Friday, August 28, 2009

Donuts for donkeys

Donuts for donkeys: Grandstand Mini Donuts, operated by the Tenth Ward & Rural Ramsey DFL
Top reasons to avoid Grandstand Mini Donuts at the Minnesota State Fair:
  1. 54 calories per donut
  2. 27 calories from fat per donut
  3. 6 g total carbohydrate per donut
  4. Undisclosed contribution per bag to the Tenth Ward & Rural Ramsey DFL Political Action Committee (PAC)

Now that the Great Minnesota Get-Together is underway, it's a good time to recall Mitch Berg's report that Grandstand Mini Donuts, located outside the Grandstand, is a stealth fundraising booth for a DFL PAC that in 2008 donated $45,000 among six DFL Senate Districts, courtesy of some unsuspecting fairgoers (many among whom likely were Republicans!).

The State Fair does not require that vendors publicly disclose where their proceeds are going, but why wouldn't Grandstand Mini Donuts do so? As a public service, you could print out a few copies of the two-page Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board filing Schedule B2 (last two pages of this PDF file), and just happen to post them somewhere nearby!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Gubernatorial hopefuls meet at SD43 picnic

SD43 gubernatorial candidates picnic (photo: SD43)Gubernatorial hopefuls at SD43 picnic with Rep. Sarah Anderson (center, holding microphone). Photo: SD43

Monday evening, six hopefuls for the Minnesota GOP endorsement for governor broke bread, gave stump speeches, and answered questions in Plymouth on their statewide tour of Republican summer picnics. According to the SD43 Republicans, about 250 gathered at picnic tables and lawn chairs, around a shelter decorated with red, white, and blue bunting, to hear the candidates, gossip about politics over barbecue sandwiches, and watch the kids play nearby.

Die-hard conservatives won't have just one candidate to line up behind, as in 2002 with west metro favorite son Brian Sullivan, or Sue Jeffers in 2006, we will have to choose from several dedicated, well-spoken, proven public servants (maybe we can send two of them into the general election —as governor and lieutenant governor, that is?).

Some of the stars of the minority caucuses in the state Senate and House, and a star of the Pawlenty administration, appeared at the picnic: former minority leader Rep. Marty Seifert (R-Marshall), third-term Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Delano), former assistant minority leader Sen. David Hann (R-Eden Prairie), and former state auditor Pat Anderson.

Seifert proved his mettle as House minority leader again this session, effectively holding his caucus together and working with Governor Pawlenty. Hann is a stalwart, principled conservative. Emmer's no-nonsense, forceful "gimme a break" style would serve him well in campaign debates and negotiations with the legislature. Anderson has a proven record of reform as state auditor and commissioner of Employee Relations, which she merged into the Department of Finance (thereby shrinking government and eliminating her own job). All have unquestionable conservative reform records.

Also stumping in Plymouth for the endorsement were Sen. Mike Jungbauer (R-East Bethel), former Rep. Bill Haas, and Phil Herwig. Compared to the previous candidates, they are at a disadvantage in name recognition, experience, and star power to get endorsed and elected.

From now until the endorsement, there are going to be many of these events happening around the state (see the True North calendar for details). I encourage you to attend. They are lots of fun, and enable you to effectively put that post-TEA Party energy into winning hearts, minds, and elections.

Picnic table notes

I had the good fortune of sharing a picnic table with Glenn Ray, one of the proprietors of the Minnesota Prager Discussion Group blog, which is widely followed among Minnesota conservatives. Ray is an outspoken, thoughtful old gent (I mean that as a compliment!) with cogent political and ideological insights: think a west metro Craig Westover. He provided a running commentary to me during the stump speeches and Q&A; it would have made a great liveblog.

Visiting from SD33 were Sen. Gen Olson (R-Minnetrista) and Rep. Connie Doepke (R-Orono) (pronounced DEP-key: the "O" is silent). Before I got in line for the dinner buffet, I learned from Doepke how the Republicans in the Legislature executed a successful minority strategy, while the DFL majority was frequently at intramural loggerheads thanks to Speaker of the House Margaret Anderson Kelliher and Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller. Doepke also warned that next session, the DFL will have a strategy for Gov. Pawlenty's 2009 unallotment gambit. ("Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.")

Pat Anderson must have been on her way to another important event, because she left the picnic after delivering her speech, and she was wearing a striking gubernatorial power suit with some snazzy heels, not unlike another certain female, former suburban mayor, state commissioner, and cold-weather state governor we know!

After the candidates spoke, I looked for the sign-up table or booth run by Big Insurance, Big Pharama, or other "special interest groups" for town hall meeting disruption actions. I am tiring of showing up to protests as an unpaid concerned citizen, and am looking to make some extra money to help pay for TARP, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Cash for Clunkers, cap-and-trade, and federal health insurance reform (that is, in addition to Medicaid, Medicare, state Medical Assistance, state General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC), MinnesotaCare, and Hennepin County's various medical assistance programs, which I am already paying for!). When I asked around to see if anyone else was getting paid to be an "astroturf" protester, I was told I would have to "join a union."

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sound and fury

"If you get hit, we will punch back twice as hard." —Deputy White House chief of staff Jim Messina in a town hall strategy briefing on August 6, with senior White House adviser David Axelrod, to Democrat Senators

"The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil." —Sarah Palin on Facebook

What good are town hall meetings, anyway? They seem to bring out the most extreme elements on both sides, heighten emotions, and sometimes end in fistcuffs and trips to jail or the emergency room. They are routinely scripted by organizers and disrupted by protesters. In this age of Internet communication, aren't town hall meetings antiquated?

I know from attending my share of school board, city council, and legislative hearings over the years that there is a public comment continuum. Legislative hearings are strictly controlled by the committee chair, time limits on testimony are enforced, and questions from committee members can resemble cross-examination at trial (indeed, many legislators have law degrees). School board and city council meetings are usually less formal to encourage citizen participation, but there are still time and parliamentary limits. These meetings all generally occur in capitols, school district offices, and city halls.

The public comment portion of legislative or Congressional town hall meetings out in the community tend to be the loosest type of exchanges, and most often attract members of the general public who are inexperienced at the niceties of addressing the chair or even speaking in public at all. When there are hot-button issues on the table, as with Minnesota's academic standards a few years ago, public funding for the Twins stadium, smoking bans, and the current health reform debate, these meetings attract the media, organized testimony and demonstrators, and often more heat than light.

Although certainly not effective as a workshop for crafting good public policy, public hearings and town hall meetings are a traditional and necessary component of our American experiment in self-government that is of the people, by the people, and for the people. There is something quintessentially American about an elected official, whether from the local school board or the United States Senate, standing up in front of a school gymnasium full of his constituents to receive both praise and brickbats.

As someone observed during one of yesterday's Sunday interview shows, some politicians may love President Obama's vision for health care, but they love getting reelected even more. Town hall meetings, e-mail, social networking, and talk radio are all ways that the hoi polloi are participating in the political process like never before. Witness Sarah Palin's use of Facebook:
One can hardly deny that Palin's reference to "death panels" was inflammatory. But another way of putting that is that it was vivid and attention-getting. Level-headed liberal commentators who favor more government in health care, including Slate's Mickey Kaus and the Washington Post's Charles Lane, have argued that the end-of-life provision in the bill is problematic--acknowledging in effect (and, in Kaus's case, in so many words) that Palin had a point.

"Palin Wins," Wall Street Journal, August 14, 2009

Although anyone can send an e-mail or write a letter, professional lobbyists and interest groups tend to drown out the voices of John and Jane Q. Public. Elected officials can become isolated in their Greek-columned worlds, especially in Washington, D.C. They have numerous procedural and security methods for preserving order at town hall meetings without stifling public comment. This face-to-face conduit between constituents and representatives is still needed in our republic, if we are to keep it.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Mike Pence: back to basics

Rep. Mike Pence (photo: US House of Representatives)If the GOP has lost its way, people like Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN6) are trying to steer it back on course. Republicans across the country should consider his remarks on yesterday's Fox News Sunday:
...government handouts through a government bureaucracy is no substitute for broad-based tax relief and fiscal discipline in Washington, D.C.

...the quickest way to get money into this economy is not to take it in the first place.

...I think Republicans are starting to earn back the confidence of the American people that we squandered, really, in the last 10 years. I mean, look, let's be honest. We didn't just lose our majorities in 2006. We lost our way. I mean, the American people saw a Republican Party that walked away from its commitment to fiscal discipline, limited government and reform, and the American people walked away from us.

We saw -- we saw in the last Republican administration, you know, increase at the federal Department of Education, the Medicare prescription drug entitlement, and an administration that ended up taking $700 billion in bad decisions on Wall Street and transferring those to Main Street, that on top of a doubling of the national debt.

But since the last election, Republicans on Capitol Hill are returning to their commitment to fiscal discipline, limited government and reform, and the defense of traditional values.

And I believe we're -- we're beginning to get a second look from the American people, and they're beginning to see that Republicans are returning to the principles that minted our majority in 1980 and again in 1994.

...I don't think the debate in this country is about President Obama or about Democrats or Republicans. I think it's about who we are as a nation. I think it's about what we believe is the proper role of government in our lives and the proper responsibility of individuals. ...Republicans for a while were on the wrong side of that argument. We've gotten back on the side of fiscal responsibility, personal responsibility, limited government.

And I think as we continue to fight consistently on Capitol Hill and take our message to the American people, the American people are going to come back to us.