, Samantha, is what faculty member, especially a president of a university, will mention faculty members names to students in this context? I find this to be a violation of university code of conduct/ethics, especially privacy issues.
Furthermore, later, as the meeting progressed, President Potter yelled at myself, as well as another student. He raised his voice at me and mentioned, “do not take that tone with me…” while he leaned over the table with both hands on the table. At this point, I literally shut down as the other 4 individuals resumed the meeting. He also yelled at another student with the same tone and words.
I don’t know what can be done, but my point is that I find it grossly violating university code of conduct policies of what was between us and President Potter. The reason I’m emailing you so late is because we came together to collect a list of what was said at the meeting that we all can stand by and life got busy.
After witnessing President Potter’s actions at this meeting and seeing what the media is portraying about the closing of the aviation program, I find it all political and I encourage you to read the following articles that I’m including the links to.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email me.
Simply put, President Potter’s actions were totally undignified and unhinged, especially in the context of him talking with students about their professor.
Another thing that’s highly questionable is President Potter’s talking personnel issues in public. When he terminated Mahmoud Saffari, people questioned him about why Saffari was terminated:
According to an earlier statement from one of the protesters, Saffari was led by security off the campus, relieved of his keys, and was not allowed access to his office or staff. In response, a speaker stated that the president will not release any information because of confidentiality agreements.
President Potter cited the need for confidentiality on personnel matters when it suited him but didn’t think confidentiality on personnel matters was important when lashing out at a professor who questioned President Potter’s decisions.
This email is proof that President Potter didn’t think twice about undercutting a professor in front of the professor’s students.
At the Fall Convocation in 2012, President Potter urged those gathered for a new era of civility:
With much work behind us and an increased capacity to deal with the many challenges that we face we now focus on the priorities for the coming year. They include three defined by Chancellor Rosenstone:
•Offering our students an extraordinary education
•Being the partner of choice for Minnesota’s employers
•Maintaining access, affordability and opportunity for all students
To these three priorities we add a fourth that is perhaps peculiar to St. Cloud State University…the development of a culture that is characterized by the ability to deal with difficult issues with respect in an atmosphere of civility.
Apparently, dealing “with difficult issues with respect in an atmosphere of civility” is important to President Potter on a selective basis. It’s obvious it isn’t consistently a priority with President Potter. Put differently, President Potter believes in a policy of civility from thee but not from me.
University presidents’ behavior should be held to the highest standards. President Potter’s behavior in this matter doesn’t come close to meeting that standard. What’s most demoralizing is that this isn’t the only time when President Potter’s behavior has been this unhinged.
It anything comes through in this statement, it’s the DFL’s stated intention to spend the taxpayers’ money recklessly. Here’s an example:
Aiming for a course correction after a decade of disinvestment, the House and Senate are likely to take up historic education bills next week at the State Capitol. Some the features of those bills include:
- Investing in what works – early learning: New investments to fund early education and all-day kindergarten, helping Minnesota students get on the right track early.
- Strategic funding for K-12 schools: Increasing per pupil funding for Minnesota schools throughout the state.
- Reducing college tuition and debt: Making the first investment in higher education in a decade to ease the burden of skyrocketing tuition and student debt.
The consensus I found is that: 1) socioeconomic conditions are the single largest determinant of success in school and life, 2) benefits of intervention accrue primarily to children in dire socioeconomic circumstances, and 3) benefits to the general population are minimal, fading by third grade, presumably because they are getting what they need in their home environments.
Dr. Kern later noted:
I reviewed Dr. Rolnick’s calculations and indeed, the benefits for 123 pre-school children studied in Ypsilanti Michigan, were giant—50% reduced incarceration rates. However, in their policy discussions, Rolnick and Grunewald downplay the nominal 50% incarceration rate in this community. Yes, the return on investment supporting now famous claims of 17-dollar ROI…are based almost entirely on money saved by reducing incarceration rates from 50% to 25%.
In spite of the highly unusual nature of the circumstances surrounding these children’s lives, proponents of these programs regularly extrapolate a 17 to 1 ROI to every dollar spent on virtually any early childhood program. It is extremely cynical or delusional that Rolnick and Grunewald fail to emphasize the critical caveats to these estimates based on just 123 subjects from one pre-school in desperate need of help.
In other words, all-day Pre-K is just spin to spend tons of money on the Education Minnesota wish list. It doesn’t help kids. It helps the unions while raiding taxpayers’ wallets.
It’s insulting to hear Thissen talk about “reducing college tuition and debt” without hearing Thissen talk about reducing the cost of higher ed. Furthermore, why isn’t Thissen talking about how MnSCU is helping SCSU administrators cover up the deleting of hundreds of grades from students’ transcripts?
“The other piece of it is that it’s difficult to do some things like helping with student success, some things like doing accurate assessment if people disappear from our records and we don’t have that information in our records anymore or if we learn for example that, and this is kind of an odd example I suppose, you don’t know that a student has taken a course three times because there is no record of it and the student is in there for the fourth time and you’re trying to figure out a way to help that student be successful and yet you’re blindsided by this lack of information.
Having a student’s transcript omit the fact that he/she has taken and failed a class 3 times isn’t a minor clerical mistake. It’s the Potter administration’s deletion of transcript information. Might some of these deleted grades be in classes that the student got federal or state grants?
Is that the type of disgusting behavior taxpayers should be subsidizing? I think not.
Why aren’t Speaker Thissen, Sen. Bakk, Sen. Bonoff and Rep. Pelowski talking about the U of M spending money on an event aimed at helping undergraduate women achieve more and better orgasms? Here’s what the event description includes:
The university’s official online description of the event entitled, ‘The Female Orgasm,’ describes it as open to both male and female students. ‘Orgasm aficionados and beginners of all genders are welcome to come learn about everything from multiple orgasms to that mysterious G-spot,’ reads the description posted on the school’s official events calendar. ‘Whether you want to learn how to have your first orgasm, how to have better ones, or how to help you girlfriend, Kate and Marshall cover it all…’ it adds. ‘Are you coming?’ it asks.
I don’t know how this event is paid for. If it’s being paid for with the taxpayers’ money or through student fees, then it’s wrong. If people want to pay for something like this with their money, that’s their business. If they want to pay for it with the taxpayers’ money, that isn’t acceptable.
Speaker Thissen talks about historic investments in education. What he didn’t talk about is the tons of money that’s recklessly misspent. It’s noteworthy that Speaker Thissen won’t talk about the SCSU transcript scandal, either. Apparently, it’s ok with Thissen if administrators are changing student transcripts without the professors’ signing off on the changes.
Tags: Paul Thissen, Education, Higher Education, University of Minnesota, MnSCU, Student Transcripts, Earl Potter, SCSU, Corruption, Early Childhood Education, Spending Increases, Gene Pelowski, Tom Bakk, Terry Bonoff, DFL
True to their waste-aholic history, the DFL legislature voted against government accountability:
A commission designed to judge whether state agencies, councils or boards have outlived their usefulness may itself cease to exist.
The Democratic-controlled House and Senate have voted to abolish the Sunset Advisory Commission, a 12-member commission championed by Republicans as offering greater accountability and efficiency in state government.
“I think they’re (Democrats) scared,” Rep. Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers, said of taking tough votes on the commission.
A product of 2011 legislation, the Sunset Advisory Commission is patterned after a 30-year-old commission in Texas, one billed as having saved the Lone Star State almost $1 billion at a cost of about $33 million.
Minnesota’s Sunset Commission reviews state agencies and recommends whether a given agency should continue to exist.
Rep. Peppin is right. DFL legislators don’t want to vote on wasteful spending. DFL legislators don’t want to admit that their pet agencies, councils and panels are actually patronage positions.
The DFL is spinning their vote:
The idea of duplication was voiced by another commission member, Rep. Michael Nelson, DFL-Brooklyn Park. “One of the tasks of the sunset commission is to get rid of duplicative government functions,” he said. There’s already the Office of the Legislative Auditor.
Why have both? Nelson asks.
Rep. Nelson, we need both because it’s apparent that there’s a ton of bloat in state government, things that the OLA hasn’t discussed.
As for Rep. Nelson’s assertion of duplication, I’d love hearing his explanation on what it’s duplicating. I’d love hearing him cite the times when the OLA has recommended the sunsetting of a commission, panel or council.
Sen. Bonoff’s statement needs ridiculing:
Bonoff, like other Democrats, argues the commission is itself duplicative. “If committee chairs are doing their jobs, they should be doing this kind of detailed oversight,” she said.
There’s a simple explanation for Sen. Bonoff: the chairs have never gotten into this type of detailed oversight. The Sunset Advisory Commission would’ve been a great tool that forced the legislature to deal with commissions, councils and panels that outlived their usefulness.
Furthermore, does any thinking person think that the DFL would investigate the importance or relevance of these hideouts for their political cronies? Let’s get serious. When Keith Downey proposed reducing the state workforce by 15% by not replacing retiring workers, Eliot Seide accused him of waging war “against working families.” What DFL legislator will vote for sunsetting these commissions, councils or panels knowing that they’ll get primaried by an AFSCME-endorsed candidate?
That’s why the Commission is essential.
Finally, this DFL legislature has repeatedly proven that they oppose accountability. The GOP legislature passed a bill that required teachers to pass a basic skills test, which Gov. Dayton signed. The DFL wants to repeal that law. The GOP legislature passed the Sunset Advisory Commission, which Gov. Dayton signed. The DFL legislature just voted to repeal that essential accountability legislation. Will Gov. Dayton reverse himself & say no to government accountability? If he does, he should prepare for getting labeled as a) a hypocrite, b) a cheap politician who does what’s popular, not what’s right and c) the unions’ puppet, not the public’s servant leader.
This week, the DFL legislature voted for higher pay for themselves, higher taxes on the middle class and less accountability within government. I don’t think that’s the bumper sticker they’ll want to deal with in 2014.
Tags: Terry Bonoff, Mike Nelson, Tom Bakk, Paul Thissen, Mark Dayton, Eliot Seide, AFSCME Council 5, Public Employee Unions, Cronyism, DFL, Sunset Advisory Commission, Accountability, Government Oversight, Reforms, MNGOP
When former DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe announced that he was running to succeed Bob McDonnell as governor, he brought tons of political baggage with him:
Turn over any green-energy rock, and wiggling underneath will be the usual creepy mix of political favoritism and taxpayer-funded handouts. Add to this the Clintons, Mississippi and a murky visa program, and you’ve got a particularly ripe political embarrassment for Terry McAuliffe.
That’s just the tip of McAuliffe’s political difficulties. This information will hurt McAuliffe:
Among the first questions he was asked was why, as a proud “Virginia” businessman, he’d located his business in Mississippi. Scrambling, Mr. McAuliffe stated that he had wanted to bring his jobs home but the Virginia Economic Development Partnership “didn’t want to bid on” GreenTech—whereas Mississippi had offered incentives. He went so far as to criticize the state for not going after manufacturing jobs like his, suggesting he’d change that.
After an investigation, media outlets discovered that Virginia never received enough information from GreenTech to proceed. The Associated Press reported that the state agency worried that “GreenTech lacked brand recognition; had not demonstrated vehicle performance; had no federal safety and fuel-economy certification; no emissions approval…no distribution network” and (ouch) “no demonstrated automotive industry experience within the executive management team.” Rather than respond to these concerns, GreenTech moved on with Mississippi (which perhaps wasn’t asking annoying questions).
As disturbing as that information is, that still isn’t the worst news for McAuliffe. This is:
Virginia was particularly alarmed by GreenTech’s use of an opaque visa program, called EB-5, to fund itself. Part of a 1990 immigration law, EB-5 lets foreigners who invest at least $500,000 in a U.S. company receive green cards. A federal immigration agency approves “regional centers” that administer the program.
While these centers can be run by local government, GreenTech proposed running a Virginia center itself. One official at the Virginia development agency wrote to colleagues that she couldn’t view Greentech’s EB-5 program as “anything other than a visa-for-sale scheme with potential national security implications.”
Touting GreenTech as proof of McAuliffe’s capitalist roots wasn’t smart. Having it exposed that he might be exploiting an immigration statute makes his uphill climb a stiffer challenge than first thought. Explaining away why this “Virginia businessman” opened his business in Mississippi is like loading another sack of bricks onto McAuliffe’s back. Last but not least, finding out that McAuliffe’s company isn’t manufacturing cars or creating jobs is a dagger through McAuliffe’s political campaign.
Get out the butter, folks, because McAuliffe’s campaign is toast.
Today, Jim Graves made it official today by announcing that he’s running against Michele Bachmann again:
In a statement, the AmericInn Hotel chain founder took a veiled jab at his opponent’s national reputation as a lightning rod. “These days, Congress is all about scoring political points rather than actually solving problems, and Minnesota’s 6th District, my home, is losing out because of that more than anywhere,” he said. ”I’m not interested in celebrity, only in solutions.”
That last statement is rather rich considering the fact that Graves told me that he thinks the PPACA is a free market solution to our health care problem. The PPACA is a one-size-fits-all disaster. First, it isn’t a solution. Second, it’s an expensive disaster that’s getting worse with each new onslaught of regulations.
If Graves can’t even identify a disastrous policy like the PPACA, then he’s worthless. Getting the biggest things badly wrong isn’t a virtue. His happy talk about being a new Democrat is BS. New Democrats don’t attend fundraisers hosted by Barney Frank, one of the men who caused the housing bubble to burst. New Democrats don’t defend the PPACA, which Graves tried doing with me.
Graves’ schtick is spin. That doesn’t mean people should take him lightly. He came close to defeating Michele in 2012. Then again, that’s largely because of high voter turnout durning a presidential election and because Michele focused a bunch of attention on her presidential campaign.
Since getting re-elected, Michele Bachmann has focused on solving major problems in the district, including working on widening the I-94 and Highway 10 corridors, not to mention her work in getting the Stillwater Bridge rebuilt.
Another big question awaiting is whether Nancy Pelosi will let Jim Graves be a centrist. She’ll let him talk like a centrist during the campaign. The question is how long that’d last if he’s elected. If he’s elected, Pelosi would likely have a slim majority in the House, meaning she’ll need every Democrat’s vote on the big issue.
Graves will run another dishonest campaign this cycle because that’s his only shot at winning. Make no mistake: Jim Graves won’t hesitate in hitting below the belt if that’s what’s needed. We know that because it’s what he’s done in the past. Graves got a bunch of union workers to lie for him during a campaign ad. These displaced union workers accused Michele of political grandstanding and not giving a damn about them. KSTP ran Graves’ ad through their Truth Test:
Bachmann was in the district on Memorial Day weekend in Stillwater attending events when the explosion happened but didn’t go to the scene. However, a Bachmann staff member was there within an hour.
I know the Bachmann staffer who got to the Verson site within an hour of the explosion happening. Jim Graves didn’t care about this extraordinary performance. He had his sights set on winning an election. If he had to accuse Michele of not giving a damn, that’s what he’d do. If that meant ignoring the facts on the ground, New Democrat Jim Graves wasn’t about to hesitate in putting that disgusting, dishonest ad together.
Tags: Jim Graves, Smear Campaign, Barney Frank, Housing Bubble, Nancy Pelosi, PPACA, Regulations, New Democrat, Michele Bachmann, I-94, Highway 10, Stillwater Bridge, Transportation, MNGOP, Election 2014
Last week, the pension bailout was big news. After complaints boke out about the DFL bailout, pension fund bailout activists quickly started a counterspin campaign:
The casual reader may be taken aback by the $36 million figure, only $13 million of which is taxpayer money. The balance is fees tacked on to homeowner and auto insurance policies to bolster police and firefighter retirement funds. The $26 million is a significant difference.
First, someone should instruct Mr. Leathers that $13 million + $23 million doesn’t equal $36 million. Mr. Leathers’ math difficulties notwithstanding, he seems to think that $13 million of taxpayer money is incidental. It isn’t. It’s money out of hardworking families’ wallets at a time when incomes are stagnant. That’s before talking about the fact that the surcharge on homeowner and auto insurance policies, which, again, is money taken from hardworking families’ wallets.
Unfortunately, the spin gets worse after that:
What is also significant is that Minnesota public sector pensions are extremely modest. They account for 1.6 percent of the state budget, compared with the national average of 2.9 percent. While some states’ pension funds are facing bankruptcy, Minnesota’s funds are in “decent if not perfect” shape, as the story puts it. When asked about the management of public pensions in the state, Legislative Commission on Pensions and Retirement chair Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, stated, “We are responsible.”
TRANSLATION: We’re in great shape compared with California, New Jersey and Illinois. That’s hardly proof that Minnesota’s pensions are in “decent, if not perfect” shape. It’s just proof that they aren’t on the verge of being totally insolvent.
The St. Paul and Duluth teacher funds are unique, and currently both are freestanding. Each has more than 100 years of responsible operation and a detailed plan to become solvent. Dave Anderson, who represents the Duluth Retired Teacher Association, commented at a recent hearing on what he would do to put his district’s pension plan on sound footing: “We will do whatever is good for our members and also what is good for the state of Minnesota.”
The St. Paul and Duluth funds aren’t “freestanding” because of the bailouts they’ve received. Furthermore, Duluth’s pension fund is only 63% funded. That’s pathetic in any situation. It’s especially pathetic at a time when the stock market is sitting at its highest mark ever. If they aren’t fully funded when the stock market is going gangbusters, why should we think that they’ll ever be close to solvent?
As for Mr. Anderson’s statement that the Duluth Retired Teacher Association would “do whatever is good for our members and also do what is good for the state of Minnesota”, I’d believe that they’ll do what’s best for their members. I’m certain they won’t do what’s best for Minnesota.
It isn’t shocking to think that DFL politicians love overbloated government. Annually, they reflexively propose raising taxes. They love spending the taxpayers’ money on their political allies, too. Protecting union employees is one of their specialties. Two years ago, Gov. Dayton and the DFL threw a collective hissy fit when Keith Downey introduced his 15 by 2015 legislation. From that point forward, every union official seemingly started their sentences with “the Republicans’ war on working families.”
The first bill King Banaian submitted as a legislator was a bill that created the Sunset Advisory Commission. A miracle happened when Phyllis Kahn announced her support for King’s bill. After ending the government shutdown he created, Gov. Dayton signed King’s bill into law.
With the DFL back controlling the legislature and with Gov. Dayton still in office, they’re thinking about eliminating the Sunset Advisory Commission:
A budget bill in the Democratic-led House would get rid of the Minnesota Sunset Advisory Commission. The panel was created two years ago when Republicans were in charge. They touted it as a way to weed out government offices some people deem ineffective.
The commission met about a dozen times over the last couple of years and didn’t recommend cutting any government entities altogether. It did press for further reviews of some boards, including one that regulates combative sports like boxing and mixed martial arts.
The push to eliminate the Sunset Advisory Commission is in a broad budget bill that funds core government agencies.
It isn’t irony. It’s predictable. The DFL legislature, both Sen. Bakk and then-Minority Leader Thissen, used their picks to load up the panel with politicians like Matt Entenza. In short, their picks were people who wanted to undermine the law rather than work in good faith on protecting Minnesota’s taxpayers.
Here’s language from King’s bill:
Sunset Commission. Provides that the Sunset Commission consists of 12 members appointed as follows:
(1) four senators appointed according to the rules of the senate, with no more than three senators from the majority caucus;
(2) four members of the house of representatives, appointed by the speaker, with no more than three of the house members from the majority caucus;
(3) four members appointed by the governor.
All members serve at the pleasure of the appointing authority. With respect to governor appointees, provides two-year terms expiring in January of each odd-numbered year. Provides term limits for service on the commission.
Staff. Requires the Legislative Coordinating Commission to provide staff and administrative services for the commission.
Rules. Authorizes the commission to adopt rules to carry out this chapter.
Agency report to commission. Provides that before September 1 of the odd-numbered year in which a state agency is subject to sunset review, the agency commissioner shall report specified information to the commission. The September 1 deadline does not apply in 2011.
Commission duties. Requires that before January 1 of the year in which a state agency is subject to sunset review, the commission must review the agency based on criteria specified in section 3D.10.
Public hearings. Requires that before February 1 of the year an agency is subject to sunset review, the commission must conduct public hearings regarding the agency, including the criteria specified in section 3D.10.
Commission report. Requires that by February 1 of each even-numbered year, the commission shall report on agencies subject to review, including findings on criteria specified in section 3D.10.
Criteria for review. Specifies criteria for the commission to consider in determining whether a public need exists for the continuation of a state agency or for performance of the agency’s functions.
Recommendations. Requires the commission’s report to make recommendations on the abolition, continuation, or reorganization of agencies, on the need for performance of the functions of the agency; on consolidation, transfer, or reorganization of programs within agencies not under review when programs duplicate functions of agencies under review; and for improvement of operations.
Requires the commission to submit draft legislation to carry out its recommendations, including legislation necessary to continue the existence of agencies that would otherwise sunset, if the commission recommends continuation of an agency.
Simply put, the bill requires the Commission to review whether the agency is performing an essential function, whether it’s doing what it was originally created to do or whether it’s ‘evolved’ into just another bloated part of state government.
The DFL’s disgust with governmental accountability is showing its ugly face. Taxpayers should be outraged that the DFL is thinking about eliminating a tool that’s designed to increase governmental accountability. If the DFL eliminates this commission, Republicans should make this one of their campaign themes in 2014. Hold every DFL legislator’s feet to the fire for voting against governmental accountability and thriftiness.
If they’re eliminating sensible laws like this, then they’re undoubtedly voting for creating more unaccountable agencies, boards, commissions and panels.
DFL legislators voted to bail out the pension funds for Duluth and St. Paul school teachers:
Commission chair Sen. Sandra Pappas, DFL-Minneapolis, noted that the statewide TRA would require Duluth and St. Paul plans to be fully funded before any merger. “This is a kind of shared-pain approach,” Pappas said of the St. Paul proposal. “If we’re thinking merger is down the road, bringing benefits in line with TRA and putting some cash into the fund is probably a good move.”
That’s BS. The DFL’s bill isn’t tough love. It’s caving. In 2010, the Duluth pension plan agreed that they wouldn’t get a COLA until their pensions were at least 80% funded. This bill gives Duluth pensioners a 1% annual COLA even though their fund is only 63% funded. In short, the DFL legislature’s definition of tough love is to bail out the Duluth pension fund, then throw in an annual COLA as a bonus.
The fact that the Duluth pension fund is only 63% funded is disgusting. The payouts promised must’ve really been steep. It’s a given that their pensions funds took a hit during the Great Recession. Everyone’s did. Duluth is the only Minnesota pension fund I’ve heard of that’s that badly underfunded.
If this continues, Duluth will be the new Stockton, Calif. In fact, the corruption and financial mismanagement in Duluth is bad enough that they probably could declare bankruptcy.
The worst part about the vote on this bill is that it was rushed through so that they could attend the annual Ranger Party at a famous watering hole near the Capitol. The Ranger Party is considered a can’t miss mixer where “the drinks and other people’s money flows freely.”
Unfortunately for the taxpayers, these DFL legislators are more committed to raising cash for their next campaign than they’re worried about being the taxpayers’ watchdog.