Sunday, March 13, 2016

Kurt Daudt, A Better Minnesota & Local Media

Early last Tuesday morning, the day the Minnesota legislature reconvened, MPR reporter Brian Baskt, formerly of the Associated Press (same wine, new skin), published a story concerning the personal finances of House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R). Baskt reported that Daudt had been sued by creditors for unpaid credit card debts. In addition, Daudt was late in paying property taxes on two parcels of land he owns. The coverage was unflattering both because of its subject nature and because it was juxtaposed with Daudt's more or less general message of fiscal responsibility. Bakst's story can be read by clicking here.

In an interview later that same day with Cathy Wurzer  of Almanac, Daudt suggested that the collection arm of the law firm, Messerli & Kramer, probably didn't know who he was. The problem with this thought balloon is that Messerli & Kramer is one of most prominent lobbyists in St. Paul and Daudt is the Speaker of the House.

Within minutes of that story hitting, the always organized Left on Twitter noted that Messerli & Kramer had hosted a birthday party for him the prior year. Team Daudt knew this story was coming and this was the best they could come up with? I'd ask for rewrite but I'm pretty certain that doesn't exist in Minnesota republican politics.

Both the Star Tribune and the Duluth News Tribune subsequently ran editorials calling on the Speaker for further disclosure as to how these matters were handled. You see how that works? You find opposition research on a figure you want to hit, feed it to the press so the illusion is maintained this was done by the news outlet itself and then the wider liberal media echo the narratives, usually under the rubric of "concern" for the public's right to know.

A Better Minnesota (ABM) is a far left or, if you prefer, progressive group financed by white supremacist Gov. Mark Dayton's ex-wife Alida Rockefeller and other wealthy fringe types. I don't care for their corrosive politics but I'm on record admiring their skill. It was ABM who found the story about Daudt and then fed it to local media. Twenty-four hours after the story broke they launched this site.

Nothing on my side compares to this.

J. Patrick Coolican of the Star Tribune was first offered the story, according to my sources. He passed on it, apparently satisfied with the explanation that the Speaker was taking care of matters and, consequently, there would be no real public record of the arrears.

Naturally, ABM hadn't signed up for any last minute journalistic integrity from a Star Tribune reporter (of all people) and so it was off to the next stop in shopping its story. MPR ran with it and here we are. Yes, this is a bit like sausage making.

I was amused to see on Twitter other local reporters call out to Bakst for his "scoop" and all that. It's all a little predictable and, well, yes, sad! Remember, these people still think Pulitzers have merit and gravitas. Who will tell them? And for god's sake, don't get me started on those preposterous "regional Emmys" that local television types think important.

Sometimes reporters work hard (not often) and sleuth something out without it being handed to them on a platter. You can tell when this happens because the self-congratulatory preening is more obnoxious than usual. This didn't happen here.

ABM learned about the arrears and other problems the Speaker was experiencing and simply fed it to local media. This is not only not new, it's de rigueur. Both sides do it but guess which one is more accomplished at the doing?

I reached out, to use that nauseating phrase, to Brian Bakst for comment. He responded "I can say unequivocally that this was 100 percent homegrown on my end. I have no knowledge of what other reporters were up to as I was working toward publication. Thanks for reaching out, John."

My question was whether ABM had given him a tip. Readers can decide what "homegrown" means or doesn't. Homegrown reminds me of homebrew which reminds me of illegal server. But that's just me.

Similarly, I "reached out" to Joe Davis, the Executive Director of ABM, who this weekend was fighting off some cold or sickness the same as I was but who was decent enough to respond: "Hey John, We have no comment, but the Bakst story is all him. Thanks"

Well yes, we can stipulate that any Baskt story is all him, n'est ce pas? Yet how would Davis know that, exactly?

Minnesota republicans do not have a local media which votes for them. Still, they are ready to run with any number of stories about the other side if the facts hold up. The problem is that Minnesota republicans have nothing comparable, on any level, to A Better Minnesota.

How stupid does the Stupid Party have to be not to see what to do?

I'm frequently criticized by my own (who are increasingly unrecognizable to me) that all I do is complain and criticize. What's the solution? ask those who would never write or verbalize what I do but who agree with it in private. Heroes, all.

I should like to think I do far more than complain but the question, as Lenin would put it, of "What Is To Be Done?" is easy.

Do what the other side is doing, only for our side. That assumes minimal political competence though, something in short supply in the Minnesota republican milieu.

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On a final note concerning the shopping of the Daudt story, I attempted repeatedly to contact J. Patrick Coolican through emails, DM's and public Twitter.

No response. Readers may draw their own conclusions.

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