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Saturday, March 25, 2006

Dean Johnson Ethics Hearing

Mary Tambornino's post about Dean Johnson yesterday generated lots of comments. MPR has a report about the hearing.

Pollytick has some analysis.

Well, out here in Rural Minnesota (and actually we understand in St. Paul and some Twin City suburbs) we have a TV show called "Your Legislators" which we watch religiously every Thursday evening during the legislative session.

This production of Pioneer Public Television in Appleton, MN has been on the air for the past 25 years. It is a live one hour viewer call-in format with four legislators sitting at a table answering the many questions-of-the-day.

"So what", you may hear the wise old right-wing owls hoot.

Oh yes, there is one small item we failed to mention. The host of this show for the last 16 years running is none other than Judge G. Barry Anderson. Yes, you heard right, it is Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Barry Anderson who occupies the host seat each and every week.

To confirm what we thought to be true, we took a gander at last night's show.

Yep, bubblin' Barry was hosting.

Yep, there were four legislators in the seats (GOP and Dem).

Yep, there was a discussion of issues before the current legislature.

And Yep, some of the items discussed on last night's show may indeed make it to the Supreme Court docket someday (constitutional amendments, the legality of the tobacco fee/tax, etc.).

So, the question arises, were these evil legislators 'crossing the line' by providing Judge Barry with possible future evidentiary testimony and information? Did it impugn the good judges character to ask questions and participate in such an unholy activity?

We can only assume that the right-wing GOP party in this state will now have to go after this Pawlenty appointed justice and the myriad of legislators from both parties who have appeared on this show over the last 16 years, eh? (FYI, the past legislative line-up has included such notables as Speaker of the House Steve Sviggum, Minority Leader Dick Day, and Minority Leader Matt Entenza.)

Wait, one more thing we forgot to mention. When Judge B. Anderson cannot make it into the studio there is a frequent substitute who takes the chair:

Judge David Minge.


There were some interesting comments:

David Drake said...

Did it impugn the good judges character to ask questions and participate in such an unholy activity?

Well, that depends...are those questions asked based on lies, or stating total and false fabrications and attributing them to others, as the Lying Senator Dean Johnson was so wont to do?
3/24/2006 08:31:08 PM
Karl said...

Mr. Drake--

You seem pretty quick to play judge and jury. What evidence do you have that Dean Johnson lied--that he told "total and false fabrications? Can you produce it? Or is your only "evidence" the fact that the Chief Justice said Dean lied? Do you have proof that the Chief Justice isn't lying to cover his own ass?

What exactly is the difference between discussing legislative issues with a judge on a tv show, and discussing them with a judge in private?

I think there's a reason the legislators on the ethics panel didn't want to drag judges in front of them under oath. It would have made for quite an ugly scene for the Chief Justice to refuse to testify after already having claimed Dean Johnson as a liar.

Furthermore, where was the GOP's outrage when Supreme Court Justice Scalia went duck hunting with Dick Cheney while a lawsuit against Cheney was actually PENDING before the Supreme Court? I don't recall any chest-thumping calls for resignation, or allegations of impugning the integrity of the court. Ahh, but it's always different when Republicans do it isn't it?
3/24/2006 08:51:55 PM

David Drake has a blog - and he's upset about the ethics hearing.

Oh, there's plenty wrong with the Republican party, and this is but one example of their weeniness. So this coming fall, when my phone starts ringing and I'm getting calls from the Republican Party of Minnesota reminding me to vote for their candidates...Save Your Breath, people...Save Your Breath. No, I'm not going to vote for the Liberal Commiecrat candidate. I will do as I've done many times in the past, and vote for an independent third party. Or, come to think of it...maybe, just maybe, I will vote for the Liberal Commiecrat. At least I know what I'm getting if I vote for the Liberal Commiecrat.

When I have voted for the Republican candidate in the past, I expect a candidate who will live up to the Conservative ideas that that party stands for. A party and a politician who won't cave in from doing the right thing. Sadly, caving in is what Republican State Senators Claire Robling of Jordan and Mike McGinn of Eagan did.

To those spineless and wimpy Republicans, I ask this: Do you think one of your own would get the same treatment from the Commiecrats? Do you not think the Commiecrats wouldn't use a situation like this to make political hay and grandstand?

Yes, I do expect the Republican Party to grandstand on issues such as Pastor Johnson's lying and fabricating stories of make-believe. Yes, I do expect the Republican Party to play the political card in matters like this. Why? Because you have every legal and moral responsibility to do so. Because it's the right thing to do. But you caved like the sorry and pathetic spineless and wimpy Republican In Name Only Republicans that you are.

You had the opportunity to boot Pastor/Senator/Chaplain Johnson's lying ass out of the legislature, had you the spine to do just that. But you caved. You caved because you were afraid of either how you would be (mis)perceived and/or how your actions would be reported by the liberal press.

What - are you afraid to do the right thing? Apparently so!

So, save your breath Republican Party, when you contact me this fall, reminding me to vote for your spineless and wimpy candidates. I'd rather throw my vote away on a third party who has no chance of winning than to vote for, and elect, another spineless, wimpy, cave-in RINO.

The death of the Republican party won't come from its fundamental hard-line Conservatives or from its opposition Left. The death of the Republican Party will be self-inflicted from its RINO members. And when that happens, I'll be there to say "I told you so, you spineless wimpy RINO's."

David Drake said in comments to this blog that he likes my blog template. Thanks David. I appreciate that. This WAS a standard blogger template - but is no longer available.

Senate District 51 Republican Convention

I stopped by the Senate District 51 Republican convention today. I've got a report of my discussions with congressional district candidates and Michele Bachmann's speech over on Dump Bachmann.

Brad Biers, Michele Bachmann's former campaign manager easily won endorsement over Robyn West (85% first ballot). They were running for the seat to replace Anoka Stadium boondoggle supporter Republican Andy Westerberg. The duputy chair of SD 51 told me this was because the delegates in SD 51 are extraordinarily intelligent, and Brad had an edge over West because he knew more about the legislature (Brad works in the legislature). The deputy chair told me the republican index was high in this district and Brad is expected to win easily over the DFL opponent. Brad mentioned his long time support for "pro-life" (I assume that means criminalizing abortion) and "traditional marriage" (I assume that means support for Bachmann's amendment.

The Vikings Football stadium was an issue. Both candidates were opposed to public subsidies for stadiums. I asked Brad Biers where he stood on the Twins stadium plan, and he opposes that also. I contacted the DFL candidate for this seat, Scott Kranz. Kranz opposes both legislative stadium bills. I asked Kranz for his position on the Bachmann amendment, and he opposes the amendment.

I talked with Pam Wolf, the candidate running against Don Betzold. I asked Pam if the Bachmann amendment was the issue she was planning on using against Betzold. Pam does not like the term the "Bachmann amendment". She prefers to label her support for the amendment as being in support of traditional marriage than being in support of Senator Bachmann's amendment.

She said she wants Senator Betzold to keep his word to her and have a committee hearing for the amendment. I told her that he did have committee hearings on this bill in 2004. She said that his committee heard the bill too late for anything to be done about it on the floor. Michele Bachmann was saying something similar in her debate with Scott Dibble. I'm not familiar enough with the Minnesota Senate rules to know whether this is accurate or not, and it's generally not a good idea to rely on Michele Bachmann for accuracy.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Wouldn't you think that all those who sanctimoniously call themselves pro-life would be up in arms about the damage done to foetuses because we allow plants to emit mercury? because we do not (yet) have a huge outcry about the charms attached to Reebock children's shoes? because we are slow to regulate coal fired power plants?

Is there something I am missing? Or is it as I have always thought:
that those who oppose women making their own decisions are really invested in control, not in life.

Let me get this straight. Many are in a lather about Senator Dean Johnson's unfortunate remarks about coversations with Minnesota Supreme Court Justices. He later admitted that he only spoke to one and that conversation was "embellished."

But nobody seems to be in a lather about the person who taped him, without his knowledge. If I am to believe what I read, this was at a meeting of pastors. How odd. I know it is legal to tape someone without their knowledge; I do not know if it is legal to use it. But, I believe it is irresponsible. If there was ever a time to be in a lather this would be one in my book.

It is also a time to be in a lather about the fact that the Republican Party took a case all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States to get a ruling that it is okay for Judges to talk about issues that may come before them. May is the operative word. But, Lo and Behold, the Republican Party is one group in a lather because of this transgression. What transgression? How odd.

I think people are in a lather about the wrong things. They should be upset with the person who did the taping. They should be upset with the Republican Pary, which protests too much. They should also be upset that Johnson reported that such a conversation occurred and maybe that it was had at all (if it was). In other words, they are all culpable.

ELCA St. Paul Synod Bishop Peter Rogness weighs in on Bachmann Amendment

From today's St. Paul Pioneer Press

Bishop: Set aside marriage legislation
Bill won't protect heterosexual pacts, Rogness says
Pioneer Press

The bishop of the largest denomination of Lutherans in the St. Paul area said Thursday that Minnesota lawmakers should not send forward a proposed constitutional marriage amendment because it would hinder the civil rights of gay and lesbian people and do nothing to protect heterosexual marriage.

"I encourage lawmakers to set this ill-advised legislation aside,'' Bishop Peter Rogness wrote in an e-mail letter to ministers in the St. Paul Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

"A referendum is both an abrogation of the responsibility of lawmakers to attend to the business of making fair and just laws, and a giving in to the emotion of the moment.'

The proposal being debated in the Legislature would put a referendum before Minnesota voters asking them to approve a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

The ELCA's St. Paul Area Synod hasn't taken action on the proposed legislation. The state's Roman Catholic bishops have endorsed the proposed amendment and mobilized parishioners to petition their lawmakers to support it. Pastors of several other Protestant churches also have rallied their members to push for the amendment, even as others have denounced it.

Rogness wrote that "the Christian tradition has always understood marriage as a life-long relationship between a man and a woman."

But, he wrote, some people are drawn into lifelong, intimate relationships with those of the same gender, which should not threaten heterosexual marriage.
"Not a single male/female marriage will be strengthened by the proposed amendment," Rogness wrote. "Nothing in society is made unstable by a gay couple who decides to spend their lives together."

Rogness stressed that marriage needs "all the bolstering it can get," citing couples ill-prepared for marriage, the travails of divorce, and the importance of stable families and mature relationships.

"Though the proposed legislation claims to address these concerns, in fact it does no such thing," he wrote.

The ELCA, more theologically liberal than Lutheran counterparts in the Missouri or Wisconsin Synod churches, nonetheless has grappled internally with its understanding of gay and lesbian issues, including the unions of homosexual couples and the ordination of those in same-gender relationships.

Rather than "give in to the anxiety of this cultural moment," Rogness wrote, he asked that religious teaching be left to religious groups and civil legislation be left to civil groups.

The ELCA's Minneapolis Area Synod last year went on record opposing a marriage amendment.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Bridges Judges Sell

Spot has a couple excellent posts about the "who is lying" question. Spot's familiar with the law and rules of evidence.

The post today follows on some things that Spot was going to write, but CP is a morning sponge, and Spot is neither morning nor sponge.

The papers this morning are full of Chief Justice Russell Anderson's public comments about the question, and CP discusses them very well. Here's a quote from the Chief Justice, a recent Pawlenty appointee by the way, from CP's post; the link is there:

"We don't give advisory opinions," he said. "We decide these cases in the context of real cases with real people and real controversies. We do not prejudge them."

Jeebus that sounds so noble. And of course, the Court does not render advisory opinions. But if Justice Russell is telling us that a Supreme Court Justice has never discussed a legal issue, not before the Court at the time, with a legislator or constituent, Spotty suggests that you take the statement with a grain of salt, a big grain of salt.

Now, boys and girls, Spot is going to tell you about Louis Nizer's "Rule of Probability." Nizer was a famous 20th century trial lawyer, more famous that Johnny Cochrane, even. Nizer's rule helped him sort out conflicting evidence to figure out what really happened in a given situation. The rule is simple: "It probably happened in the most ordinary way." One of Spot's lawyer friends has a corollary to the rule: "Even if it didn't, you'll have trouble convincing a jury otherwise."

You may say Spotty, that is just a statement of the obvious, but often it's not. Let's take a look at the present situation. Is it likely that Dean Johnson would run into a Supreme Court Justice from time to time? Yep. Is it likely that that the Majority Leader might talk shop about an issue that is occupying the Legislature and the Majority Leader's mind, but not the Court? Again, yep. Is it likely that a Justice would thereupon draw himself up to his full height, stare at the Majority Leader, and say, in a voice soaked with contempt, "We don't issue advisory opinions"? Of course not.

Dean Johnson's mistake is – in all probability – taking some remarks made over that non-judicial hot dog and repeating them.

It is also interesting to note that Johnson's comments would probably be admitted in court - as proof that things were said - res gestae - but the Chief Justice's statements that comments were never made would be inadmissable hearsay, since he doesn't claim to be a party to the conversations and therefore has no first-hand knowledge.

That's what I've always thought. Way too much has been made over this.

Drama Queen Gets a Civics Lesson

Lloydletta contributor does a great job.

Here's a short civics lesson.

The GOP is the minority party in the Minnesota Senate. The senators in the DFL majority, which grew by 2 seats in recent special elections, all have election certificates. They didn't just show up one day.

Senators from the minority party author a bill. A commitee chair from the majority party is agreeing to hear the bill.

Who is obstructing what?

Expecting that a bill follow the standard legislative process is not 'obstructionist'. You can disagree with the possible outcome, and be frustrated by the timing, but the argument is strained.

Elected vs Appointed Judiciary

David Schultz has an excellent oped in the Pioneer Press discussing the issues raised with the Dean Johnson flap.

Judicial selection and independence are not usually conversation starters in Minnesota. Yet Sen. Dean Johnson's claim that Minnesota Supreme Court justices assured him they would not overturn the state's law baring same-sex marriages is only the latest event that is increasingly placing the state courts in the eye of a political storm that could threaten their independence and impartiality.

The result? This year could be the one where the courts themselves are a political issue, and the way we select judges could give us Texas-style campaigns that are high profile, nasty and expensive.

Minnesota's courts have been less visible than the legislative or executive branches, but the judiciary is a powerful branch in the state government. In the last few years the courts have used the state constitution to recognize a right of women to terminate a pregnancy, strike down a conceal and carry gun law, and resolve a budget impasse at the Capitol.

Different perceptions. Some laud these decisions, seeing the courts as using their authority to protect rights. Other view these actions as no more than legislating from the bench. For the latter, the solution to judicial activism is to challenge incumbent judges in elections. But to do this, the rules governing judicial elections needed to change. These rules prohibited judicial candidates from announcing their views about issues such as abortion or from affiliating with political parties, or personally soliciting political contributions. These rules were in place to protect judicial independence and impartiality.

Yet in two court decisions by the same name — Republican Party of Minnesota v. White — the U.S. Supreme Court and a federal appeals court declared most of these rules unconstitutional. These decisions set the stage this year for the type of elections more common in Texas, Illinois and Ohio, where campaigns often cost millions of dollars and candidates and interest groups push nasty attack ads no different from those found in other political races. Coming soon to Minnesota we may hear political commercials stating: "A vote for my opponent puts a baby killer on the court" or "Vote for me and I will be tough on corporations."

But these two court decisions are not alone in challenging judicial independence and impartiality. For example, consider a current Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life-sponsored bill, H.F.3258, that is sailing under the radar through the Minnesota House of Representatives. Among other provisions, one would require individual judges to disclose publicly a host of statistics regarding the number of minors whom they permit to terminate a pregnancy without notifying their parents. This disclosure serves no other purpose than creating a scorecard on which individual judges may be evaluated in the next election. Think about how this scorecard might compromise judicial independence.

I had not heard about this bill. We've been hearing so much about gay marriage that we aren't hearing enough about nonsense like this. This type of bill is the type of bill that passes under the radar. I urge people to contact their legislators and tell them to oppose HF 3258. In Hennepin County, MCCL's support backfired on their endorsed candidate. That support became known beyond the MCCL supporters - and people figured the MCCL supported judge was going to be legislating MCCL's agenda from the bench - and voted him down.

Schultz continues:

And then there are Dean Johnson's comments. If, contrary to the chief justice's denial, any justices gave assurances they would not overturn the state marriage law, then shame on them for breaching their neutrality. But shame on Johnson for trying to defuse the same-sex marriage constitutional amendment by fibbing about what the court would do. In giving this assurance he brought into question the court's impartiality while making supporters' case for the amendment stronger than it was before.

Well stated. I recommend that folks read the whole thing.

Captain Fishsticks In Foul Mood

Craig Westover broke the Dean Johnson story - and the story got lots of legs. He's quite irritable today. He's not happy with how St Paul Pioneer Press letter writers reacted to the Dean Johnson nonsense.

Posted on Thu, Mar. 23, 2006
What's the definition of lying? Did Sen. Dean Johnson lie? Webster's dictionary defines lying as making a false statement knowingly. If it sounds like a duck and walks like a duck —- it's probably a duck. Maybe we ought to change the definition of lying (or maybe we already have).

Secret taping was slimy
State Republicans infiltrate a private nonpolitical get-together of Sen. Dean Johnson's fellow ministers and secretly (and illegally) tape it so that they can use cleverly edited parts of it in their anti-gay marriage campaign ads. (According to 626A.02 of the Minnesota State Code, only if the question-asker was the taper could this be legal, and even if it's legal, it's still slimy.)

These same state Republicans last month were caught in the act of sending out anti-gay CDs with spyware on them to unsuspecting Minnesotans What's next? Am I going to wake tomorrow to find state Republican Party Chair Ron Carey sniffing through my sock drawer?

St. Paul
Taping wasn't 'Minnesota Nice'
The Minnesota media have missed the boat on the Johnson/secret recordings story. The real story isn't what Johnson said, but that the partisan opponent who secretly recorded Johnson broke Minnesota law. State code 626A.02 forbids the recording of a conversation by a third party unless one of the people in the conversation knows about the recording. From what's been reported so far, Johnson addressed a group
of pastors while another pastor— not part of their conversation— set out to catch him on tape. That's not Minnesotan; it's not fair and it appears to violate state law. Then again, when Republicans in Washington endorse secret surveillance not authorized by any court, maybe we shouldn't be surprised that Minnesota Republicans do the same thing.

St. Paul

No regrets for intolerance

So Brent Waldemarsen, the senior pastor at Harvest Community Church of God in Willmar, has no regrets about secretly taping Johnson so his comments could be used against him in a battle pitting Christian fundamentalists against homosexual rights. I am sure that Fred Phelps, senior pastor at the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., feels the same lack of regret for picketing soldiers' funerals.

Both men feel that their religion calls them to defend our nation against homosexuals. Both men seem to have trouble distinguishing between what they have a right to do and what is right to do. Amazing what religious intolerance can create, whether in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kansas or here in Minnesota.
St. Paul

Is DFL caucus vote a joke?
I watched the news with laughter when DFL Sen. Ann Rest stated that the full DFL caucus voted to support the tactics of Johnson. What did
she expect?

It has long been the policy of DFL leadership to demonize its members by holding votes by a public show of hands. Did she actually think that anyone in her party would publicly vote against Johnson's actions in a show of hands? We could only imagine how the vote would turn out if a secret ballot had been used. That way the DFL senators could actually vote their own conscience without being intimidated by the rest of their party.

This is a practice that is used in DFL-controlled unions throughout the state to get the media to print false and misleading results. This tactic only proves to the citizens of this great state of the methods the DFL uses to influence the media and get their point falsely published.

St. Paul

Not his kind of Christianity

So Sen. Dean Johnson embellished the truth a little. If that were a crime, the White House and the halls of Congress would be empty, as well as many buildings on Madison Avenue. What worries me more is the pastor who, with partisan political paranoia, secretly taped Johnson's remarks and then peddled them to politicos and the press. I don't know what type of Christianity that pastor is pushing, but I wouldn't want any of it!

A Minnesota Judas

The Bible tells about Judas, a man who befriends Jesus and then betrays him by turning him over to the enemy. Pastor Brent Waldemarsen is a present-day Judas.

Under the guise of friendship, he "befriends" a fellow man-of-the-cloth so he can be invited to a pastors' meeting Johnson is attending. Next, he furtively tape-records Johnson's indefensible divergence from truth. He then betrays his fellow clergymen by turning the tape over for public exposure so as to damage Johnson's reputation.

Unrepentant of his actions, Waldemarsen is nonetheless fearful of protesters at his Sunday service and requests extra police. How will he respond on Judgment Day when answering to God about this despicable act?

We need clergy to be trustworthy, ethical leaders. This is not the case with either Waldemarsen or Johnson.

'Activist judges' talk is a lie

Dean Johnson made an error and has apologized. I would like to hear a similar apology from all politicians and their supporters who talk of "activist judges" over and over again.

The idea that there are activist judges clearly intends to create the perception that some judges can't be trusted to do their jobs, which is to interpret and enforce the constitution. To suggest that our constitution must be changed to protect our citizens from judges who can't be trusted is fiction presented as truth — a lie. It is an attack on the integrity of the court.

If there are activist judges on Minnesota's courts, let's name them and vote them out of office instead of amending the constitution. They aren't being named because their existence is a lie designed to reduce trust in the courts so that our citizens feel compelled to support a marriage amendment. Shame on anyone who uses these words.
St. Paul

Westover pointed out some excellent columns in the Pioneer Press. He was irritated with the columns - I thought the columns he mentioned were quite well written. Former Pioneer Press community columnist Eric Schubert's piece is Craig's 4th reason for heartburn. Money quote:

Feedback from real life. Whether you live in Eagan or Embarrass, how
often have you had lunch with colleagues or chatted with a neighbor and heard the question, "What are we going to do to keep Ole from marrying Sven or Lena from marrying Greta?" I venture not often. I recently attended the annual Minnesota Chamber of Commerce dinner with 2,000 other business people from across the state. These are folks who go to work every day to keep families fed and Minnesota growing. Talk there was focused on making health care more affordable, figuring out long-term solutions for transportation funding, making government as efficient as possible, and cleaning up polluted waters.

No breakout sessions were held on keeping men from marrying men and women from marrying women. Unlike the 1,000 people who showed up this week at the Capitol scared
of who loves whom, most of our state's nearly 3.7 million adults are concerned with much weightier issues, such as classroom sizes, commute times, health care costs, stable employment, retirement benefits, clean water and ducks in the sky. We want Minnesota to work.

It's a strategic mistake for national consultants and the religious righteous to apply a gay marriage cookie-cutter to Minnesota. Yes, I'm sure they see fertile ground here where many of us are stoic and have small-town values. But those who rely on the Gospel according to Rove and see us as simply a target on a red or blue map should remember another Texan's northern exposure. When Red McCombs descended upon
Minnesota, he thought he could get a new stadium by bellowing "purple pride" with all the sincerity of Eddie Haskell. Then he threatened to take our team elsewhere. We may be stoic, but a lot of us think for ourselves and don't like to be backed into a corner. McCombs no longer works here.

Read the whole thing.

Keep Your Eye On the Ball

While the press is focusing on Dean Johnson and the dueling Bachmann amendment rallies, the effort to pass the stadium boondoggle continues. A few weeks back the Sun Sailer interviewed Ron Abrams - who criticised the Twins Stadium Boondoggle. The thin skinned Mike Opat stadium boondoggle promoter had a cow and sent this letter to the editor:

To the editor:

I am writing in response to Rep. Ron Abrams' recent interview in the Sun-Sailor regarding the 2006 Legislative session. When asked about the Twins ballpark proposal, Rep. Abrams incorrectly suggested the tax-exempt revenue bonds issued by Hennepin County for the Twins ballpark may someday impact Hennepin County property taxes.

His assertion is absolutely not true. The Hennepin County Board has not and will not propose issuing General Obligation bonds backed by property taxes to build the ballpark. Hennepin County will also not pledge its property tax base as a credit enhancement for the ballpark revenue bonds.

As has been widely reported since April of 2005, the Hennepin County ballpark plan would be financed through tax-exempt revenue bonds that would be supported by a .15 percent county-wide general sales tax. We are proposing tax-exempt debt to keep interest costs as low as possible. In addition, we believe that sales tax receipts will grow over time and allow us to pay off the debt early and end the tax early. In the Denver area, a .1 percent general sales tax was used to finance Coors Field and the 20-year bonds were retired in less than 10 years.

The Hennepin County Board takes its role as a public steward seriously, and we have managed well. Hennepin County is one of only 19 counties, out of 3,100 nation-wide, that maintains a triple-A credit rating from all three major rating agencies. Hennepin County has held its triple-A rating for 30 straight years. It's a record that the State of Minnesota can't touch. I hope residents keep this context in mind as they consider supporting the County's ballpark financing plan.

While Rep. Abrams has every right to oppose public participation in a new Twins ballpark, it would be more productive if he spent his time selling the merits of his position, rather than spreading misinformation on what is actually being proposed. The public is entitled to an honest debate on this important issue.

Mike Opat

About a month ago, Shane Nakeru posted some interesting speculation about where the votes are on the ways and means committee.

He's gotten some recognition by stadium boosters. He's got a list of legislators that are in favor of increasing Hennepin County Sales taxes to support the twins stadium without a referendum.

According to this DFL Bachmann amendment supporter Bev Scalze is supporting the stadium boondoggle.

This is very useful information put forward by a stadium supporter. I think I'll need to create a similar list - except the illustration for the stadium supporter will be a pork chop.

Nakeru is suggesting that opponents of public financing of stadiums are unAmerican. That seems like overblown rhetoric.

Breaking Nooz! Republican Party of Minnesota Promotes Speech by Marriage Referendum Opponent!

Ward Connerly who is best known for his criticism of Affirmative Action will be coming to Minneapolis to speak at the Center for the American Experiment. Ward Connerly was also a leader in the fight against proposition 22 in California.

Connerly Leads GOP Charge Against Prop 22

January 27, 2000

(SACRAMENTO) Led by conservative businessman and U.C. Regent Ward Connerly and the party's frontrunner for the U.S. Senate, Congressman Tom Campbell, Republican Party leaders and stalwarts today announced their opposition to Proposition 22?-- the Knight Initiative to limit the definition of marriage.

Appearing at news conferences in Sacramento and Burbank, Connerly denounced the initiative as intrusive and offered reasons why conservatives and Republicans should oppose it.

"As a conservative, I value commitment and responsibility," said Connerly, chair of the Proposition 209 campaign in 1996 which struck down race- and gender-based preferences. "I also believe government should not intrude in people's private lives. That is why conservatives should oppose Prop. 22."

From today's GOP Newsline:

Center of the American Experiment Welcomes Ward Connerly

Ward Connerly will keynote an American Experiment Dinner Forum on "America's Promise Realized: Getting Beyond Race" on Tuesday, March 28, 2006. Many have argued against the use of racial preferences, describing them as invariably unfair, routinely counterproductive, out of line with the Constitution, and out of step with our nation's true spirit. No one, though, has done so with more clarity, conviction, and success than Ward Connerly, who led the way, for example, in ending the University of California's use of race as a means of admission during his service as a regent.

After the program, Mr. Connerly will be available to sign his latest book, Creating Equal: My Fight Against Racial Preferences.

Event Details:

6:00 PM - 7:30 PM
Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Hilton Minneapolis
3rd Floor
1001 Marquette Avenue South

Ticket Info:
Pre-registration admission is $30 until March 23.
Admission after March 23 or at the door is $35.

To Register For This Event, visit or call Peter Zeller at 612-338-3605.

I registered for this event. I would very much like to see Ward Connerly speak.

The City Pages did a story on the internal disputes at the Center for the American Experiment. Annette Meeks was fired - and many staff left with her in protest.

Annette Meeks is still listed as President and CEO on the website. With all the turmoil going on there, they probably haven't had the time to completely clean up their website.

Bachmann and Dibble Debate on Thursday

91.1 MPR - 11:00 am. Gary Eichten will host (yet another) debate on the Midday program.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Photos from 2006 Bachmann Amendment Rally

Andy at Eleventh Avenue South has an excellent wrapup of the 2006 anti-gay rally at the capitol. He points out the Minnesota for Marriage Trademark signs are "advocating for the defense of marriage between men's and women's restrooms."

UPDATE: Outfront Minnesota also has photos of the anti-gay rally posted.

On the Bible and the Constitution

A Lloydletta reader sent me this one:

On Wednesday, March 1, 2006, in Annapolis, MD at a hearing on the proposed Constitutional Amendment to prohibit gay marriage, Jamie Raskin, professor of law at AU (American University), was requested to testify.

At the end of his testimony, Republican Senator Nancy Jacobs said: "Mr. Raskin, my Bible says marriage is only between a man and a woman. What do you have to say
about that?"

Raskin replied: "Senator, when you took your oath of office, you placed your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. You did not place your hand on
the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible."

The room erupted into applause.

It seems that Raskin is running for state senate in Maryland.

The quote taken from a Baltimore Sun article posted on Raskin's website.

In case you're bored with the local theocrats.....

Just remember, we have Katherine Harris running for a US Senate seat in Florida. God help us.


Sunday, March 19, 2006
HARRIS puts her faith `on the line'


In her first major campaign swing since announcing that she would put $10 million into her U.S. Senate race, Katherine HARRIS got a morale boost from South Florida voters and preached the gospel to hundreds of evangelical Christians. The Republican congresswoman addressed the Reclaiming America For Christ conference in Fort Lauderdale, where speakers railed against homosexuality, abortion and the American Civil Liberties Union. The title of HARRIS' speech was `Bringing Faith to the Public Forum.'

'I can't imagine public service without faith,'' said HARRIS, amid stained glass windows and American flags. `I don't know how anyone could serve, absent that enormous strength.'

HARRIS said bringing faith to public service is putting 'everything on the line,' invoking the same phrase she used on national television Wednesday when she announced she was staying in the Senate race. Her declaration followed two weeks of speculation that she was abandoning her challenge to well-financed Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. Her declarations of faith were met with a standing ovation in the church, but might make some more moderate, less religious voters squirm. She said she was raised in a 'godly family,' and talked about studying at L'Abri fellowship in Switzerland with evangelical Francis Schaeffer.

'I came to realize that my faith wasn't a portion of my life,' HARRIS said. `It was the main ingredient that should motivate every single word and act.'

After her speech, HARRIS was scheduled to meet with advocates of a constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage in Florida. A petition drive to put the measure on the 2006 ballot failed to garner enough signatures, so organizers are aiming for 2008. In contrast to her on-screen image, HARRIS seemed down to earth at the 'grass fire' campaign events at La Carreta in Miami, TGI Friday's in Fort Lauderdale and a community center at a West Palm Beach park.

At the Fort Lauderdale restaurant, activists rushed over to clasp her hands and offer words of support.

'Broward County is ready to work hard for her,' said Maureen Jaeger, vice chairwoman of the local Republican party.

'She is going to have to win over voters, but she's one of the hardest campaigners out there,' Jaeger added.

Questions remain about whether HARRIS can overcome the issues of staff turnover, slow fundraising and lukewarm support from the state and national parties. She canceled a Tampa press conference scheduled for Friday and declined to speak to reporters after her speech at the church. She would have faced questions about her relationship with a defense contractor who pleaded guilty to giving her illegal campaign contributions. HARRIS has said she didn't know the donations were illegal, but she has not explained why she asked for $10 million in federal funding for Mitchell Wade's company after they dined together and a member of her staff left to work for him. Ed Kennedy, Broward's Republican state committeeman, said the party needs to quit worrying about whether HARRIS is too polarizing to win statewide because of political liabilities, like her role in the 2000 presidential recount.

'It's too late to have doubts. She's in,' Kennedy said. `Republicans are going to rally around her because we want that Senate seat.''

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

2006 Bachmann Amendment Rally

Ken Avidor attended and sent me this photo:

If other Lloydletta readers attended or got photos from this rally, please send me an email or leave your impressions of the rally in the comments.

I'd be interested in hearing which politicians spoke or were present at this event.

UPDATE: Lloydletta contributor Mark points out that Nick Coleman has a column about the anti-gay activist rally.

Ken Avidor's daughter, Celia Avidor interviewed participants and has posted her video of the event.

DFL Statement on Dean Johnson


ST. PAUL (03/20/06)-"Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson has been both a moral leader and a friend to Minnesota throughout his life. One unguarded comment in a private discussion with his fellow clergy cannot undo his 36 years of valued service in the Minnesota National Guard, his good work as a Lutheran minister or his 28 years of admirable public service at the State Capitol. Senator Johnson has the full support of the DFL Senate majority caucus, and we look forward to many more years of his leadership and service. He has apologized for his comments, and it's time to move on.

"Through his spokesperson last week, Governor Pawlenty said, 'Senator Johnson admitted that he made a mistake and apologized and there should be room for forgiveness.'

"When Republican Speaker of the House Steve Sviggum was asked last week if he had ever embellished in conversation, he said, 'If it means putting my spin on things, I'm sure I've done that on many occasions.'

"This incident must not distract us from the real issues that matter most to Minnesotans: education, health care, jobs, transportation, and clean air and water.

"The minister who secretly taped Senator Johnson's comments in a private meeting is a petty opportunist. His covert deception exposes the extremists pushing the same-sex amendment as people of weak principles.

"The Republican Party endorsed these underhanded tactics by broadcasting the secretly-taped conversation in a radio advertisement. The Republican Party's actions are morally and politically reprehensible. When they can't win on the real issues of the day, they will descend into the muck. Well, they can wallow there alone."

Ron Carey is no match for Brian Melendez. The Drama Queen is whining that this statement is "hateful." The College Republicans were demonstrating outside Dean Johnson's office. CR and Student for Bachmann Luke Hellier gets quoted.

"It is time for Dean Johnson to end the deception and come clean with the people of Minnesota," said Luke Hellier, Vice Chair North of the Minnesota College Republicans. "He is supposed to be a leader in this state, and even his apologies for his insincerity are deceptive and insincere. We still don't know how many other groups he told this same deceptive story, or whether or not he is going to allow the people to vote on the defense of marriage. That isn't leadership."

Luke, the bill is getting a hearing. There are other issues before the legislature. We can continue to debate gay marriage on talk radio (though I think people are getting tired of the topic).

Governor Pawlenty is getting worried that the Republican Party focus on Johnson's embellishment is getting in the way of accomplishing other legislative business.

"He's asked for forgiveness and a second chance," Pawlenty said. "I think we should give it to him and move on."

Pawlenty said he remains troubled by inconsistencies in Johnson's account and that of high court members. Supreme Court justices have denied promising they wouldn't overturn an existing state law banning gay marriage.

All of it comes amid a push for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. The measure has passed the House but needs Senate approval before voters can weigh in during a statewide referendum.

"He's been caught in at best an exaggeration and at worst a false statement. He's essentially admitted that," Pawlenty said at a news conference on an unrelated topic. "There's a lot of work that needs to be done here in St. Paul relating to education and health care and transportation and the like. The matter has been aired out pretty good and at some point we need to turn the page and get on to the business of the people."

Mark Drake, a state Republican Party spokesman, said there are no immediate plans to back down.

"We value Gov. Pawlenty, his opinion and his perspective, but we feel the state party has a different role," Drake said. "We can forgive Dean Johnson for his fabrication but we feel there must be some accountability there."

Party chairman Ron Carey has called for more investigation, and some legislative Republicans are mulling whether to file an ethics complaint against Johnson. The group Minnesota Citizens in Defense of Marriage wants Johnson to resign his seat.

It seems that the Bachmann amendment is the only thing on Republican Party Chair Ron Carey's agenda. This will hurt the party when this becomes their only issue.

UPDATE: The Drama Queen is beside herself. Lloydletta contributor Mark H notes:

Madame Brodkorp also claims that the Melendez statement contains lies. Where?

True, some of it is opinion and political spin, but.....


As the Drama Queen says:

The DFL has done nothing to defend Senator Johnson, other than issusing (sic) a press release yesterday filled with lies and hateful statements.

The Drama Queen seems frustrated. Even Governor Tim Pawlenty seems to be agreeing with the DFL on this one.

Republican Party Phone Banks for the Bachmann Amendment

A commenter posts the Republican Party of Minnesota Action alert:

March 20
Call to Action
Help Support the Marriage Amendment!!

Volunteer to phone at the Republican party tonight:

Phone bank at party headquarters from 6-9 pm, pizza and pop provided.

Contact Nicole at 651-842-0123 or email

Sounds like there was more of a circus today. From a Lloydletta reader:

In the Taxes Committee during a meeting on House File 1909 (Which was a bill to raise the licenses fees for hunters for funds to go back to clean water maintenance and wetland preserves, etc.....)

...Rep. Ron Erhardt (R) of Dist 41A Edina, proposed adding Amendment A-10 which was basically Bachmann's Amendment bill.

His words were, quote "I have spoken to Michele about this and she is very supportive of it, I know the folks in the 6th district are very interested in this.... wanting to help the races along up there, I'm offering this amendment as, uh, uh...a good and proper thing to do."

Rep. Erhardt was then asked by a committee member if he had spoken to anyone on the Supreme Court about this (laughs from the committee). "No."

Rep. Dan Dorman (R) of Dist 27A Albert Lea proposed an oral amendment to the Erhardt Amendment, deleting all "legal equivalent" language from was voted down, and the A-10(Marriage) Amendment was attached to HS1909. However, after other amendments and tax code discussions, the committee adjourned before the bill when anywhere else...

So the circus goes on. Frequent critic STEA points out:

Where is your outrage over Jim Vickerman "Hanging the Senate and Dean Johnson out to dry?"


Reasonable point STEA. DFLer Jim Vickerman deserves criticism. Though Vickerman isn't in leadership - and Entenza is - and usually there are some expectations of leaders.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Paul Koering and Jim Vickerman Vote to Bring Bachmann Amendment to the Floor

Minnesota for Marriage puts out another hysteria-laced press release:

People of Minnesota silenced again!
DFL Senators carry out Johnson/Betzold scheme to muzzle the voice of Minnesotan’s by twice rejecting efforts to discuss marriage amendment on senate floor.

ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA - Today, the DFL controlled senate – twice - voted to reject discussion of the marriage amendment. "This is inexcusable", said Chuck Darrell communications director of Minnesota for Marriage. "This is just another example of the Johnson/Betzold political scheme to censor the people of Minnesota from defining marriage as between one man and one woman. When will DFL senators show some backbone and stand with their constituents – instead of special interests - who are simply asking for the opportunity to vote on the definition of marriage?"

I repeat. I think the amendment bill should come to the floor for a vote. However, that doesn't mean that because of Johnson's actions, we throw out the committee system and cast a sympathy vote for the marriage amendment. Because of what Johnson said and did the amendment has no greater nor no less significance, no greater no less credibility, no greater no less urgency for passage. The Senate still ought to follow its rules; I would urge members of the Judiciary committee to pass the bill, with or without recommendation to the Senate floor for debate.

Senator Jim Vickerman, DFL District 20, was the lone DFL senator to vote twice to hear discussion. "We thank Senator Vickerman for standing with his constituents and supporting the marriage amendment. We look forward to his continued support in the future," he added.

Senator Paul Koering GOP District 12 voted twice to here discussion as well. "Our heartfelt thanks to Senator Koering," said Darrell. "We plan to let Senator Koering's constituents know that Paul heard their voice and voted to bring the amendment to the floor," said Darrell.

I'm disappointed by Koering's vote. Last year he voted against Michele Bachmann's motion to bring the vote to the floor.

Craig Westover responds to Darrell's the sky is falling press release:

Just because the people want to vote on the amendment, that doesn't mean that they should. This is first an foremost a legislative issue. This is a great example of why we have a republican form of government and not a true democracy. The public's response to the issue is visceral. Legislators should vote on the amendment considering a broader view of what constitutes constitutionality, the impact on other laws, the broader social consequences -- that's why we have a committee system. No legislator should vote for the amendment bill just because people want to vote and he or she wishes to please constituents. Each vote for the amendment should be cast because the legislator truly believes the amendment would be good for Minnesota.

Outfront Minnesota sends out an action alert:

TODAY: Proponents of "anti-marriage" amendment force TWO Senate votes ... take action!

(March 20) - One day before the Minnesota Family Council's planned rally at the State Capitol in favor of a proposed amendment to the Minnesota constitution that would ban any form of legal recognition of same-sex couples, senators supporting the amendment forced two procedural votes designed to short-circuit Senate rules for handling bills, including constitutional amendments.

In a first vote, senators turned back by a 34-31 tally a demand by Sen. Michele Bachmann (R - Stillwater) that the bill, SF 1691, be pulled from the Senate Judiciary Committee and be brought to the Senate floor for a vote by the full Senate.

A second move, sponsored by Sean Nienow (R - Cambridge), proposed a new constitutional amendment, identical to Sen. Bachmann's, and also insisted that it be put to an immediate vote by the full Senate. This effort was defeated by a 35-30 vote.

These proposals to simply ignore the rules of the Senate managed to eat up some three hours of the Senate calendar. In the end, both proposals were DEFEATED, outcomes that OutFront Minnesota supports strongly. Vote count: each DFL Senator (and Independence Party Sen. Sheila Kiscaden of Rochester) voted against these proposals EXCEPT Sen. Jim Vickerman (DFL - Tracy), and each Republican Senator voted for these proposals. DFL Sens. Mee Moua and Leroy Stumpf were absent and did not vote. Sen. Gary Kubly (DFL - Granite Falls) inadvertently voted in favor of Sen. Bachmann's proposal, but voted against Sen. Nienow's, which explains the inconsistent vote tallies above.

TAKE ACTION! If you have not contacted your state senator yet to register your opposition to SF 1691, a proposal that would mandate permanent second-class citizenship for same-sex couples in Minnesota by withholding any form of legal recognition of their families, THIS IS THE TIME. Senators who stood with us on these votes, including Sen. Kubly, need to be thanked for taking a courageous stand against those who insist on amending our constitution, for the first time, to single out a group of people for unequal treatment. Senators who supported these procedural moves need to be reminded that their constituents do not support them. Sens. Moua and Stumpf should be thanked for their historic support for OutFront Minnesota's position on the constitutional amendment proposal, and encouraged to stay strong in the face of relentless attacks by amendment supporters.

Click here: for a complete list of senators, where their phone numbers, email addresses, and addresses are quickly available. Don't know who your state senator is? Click here: to type in your zip code and be provided your state senator's (and state representative's) name.

DON'T FORGET to attend the People of Faith Rally at the Capitol this Thursday the 23rd from 8-9am. Wake up early and be counted! For more information.

Katherine Kersten Haiku

I asked for some Haiku that would summarize Kersten's recent column. Brian Hokanson obliged:

Title: Probabilities

First, polygamy;
Second, man on box turtle;
Third, Kate locates brain.

Not me

Damn liberal rag
From which far-left filth does spew.
Who subscribes to that?

Eww but true

Sad, sad, irony:
Bachmann and Kersten, melding.
Such a cute couple.

Eww indeed.....

i just got done reading her latest article and i have another take on it than the one eva mentioned, although ill admit that could be a possibility. but its also possible that they wanted to put conflict and outrage in their paper to get attention. you know-the same kinda scheme they have on cable "news." i personally believe that cable news is an oxymoron just like jumbo shrimp-i had to say that as tnt has forrest gump on now : ) lol.

and if in fact that is there intention then it certainly has worked w/ me. i was reading her latest column and im wondering if she knows that gays adopt children?
jcb 03.19.06 - 11:50 pm | #

The only way that Kersten would know about gay people adopting children is if she read it in the book of Leviticus, or the infomation was published by the Minnesota Family Council. She has no knowledge of the world outside of those two sources.
Mark H

Now Minnesota's Worst Writer is whining about having her statements being referred to as bigotry. If the shoe fits...

Two Bachmann Amendment Supporting Drama Queens

Lloydletta contributor Mark notes:

I think we can start referring to Speaker Sviggum as Drama Queen II. He seemed to be pimping Johnson for some big emotional outburst on Friday night's 'Almanac' couch, and it never happened. Johnson had it pulled together.

Sviggum was so.... intentional in his attempt to underplay it, he was overplaying. He's quite a piece of work.
Mark H

A commenter points out another Drama Queen.

West Central Tribune:

Fearing protestors, pastor requests extra police
Carolyn Lange
West Central Tribune
Published Monday, March 20, 2006

WILLMAR — A Willmar pastor, who feared there would be protestors at his Sunday morning worship service, requested extra police patrol from the Willmar Police Department this weekend.

There were no protestors.

Police officers did, however, drive by the Harvest Community Church of God on Southwest Litchfield Avenue several times, according to Willmar Police.

Brent Waldemarsen, pastor at the church, had requested extra patrol for his 10 a.m. church service. According to a police report, Waldemarsen was concerned that protestors would disrupt the service.

Waldemarsen, who is involved in a statewide organization to get the gay marriage ban amendment on the ballot, admitted this week that he secretly recorded Sen. Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar, as Johnson spoke with a group of local pastors in January.

In the tape, Johnson is heard saying that several of the Minnesota Supreme Court justices assured him that the state's current law prohibiting marriage between gay individuals would not be challenged. The recording has caused a political controversy in the state.

Johnson, who didn't know he was being recorded, has apologized for the statements.

According to police, protestors opposed to gay marriage have been present in the past at Calvary Lutheran Church, when Johnson, who is a Lutheran pastor there, had been preaching.

Spycake points out:

Has anyone seen/heard the full tape yet? In the Star Trib interview with the pastor, he said he taped him in order to "quote Sen. Johnson... accurately and in context." And yet instead of releasing the whole tape (context), he provides it to his preferred political group so they can use some choice soundbites in their ads...

I wrote a letter to the Strib about this, but unfortunately Katherine Kersten's latest missive is hogging all the editorial space!

Good point.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

My feelings exactly on Dean Johnson

Strib Letters:

Shame on both sides

The DFL leadership has once again failed the Moral Majority test. Sen. Dean Johnson's actions are indeed disturbing to anyone who values our democracy.

Yet equally disturbing is that his comments will be used to provide a shroud of legitimacy to the extremists who hope to further deny rights to a group of our citizens who pay their taxes, willingly adopt children from the foster care system and contribute so much to our state.


Others add:

Go to confession

I am disgusted by the fact that an ordained pastor feels it is acceptable to use such underhanded tactics as secretly recording a private conversation with Sen. Dean Johnson and then flogging it for political advantage.

Where are this religious leader's basic ethics -- such as honesty -- and why is he so ready to sacrifice them to push a specific agenda?

This is the outcome when religious groups become overly partisan and enter the political sphere. No one has clean hands.


They'll stop at nothing

In the politicking over the same-sex marriage amendment, I thought I had seen and heard just about everything. But the anti-gay, anti-family Minnesota Citizens for Defense of Marriage's ultimatum -- to either call for Sen. Dean Johnson's resignation or call for a vote on its hateful amendment to our state's Constitution -- is politics at its worst.

This group's latest action has suggested to me that its members will stop at just about nothing to ram their agenda down the collective electorate's throat, and to create a sensationalist story out of nothing -- all for the political benefit of a small group of Republican candidates.

On the contrary, Johnson has led the state Senate to appropriately focus on the real issues facing this state, such as health care, transportation and finances.

The underlying message of the hot-button issue to ban all forms of recognition and protection for same-sex partnerships and families is still the same, regardless of the spin: Discrimination is discrimination, and doesn't belong in our state's Constitution.


The Drama Queen has a screenshot of the Minnesota Citizens in Defense of Marriage anti-Dean Johnson ad in the Strib.

Almanac covers the issue here.

Other ministers at the meeting with Dean Johnson are criticizing the minister who taped the meeting.

Miller said he wasn't pleased that a pastor from outside the New London-Spicer Ministerial Association, who was welcomed to the meeting, recorded what was said. The publicity on the volatile political issue has put the group in the spotlight when its members had nothing to do with the recording, he said. “It troubles me and it troubles others."

For his part, Waldemarsen said he is overwhelmed with the life that the recording has taken on in the statewide media. He said his goal is to have the marriage amendment put on the ballot.

This is obvious. Despite the self righteous blather about being concerned about court integrity, it's clear that the anti-gay activist groups and the Republican Party of Minnesota want to use this issue to pressure Johnson to allow a floor vote.

Free for All Running for the Sabo Seat

Are the Republicans even going to bother contesting it?

My guess: no DFL endorsement, and the race will go to a DFL primary where it will be decided. The question is whether the Independence, Green or Republican parties will field contenders for this race.

The Drama Queen is alternating between this and pushing for Dean Johnson to resign.

Reasonable question on the Sabo race is if he made his intentions known so late in the game to help Mike Erlandson. This could backfire. From Democratic Underground:

It strikes me as rather bad timing

- if state reps or senators decide to go for his seat, that leaves their districts looking for candidates to replace them - and distict endorsing conventions are starting. It also leaves potential candidates with very little time to get organized and start raising funds for a Congressional run. I can't help but wonder if it were timed this way to make it easier for Erlandson.

This race will keep Minneapolis activists more focused locally and less focused on helping in suburban races.

Craig Westover points out why the bills banning funeral protests are bad ideas.

Duke Cunningham, Brian Bilbray and Bob Filner - Oh My!

San Diego, California has become known as "Enron by the Sea" for the mismanagement of public funds with a pension scandal. More recently Duke Cunningham's foibles revealed a culture of corruption in Washington. Now there's a new scandal brewing starring some more unsavory San Diego characters: former congressman Brian Bilbray, current congressman Bob Fillner and a returning feature role for disgraced former congressman Duke Cunningham.

Pogoblog explains:

A No-Bid Contract to Watch

Today, we made publicly available a letter we sent yesterday to the Acting Commissioner of a little-known agency called the US section of the International Boundary and Water Commission (USIBWC) (The USIBWC is a semi-autonomous agency in the State Department and has a Mexican government counterpart). This letter raises concerns about an up to $600 million, no-bid contract awarded by the USIBWC to the Bajagua Project LLC, a small San Diego area company owned by investors who are hoping to turn a profit off of treating Mexican wastewater. The company, Bajagua, has friends in Congress who have helped make the deal happen through legislation and other sources of pressure to the USIBWC.

For example, Representative Bob Filner (D-CA) who tailored part of Public Law 106-457 to mirror Bajagua's proposal for an international wastewater treatment plant, wrote in a letter dated January 10, 2001 to the USIBWC (pdf):

Congress was briefed on, and supportive of, the Bajagua proposal at the highest levels. Congress intentionally exempted the owners of the proposed ‘Mexican facility’ from federal procurement law anticipating that Aqua Clara, LLC would be the owner of that facility, Mr. Oberstar writes.

(Bajagua is a subsidiary of Aqua Clara LLC. Oberstar is Congressman James Oberstar (D-MN), the Ranking Democratic Member of the House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.)

Later Filner and former Representative Brian Bilbray (R-CA) wrote a letter to the USIBWC dated December 4, 2000 (pdf) telling them to view Mexican procurement laws as "not relevant."

The Mexican facility is not a public project in Mexico. Therefore, public contracting law in Mexico is not relevant. USIBWC has no responsibility to investigate public contracting law in Mexico with the Mexican section of the IBWC regarding contract issues. USIWBC should focus on Treaty issues. It is the responsibility of the owner of the Mexican facility to develop the project in Mexico, and therefore, comply with Mexican law with regard to its project.

But as we reveal in a letter dated July 28, 2005 from the Mexican government (pdf), the Mexican government felt that it was being left out of the process, even though the project was to be built in Mexico. This letter is also labeled "sensitive but unclassified" by the USIBWC, despite the fact that the author writes that Mexico's "points [were] made known to the public."

Bajagua's principals (and at least one principal's wife) gave thousands of dollars to Filner, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and other political campaigns.

The San Diego Union Tribune has also been investigating this nonsense. Money quote:

“The well-being of San Diegans is being sacrificed to enrich a company with no history of undertaking any similar projects,” Weaver wrote in an e-mail in response to a question from The San Diego Union-Tribune. “Bajagua's connections with Vice President Cheney and . . . the fact that Duke Cunningham was a champion in their cause should make any decent person's skin crawl.”

Cunningham, who signed a letter to Bush backing Bajagua in March 2002, resigned in November after pleading guilty to accepting $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors.

Oink.... Oink.... PORK!