Friday, April 29, 2011

The Republican Party's Gambling Problem

In an odd, over-heated moment this week the issue of gambling, whether to expand it, what constitutes expansion and the role of RNC committeewoman/man engulfed the Republican Party of Minnesota. As someone said to MC at Thursday night's Elephant Club meeting held to congratulate Tony Sutton, Michael Brodkorb, David Sturrock, Pat Anderson and Jeff Johnson for their respective elections: "How did we go from one to ten in volume on this issue on the basis of a single Star Tribune article?" Good question.

Earlier in the week Rachel Stassen-Berger of the Star Tribune tweeted a story by her colleague Baird Helgeson that newly elected RNC member Pat Anderson had registered as a lobbyist for Cantebury Park, the race horse facility in Shakopee. That story can be read HERE. Plotzing, ventilating and general over-reaction ensued among activists and some RPM leaders. MC waited for the week to pass before making any observations, studied or otherwise.

The primary indictment against Anderson is twofold: that her position on "racino" is at odds with the party platform against gambling expansion and that she should have disclosed her upcoming lobbyist position in advance of the election she won at State Central on April 16th to replace Evie Axdahl as the RPM committeewoman to the Republican National Committee. MC thinks there is no merit to the first and some to the second.

The chief scold against Anderson has been RPM deputy chair Michael Brodkorb. In his view, Anderson must choose between her client and her RNC position. Apparently this is because of the perceived conflict with the party platform: "She is a party officer, she sits on the executive committee. There is an expectation she will support the party platform. Plus the timing of this and how she handled this, it's going to be difficult for her." These comments strike MC less as reasons than conclusions. To each of them one may respond sprightly: so what? It's not that Anderson can't be criticized or that a good discussion about gambling should be had; it's that Brodkorb's arguments are not on their face persuasive and fail as such. Other, improved arguments may well be forthcoming in the next few weeks from him and others and they will deserve attention and reflection.

Anderson, rising to the challenge, points out that most republicans don't agree with everything in the platform (demonstrably true) and that "[o]ne of the platforms in the party is to support the free markets. Another is opposition to the Indian casino monopoly." She went on to suggest Brodkorb himself was on thin ice given he is (paid) senior staff of the Senate GOP caucus as well as (volunteer) deputy chair of the party. To this Brodkorb replies that the delegates knew of that fact when they elected and reelected him. True as well but this suggests to MC that conflicts are ok if delegates approve them. Both Anderson and Brodkorb would be well served to leave this issue alone; it's a draw at best and comes at a bit too much spilt blood. Cyndy Brucato tweeted that she was unsure how both Anderson and Brodkorb could get along at the Elephant Club meeting given her sense that the disagreement had become personal. To the disappointment of some media, Anderson had left for another engagement (with Jeff Johnson) in Carver County by the time Brodkorb arrived seriously late for the event. MC approves of manners and chalks this up to the deputy chair being gracious, something his critics fail to appreciate in him. Some say he was afraid of Anderson to which MC can hardly stop laughing. Brodkorb has more guts than most of our elected republican officials (or talk show critics) and has the scars to prove it.

Thursday the sparring couple dialed into the KTLK FM (100.3) morning show (still looking for an identity and ratings) hosted by Bob Davis and Tom Emmer. Who knew there was a market for incestuous republican party contretemps? At any rate, MC thought Anderson had the better of the exchange although the parties were not on the air contemporaneously. Readers can click HERE to listen to the podcast themselves and make up their own minds. MC found Anderson fearless and armed with exceptionally strong arguments not usually heard in public.

Other observers and party activists have weighed in with thoughtful commentary. Andy Aplikowski at Residual Forces blog came down strongly against Anderson. He can be read by clicking HERE. Reflexive ur-liberal Sally Jo Sorenson writes with some humor (that rarest of commodities on the left) about the gambling issue at her blog Bluestem Prairie. She can be read by clicking HERE. MC must lament in passing her wildly inappropriate use of homo homini lupus and its application to the current controversy. Latin for "man is wolf to man" the phrase is best used when discussing the Holocaust, the Gulag or the Killing Fields. It's typical of the liberal mindset to be overwrought about mere policy disputes while staying silent about, oh, the slaughter of Syrians while our President remains likewise mute. But MC digresses.

Without knowing or intending it, Pat Anderson has provided the RPM a signal service. First, why does the party have a platform the size of a Manhattan phone book which no one reads and no one, really, on balance cares about? The more stuffed the platform with exotic fringe issues of importance only to those few delegates who advance them, the less worthy of overall respect and adherence it becomes. The platform should be scrapped altogether and replaced with a dozen or so cleanly stated principles (hat tip Joey Gerdin). Perhaps then they would actually mean something.

Second, why is an RNC committeewoman being savaged when Senate President Michelle Fishbach, House Speaker Kurt Zellers and twelve GOP committee chairs all support some form of gambling? The idea that a party official who cannot pass legislation ought to be held to a stricter platform standard than those who enact legislation is simply absurd. It is also telling in that only Anderson has been publicly singled out for this treatment. Why? The question really does demand an answer.

Third, can the pretense that this isn't about Jack & Annette Meeks and their lucrative relationship with the Indian gaming tribes be dropped once and for all? Most delegates have no idea that the real fight going on here is below the water line. CAGE, Citizens Against Gambling Expansion, has on its board of directors both Meeks, Tony & Bridget Sutton, Corey Miltmore and Cathie Hartnett. An interest front group run by republicans with Indian gaming money. Potemkin astroturf.™ The gloss is that CAGE is bipartisan. Right, and MPR and the League of Women Voters are neutral and objective too. Jack Meeks makes enormous money from the Indians to keep the RPM neutered on the gaming issue. The Indian tribes that make him wealthy then contribute vast sums to elect democrats. Meeks turns around and feeds social conservatives anti-gambling tripe that makes them feel better. Talk about carnival barkers. And rubes.

Late word has it that the State Executive Committee is being hounded by a party official to act in someway against Anderson. MC is amused: the issue is not as inflammatory as had been hoped. Consequently calls must be made! Outrage ginned up! Anderson is indisputably correct when she says that she has a clear track over years on her support of racino and that "a majority of Republicans in the state have a similar position."

This leads naturally to the obvious observation: where has Chair Tony Sutton been on all of this? Full disclosure: MC supported Tony Sutton for chair and Michael Brodkorb for deputy chair, as well as David Sturrock for Treasurer/Secretary. Why? They actually did what they promised to do two years ago. MC is not part of that group which takes routine target practice on party leadership. As MC's friend Mary Igo would say: shoot outward, not inward. Good advice always. Still, why leave the attack on Pat Anderson to the junior position in the party if the chair did not agree with it? If he does disagree with his deputy, then it is time for him to say so.

Two days before State Central the Star Tribune ran what was widely considered a hit piece on Tony Sutton, driven by selected emails disclosed by a malcontent which hoped to show his wife, Bridget, acting as a shill to sell him to the highest bidder, explicitly on the subject of gambling. MC believes the Suttons over the Star Tribune. Most activists do. The story can be read HERE.

Fourth, Tom Emmer, the party's endorsed nominee for governor, also has a prior record of supporting some forms of gambling, most of which would clearly be expansions. Talk about an inconvenient truth. Of course, once Emmer caved to the demands of the thuggish MCCL to dump Linda Runbeck as his lieutenant governor in favor of Annette! Meeks he changed his position on the subject. First Principles, you know (think of a white Obama; no color has a lock on shallowness). More on the now you seem him now you don't gambling subject by clicking HERE. MC awaits the same sorts of attacks on Emmer as we now see deployed against a woman. After all, Emmer wanted to be RNC committeeman and braggged, to his detriment, about the contacts he was making after losing to Mark Dayton. Mark. Dayton.

Fifth, MC has it from multiple and reliable sources that Jack Meeks and Evie Axdahl were attempting Friday to find ways to prevent Pat Anderson from being seated on the RNC. They concluded, one assumes reluctantly, that there was no process to do so after the state central election. It has been said that Meeks was forced to resign as RNC committeeman given his lobbying efforts. This is incorrect: the Governor forced him to resign because he was leading a front group funded by political opponents. Think of Jack and Annette Meeks leading a pro-life group funded by Planned Parenthood. Consequently the argument that Pat Anderson should do as Jack Meeks did lacks integrity. This doesn't mean that the frequently not too bright social conservatives won't eat it up. They will. After all, they gave us Emmer. Q.E.D.

Where does this leave the Republican Party of Minnesota? MC hopes, at a minimum, questioning why the party circles the wagons to protect a select few who profit financially from an enforced, wrong and hypocritical policy position on gambling. Will the RPM ever outgrow the baleful influence of the Meeks and Vin Weber and their lackies? One can hope.

MC also hopes that elected party officials like Brodkorb won't attack in the future and give the appearance he is speaking for all republicans and activists. What's next? A Huckabee endorsement? MC kids but the point remains the same. Protecting Jack Meeks is not within the job description of any party official. The party genuinely is divided about gambling. This is a good thing. Gone are the days of a few protecting even fewer who can make money from the issue in the most cynical and repulsive ways imaginable.

Pat Anderson, like her RNC colleague Jeff Johnson, will stand, presumably, for re-election a year hence. Delegates and activists can then decide if her decision to be a racino lobbyist was wrong or not. In the meantime, the RPM needs to revisit the gambling issue and allow for divergent views on the subject. It can no longer be held hostage to a few unscrupulous types who profit from manipulating the good will or ignorance of regular party activists.

Note: All quotes are from Cyndy Brucato's excellent article at MinnPost which can be read in full by clicking HERE.

Correction: The original blog post incorrectly credited Rachel Stassen-Berger with reporting Pat Anderson's racino lobbying position. It has been changed to reflect that this was the reporting of of her Star Tribune colleague Baird Helgeson and to provide a link to his story.


Dave Thul said...

"MC thinks there is no merit to the first and some to the second."

That is the heart of the issue right there. Most people are up in arms over the first, when the second is the real question that needs to be addressed.

Anonymous said...

I agree with many of your points, particularly about the division in the GOP on the gambling issue. If Pat Anderson is a bad Republican for pursuing free market capitalism in the gaming arena, then so are Haley Barbour (who revitalized the economy of Mississippi through casino gambling and is proud of his record on the issue) and John Kasich (who is pursuing racino legislation in Ohio). Not to mention that in polls, including last year's KSTP/Survey USA poll on the racino issue, over 70% of Republicans in Minnesota favor racino legislation.

Where I disagree is with you seeming to give Tony Sutton a pass on the CAGE connection. CAGE is a front group for the tribal casino cartel. Tony Sutton and his wife are on the board of CAGE. We know that hundreds of thousands of dollars have flowed through CAGE"s coffers. We also know that Tony Sutton has a consulting firm. It's interesting to say the least that Tony Sutton did not deny that CAGE was one of his clients.

It's absolutely outrageous that any Republican would be on the side of the tribal casino cartel which has given millions of dollars to the DFL in direct contributions and through lobbyist contributions. Last year alone, they gave $1 million in direct contributions to the DFL Party and DFL House and Senate caucuses. Why is our party chairman on the board of an organization funded by entities who pour millions of dollars into DFL coffers?

Anonymous said...

Giving an EXCLUSIVE license to operate slots to ONE rich family is anything but a free-market position but rather the continuation of a government sanctioned monopoly . . . and doing so to fund corporate welfare ala the Vikings and Star Tribune and Canturbury is utterly shameful for a "liberty" person. Note: the Racino legislation that Ms. Anderson et al support (Vikings Lobbyists - clear throat) also has the STATE purchasing the SLOTS for CANTERBURY. Ms. Anderson et al's hypocrisy knows no bounds.

As far as Barbour and Kasich? Im assuming an anti-gaming clause was not in their respective state party platforms . . . more importantly they certainly didn't hide their views from the party faithful, unlike Ms. Anderson.

There is certainly diversity of opinion vis a vis gaming bewteen MN Republicans. But the Vikings and Canterbury lobbyists' bill is not on the "liberty" side of this debate. I for instance support full-blown gaming (slots in bars etc), within the confines of local zoning ordinances - Racino bill moves us further away from this. I also support the state getting out of the gaming industry in all forms and manners - the Racino bill buys slots for one family etc . . .

This Racino bill is basically just a corporate welfare bill that pads the pockets of Republican lobbyists while subsidizing the Vikings, Star Tribune and Canturbury Downs.

Anonymous said...

Wrong. The Racino bill allows ANY licensed racetrack to add slots (there are two currently in Minnesota). It is not exclusive and is ABSOLUTELY NOT LINKED to a Vikings bill. The many Republican authors on the Racino bill are opposed to a Vikings Stadium.

Anonymous said...

So you need to procure a STATE LICENSE in order to procure another STATE LICENSE to have the STATE PURCHASE slots for you? Ha, yeah, sounds like a free-market bill to me. The extent people go to to rationalize themselves is amusing.

Perhaps you can change your bill to include a clause that would return all new gaming revenue to taxpayers if the dough isn't going to feed the beast? You're full of sh@t and you know it.

Running Aces doens't count becasue its a joke. This Racino bill should be titled: The Sampson Act.

Anonymous said...

Does the Racino bill only allow select places to have gambling. Yes.
Is this anti-free market. In a textbook yes, in the real world, no.

Put this way. Based on that logic, the Minnesota Personal Protection Act was Anti-Second Amendment and should have been opposed. It only allows those who get a permit from the state to carry a firearm, and as you know the party position is that we have an individual right and don't need any permission.

So would the correct thing be that anyone who voted for the act be throw out of position, and of course anyone who is supporting Rep. Cornish Castle Doctrine should also be banned, sine this are not pure positions but compromise.

It is at this point that the adults show up and say that sometimes in politics it is better to move the ball down the field and get a first down then to always be throwing for the endzone.

Anonymous said...

The Sampson Act...hmmm. Did you know that Canterbury is a public company which means you can buy shares in the company? Probably not; but why would you want to include pertinent facts in your doesn't sell your story! BTW - do you have the word 'stupid' written on your forehead???

jerrye92002 said...

I'll say it again. If the legislature chooses to take the libertarian position that folks can gamble, or offer venues for others to do so, I still think they're wrong, but at least they're following some principle. But if one thin dime of that goes into the State government's coffers, then I've got a problem with it, because nobody in their right mind should want to give more money to a government that cannot live within its current means. Doing ANYTHING as a "revenue enhancement" ought to be contrary to every conservative's fundamental principles, at least until all unnecessary and inefficient spending is eliminated (on that magical day).

MikeWBL said...

Thank you MC for bringing all these issues out into the open! It reminds me of that saying: remember there are three fingers pointing back at you when you point a finger at someone.

Anonymous said...

Who is the majority shareholder of the publicly traded Canterbury? Again, "The Sampson Act" seems an apt name for the bill. And yes, perhaps I have the word "stupid" written on my forehead - I haven't looked in mirror yet. But I can assure you I don't have the word "hypocrit" sullying my soul. Your analogy to gun licenses is laugable - but I guess thats what you folks get paid to peddle.

Anonymous said...

So now that the Assistant Senate Majority leader has come out with a proposal for a Casino that is unambiguously in violation of the Party Platform since it proposes a new Casino in Block E. I assume that Brodkorb will be hitting all the media outlets asking for him to resign - Or will those holding his purse stings muzzle him?

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Samual James said...

You have touched the vital nerve, i must say. I agree with you. The problem of gambling can only be avoided if you are trying to be some more cautious and taking your steps with precautions.

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