Sunday, December 16, 2012

Settle The Michael Brodkorb Lawsuit Now

I'm a close friend of Michael Brodkorb's so let's get that out of the way at the start. This hasn't stopped me from criticizing him in this space previously when I thought he was coming back politically (especially on television) a bit too soon. In fact, my friends show up here often enough they probably wish we weren't. Ask Pete Hegseth or Tom Freeman. But I try to be true, not personal, focused, not gratuitous. I don't claim always to be right: who would? Who could?

Still, it's been a year, now, since Brodkorb was fired. Earlier this year he filed a lawsuit in state court against the Minnesota Senate for, essentially, gender discrimination, coupled with some other claims. This action was removed to federal court where the matter is now pending. Half of his ten original claims have been dropped and three may be dismissed if motions by the Senate currently pending are successful. Brodkorb has, then, anywhere from two to five claims remaining with which to go forward.

Although an attorney, I have not given Brodkorb any legal advice per se and he has an extremely competent set of lawyers to advise and guide him. The point of this post is to advance an opinion solely of my own and without any advance notice to Brodkorb. It's how I work. Chatting recently with Susan Closmore at Ben & Dr. Alison Golnik's Christmas party I was invited to confer with her prior to blogging. Her point was well taken but nothing of the kind will happen. I was glad to hear her asking, though; this is an improvement over prior media management by the House Republican caucus, even if, weirdly, they're starting with their own. And trust me: conservative bloggers are not their media problem.

Any lawyer surely understands a client's thunderous yelp of "thousands for defense, not a dime for settlement." Sometimes it's actually true, warranted. Most times, just so much bravado the client needs to tell himself or her board of directors or whomever. Real life and economics eventually intrude into this high minded, self-regarding attitude toward litigation. At some point, continued litigation is not worth the candle.

That point has been reached and passed in the Brodkorb litigation. Spare me your dislike of the man personally or your ersatz repulsion over the nature of his claims (so genteel), as if knowledge of the inner-workings, so to speak, of the Minnesota legislature on either side of the aisle was news to you. As if Michael Brodkorb & Amy Koch were the first. As if.

Before his lawsuit was filed the attorney hired by Cal Ludeman, moron extraordinaire & Secretary of the Senate at the time, and without any consultation with GOP Senate leadership, billed approximately $86,000. Nice work if you can get it: lots of research, telephone calls, churning. That sort of thing. It didn't move any needle because nothing was in place against which to measure needle movement. I don't believe any bill has been examined, let alone in detail, let alone challenged to be reduced. Carte blanche comes to mind (does that credit card still exist or am I showing my age?). Such is GOP senatorial leadership post Brodkorb, post Koch. Next month they're in the minority for four years. Can that be blamed on these two as well? In my opinion, the opposite.

Fast forward to December 14th, where the Senate Rules Committee, still governed by a majority of republican senators, approved yet another bill for their mindless position of no settlement under any circumstances. Lawyers dream of such hapless clients. Not wanting to interrupt the sorrow, pace Joni Mitchell, Senate democrats went along with a hang dog expression, not having the votes to deny payment. Even if they had them, why would they?

Brodkorb has demanded $500,000 in his legal filing. No one expects him to hold out for so much. Legal bills for the Senate to date amount to slightly less than $200,000.

DFL Sen. Jim Metzen expressed concern at the Rules Committee hearing that those fees could reach half a million dollars. Or, surprise, what Brodkorb had initially demanded.

Thought experiment: between the currently paid $190,000 (or $180,000 depending on which local newspaper you read, or Ted Baxter (Pat Kessler) who reported $200,000) and the fear of half a million dollars for legal fees, what amount could be used to offer a settlement?

I don't know. You don't know. Pathetic GOP senate leadership doesn't know.

Actually I do know: between 200k and 500k is three hundred k. Why spend that on file churning lawyers at the end of which remains a federal lawsuit? How does that ignorant grand-standing help the taxpayer? It doesn't. For the slow witted, I'm not suggesting Brodkorb should be paid 300K. I'm suggesting there is room for movement, for settlement. I tried once, valiantly. Contact Sen. Juliane Ortmann for further details.

One actually has to read it in print: Sen. Dave Senjem said that if more legal fees weren't paid this matter might appear to be a cover up. Where does one go to become this stupid? Does he have a certificate hanging on his wall?

He told MPR's Tim Pugmire that: "A decision like this is precedent setting, and if we don't stand on our heels and put some cement around them on this, we're going to set a precedent that's going to be with this Senate for decades to come."

Senator, one is knocked back on their heels; they don't stand on them. Cement? Are you former union or what? And what precedent would be set by settling? Keeping your friends' affairs secret, except they're not, really? And "for decades to come?"

Ridiculous yesterday man former Sen. Geoff Michel told the Pioneer Press's Megan Boldt that: "If more than half the claims have been dropped and dismissed, I call that winning." A loser would but be careful of discovery, just the same. Being under oath is no one's idea of winning. He would not be alone, of course. Prisoner's dilemma.

If Brodkorb pulls the deposition trigger, look for these gutless wonders to fashion a deal. Local media will report process but probably would be squeamish to report substance. I would share that feeling.

Settle with Brodkorb to make him go away, at least on the litigation front. This matter needs to be put behind the Minnesota republican party, the Minnesota senate, behind every Minnesotan. Sen. Senjem has made whatever small point he wanted. Spending more taxpayer money on lawyers in order to continue to do so is misguided at best, a self-indulgence to mask lack of leadership at worst.

Photo credit: Terry Gydesen of MinnPost.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

MN Campaign Finance Board Protects Lawmakers

It's gotten so bad that reporters, so called, now no longer realize when they have a story on their hands. This is to be expected, one imagines, when reporting now is really only so much dictation with standard liberal bromides thrown in as though somehow constituting original thought or analysis. Of course, what Minnesota media does not cover constitutes its real scandal, its real abdication of responsibility.

MPR's Catharine Richert had a remarkable story concerning that antiquated, sclerotic beast from the hay day of squish "campaign reform" circa mid to late 1970's (with all the horrors that implies), the Minnesota Campaign Finance &  Public Disclosure Board: its real name! How does such a thing continue to exist but for the fact it's in Minnesota?

Richert's ostensible subject in her piece was the Board's broader contribution and disclosure proposals because these are your legislatively appointed mandarins who will parcel out political speech freedom to you earnest Scandahoovians of Minnesota. Thank the man. Don't color outside the lines. The CFB should barely exist but that for another time.

No, what really shocked any reader (or, apparently not?) was her blithe reporting in the fourth to the last paragraph concerning Gov. Dayton appointed Board member Andy Lugar. Wrote Richert:

"But Lugar said asking a lawmaker's spouse to say more about their financial interests, for instance, would be 'a bit of an imposition.'"

I know liberals are credulous, except when they're not, still, did nothing strike Richert as amiss in this statement? Really, "a bit?" Lugar should have gone all out Brit and said: "it's a terrible spot of bother" upon which one presumes Richert would have fainted until brought round again by hearing, then watching, angst-filled, another episode of Downton Abbey run during pledge week.

Realize what is happening: the CFB is deflecting, or being true to its nature, one is never really sure because it isn't, to imagined problems arising from out of state spending in Minnesota races (the most xenophobic state in the nation, Minnesota).

These are Board invented problems trotted out in the hope of more funding from a legislature that now more demonstrably exhibits their own barely concealed political preferences.

There is absolutely no empirical evidence this out of state money argument is true but don't look for that question to be asked. Dutifully, as if in an interview appointment, the Board's entire world view of money in politics, money in Minnesota politics and, indeed insufferably, politics in general is recorded by Richert. You won't find a single question, let alone penetrating, in the piece. Welcome to MPR. At least as it reports on its own team.

I'm going to make this brief in the hopes of getting a jump on my New Year's resolution to write more frequently (if I can) but more briefly, which is to say briefly. I have my doubts.

Here we go:

The CFB is making a number of proposals to the legislature. I'm not sure that's their job and if I can't find statutory authority for it expect a complaint at the Office Of Administrative Hearings. Hey, Mike Dean, formerly of Common Cause Minnesota, are you with me so far? Because I know they have the interwebs in Wisconsin plus half of Minnesota would move there if they could.

We're told process items in Richert's piece but not substance.

Most conservatives would not agree that money per se is the or a problem in politics. Still, if you have to move forward on that tangent would not the immediacy of a lawmaker's family make some sense to you with respect to corruption?

Is it true you liberals have read almost no history? It would be of a piece with your profound misunderstanding of human nature, which is mostly horrid. Progressives think government can perfect us. Surely some of you must be smarter than that?

At any rate, I would require more financial disclosure of lawmakers' spouses than the CFB is willing to request. Any corruption would show up there first. A priori.

But the Board will not recommend that. Why is that?

Because the Board stands as its own indictment as to the foolishness of its mission. It is seeking more money from those who control its purse strings in the hope of pursing those things it regulates which will not hurt those who give it money.

Behold ultimate corruption.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

MN Republican Legislators: Paralysis As Policy?

The shock of losing our majorities in both chambers of the Minnesota legislature, together with the rejection of both amendments to Minnesota's constitution (traditional marriage & voter photo id) has slowly started to fade, allowing surviving republican legislators as well as the activist base to contemplate the coming two years of unrestrained one-party far left governance. Initial reactions are not reassuring; indeed, they spell continued marginalization if left unchecked and uncorrected.

Yesterday's reporting by Cyndy Brucato of MinnPost confirmed what many have suspected: we have no idea how to maximize our political fortunes in the next 24 months while providing principled opposition to a political party never known for restraint and which does not have a mandate to turn Minnesota into a cold California. Brucato wrote about Senate Assistant Minority Leader Sen. Dave Thompson's address to a republican gathering earlier this week. I tweeted that his remarks were "incoherent twaddle."

Essentially Thompson surrenders to whatever may come, making the most banal political observations possible and fundamentally refusing to take any responsibility for the collective disasters that have befallen Minnesota republicans. Higher taxes, more unionization, wasteful transit spending at the expense of roads and the growth of government for its own sake will be coming under Gov. Dayton and the legislature his ex-wife Alida Rockefeller bought for him. My cat Agamemnon (@AgamemnonCat on Twitter) knew all this before the election if the DFL won but no matter. Thompson can't be faulted for stating the obvious; he and other republican legislators can be for communicating surrender and helplessness.

He noted that proclaiming there was a budget surplus while all the reporting declared deficits made it "look[] like you're being disingenuous, especially when it's self-serving." Since when is being disingenuous not self-serving? Oh and senator, why the lack of the first person singular? I'll take plural in a pinch. But no, Thompson's comments read as if he wasn't in office last session, let alone in a leadership position. They lack integrity.

Brucato quotes him further: "With the benefit of hindsight, politicians, policy makers need to respond to some perceived problem and I don't think your average voter perceived that marriage in Minnesota has a problem."

The stupidity of the marriage amendment was not apparent only after the fact of its crushing defeat and corrosive effect on suburban races, thanks just the same. It's good to know, though, that if we want hindsight leadership we have one on deck. Again, no first person singular. No apology for sheer, atrocious political judgment nor a vow not to be a pawn of Bob Cummins again. That sort of responsibility-taking is necessary in order for republicans to move forward in the next two years. We all get things wrong; perfection isn't the goal, improvement is.

Then, possibly as a result of having read some random tripe on World Net Daily, Thompson goes all in and declares 2012 as the year in which we lost the country to the European-style social welfare state. If you've gone French and surrendered your political raison d'etre you have an affirmative obligation to quit the field and let someone else take your place in the battle of ideas. It takes some brass to be instrumental in policy choices that led to an electoral masacre and then claim the war has been lost permanently because of forces beyond your control. As the British would say: right.

Not content with his molting thus far, Thompson continued: "Republicans were weak . . . in their choice of Mitt Romney for president, their poor get-out-the-vote effort, and their message."

Weak? And he would know of strength how precisely? Thompson endorsed lunatic Rick Santorum for president. Given that failure of judgment, he has zero standing to criticize Mitt Romney as weak, although clearly getting out the vote (or not) was dispositive and we didn't do a good job in that regard. There I have no argument with the senator. But to elide responsibility while taking cheap shots at Romney while contemporaneously throwing in the towel isn't being a leader.

The closest Thompson came was to say: "I take some responsibility . . . I'm too willing to say no. The electorate has not responded well to 'no.'"

Actually, senator, it was what you said yes to that helped kill us. But taking some responsibility is a start. I like Dave Thompson personally and there can be no doubt he is trying; here's hoping our defeat can bring out stronger, better leadership skills in him (and others) because I believe he (and they) possesses them and god knows we need them. When I read he told Brucato that we need to run the most conservative candidates who can be elected I thought to myself: we're all RINOs now.

Brucato's short but essential reporting can be read by clicking here.

The strangely under-read Dave Mindeman channels in his most recent blog post, whether he knows it or not, that old adage about the Bourbon restoration: they remembered everything and learned nothing. His observation, vis-a-vis Minnesota republicans, is not entirely wrong. Still, he's a showcase of liberal delusion:

"The reality is that a push for fairness in unionization is a long overdue structural enhancement for the middle class." Really? I'm not sure even Dave knows what that means. Or maybe he does but he's too delicate to spell it out? He's happy to use the force and brutality of government because he knows better than those upon whom he'd inflict his social engineering. The Left has become essentially fascist and it's news only to them.

More: "Thompson stubbornly defends a transportation system that can never meet our future needs."

Here is quintessential liberal cluelessness. Without subsidies bordering on rape of the taxpayer, current "transportation systems" would die on the vine. Minnesota population density simply doesn't support their rote transportation ideology. Lanes not trains™ would confuse him. Americans, still, have an individualist, not collectivist, impulse. Give him and his ilk credit for trying to change that; score one against my team for not resisting sufficiently. At least not yet.

Liberals remind me of carnivores: the former have no idea where money comes from, the latter no idea meat. It's not dispositive; the mere observation is sufficient.

Finally, if you ever thought liberals had no genuine understanding of those on the right, Mindeman's hallucinatory remark that "[t]he message Thompson espouses is the very one that lost" should confirm your hunch. But then, like non-white people, I suppose all republicans look the same to him.

Despite my remarks, Mindeman remains a must read; he really is that good.  Do so by clicking here.

Comrade in arms Mitch Berg picked up on a MPR story and suggested republicans do nothing this session. Read his thoughts by clicking here. This is of a piece, I think, with current prevailing sentiment because, save for votes in the House needed for bonding, republicans in the legislature really won't have much to do.

Except they will and may not realize it. Enter Rep. Pat Garafalo and Jeff Kolb on Twitter the other day. Garafalo tweeted that he wished that former Rep. Tom Rukavina was in still the legislature as a speed bump against too much left-wing overreach. I suggested it was up to us, then; Pat responded that we don't have the votes. This wasn't a news flash and suggested a certain incumbent myopia. Kolb jumped in to the effect that he didn't care for the defeatist tone he was hearing and he was clearly onto something. In an odd way, all three of us were right at the same time.

Animal lover and friend House Minority Leader Rep. Kurt Daudt hasn't been all that much better but I protect him, as best I can, from the far right because the far right. Dave Mindeman wouldn't understand. The rest of us do; our political survival is at stake.

Privately--I don't think Jeff will mind my sharing this publicly--Kolb noted that the DFL was in the minority for two years and were hardly passive. True, they had their guy in the Governor's mansion so that helped a good deal but still, no surrender. They had a message, stuck to it, got it out. There's something to be said for sticking to your (mostly reasonable) guns on either side of the aisle. When people ask me what we should do going forward, I point to Carrie Lucking. Javier Morillo. Sally Jo Sorensen. Jake Loesch. Bob Hume, Governor Dayton's consigliere. We're being outflanked. Outspent. We can do something more immediately about the former; the latter requires more time. The problem is to be most effective in the former requires more of the latter and our begging bowls go empty.

Why and how they should be replenished remains Minnesota republicans most urgent task.

Above: The Nightmare, by Henry Fuseli (1781). Click on the image to enlarge.