New political blog

October 13th, 2009 – 2:49 PM by Eric Roper

After four years, the Star Tribune political team has left The Big Question for a new blog: Hot Dish Politics. Please join us there and subscribe to the RSS and Twitter feeds for the latest in Minnesota politics.

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Would-be governor (maybe) rips governor

October 7th, 2009 – 9:16 AM by Bob von Sternberg

In addition to thoroughly ripping former Viking Randy Moss during an MSNBC interview this week, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak took some well-aimed shots at Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s presumed presidential ambitions.

Rybak, widely considered a candidate for governor next year, ridiculed Pawlenty on the Ed Schultz talk show Monday, saying, among other things, that Pawlenty is “all yak and no act” and called him “a deer in the headlights. “I can guarantee you Tim Pawlenty will be in the private sector at the end of 2012 because he’s not going to beat Barack Obama,” he said.

You can watch it here:

Coleman’s Bachmann pitch: Minnesotans denied a ‘fair vote’ last November

September 29th, 2009 – 3:05 PM by Kevin Diaz

Democrats are positively a titter at a new fundraising appeal for U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann signed by deposed Senator Norm Coleman, a potential GOP gubernatorial candidate in Minnesota.  Nearing the end of the third-quarter reporting period for raising campaign cash, Bachmann and others are pulling out all stops to post good numbers, impress potential donors, and scare off the opposition. Coleman’s letter raises the specter of a nation ill-led by “President Obama, Senator Franken and Nancy Pelosi.”  Democrats want nothing more, he suggests, than to “defeat Michele Bachmann and replace her with a Nancy Pelosi/Al Franken knock-off.” That’s two quick shots at Franken, the Democrat who now sits in Coleman’s old Senate office. Wait, make that three, with the suggestion that Bachmann’s opposition funding comes “from the same people who bankrolled Al Franken’s race against me and his legal battle to deny honest Minnesotans a fair vote last November.” Those people, in Coleman’s accounting of his 312-vote loss to Franken, don’t live in Minnesota. Rather, they have something more to do with “the liberal netroots in places like San Francisco, Manhattan and Vermont.”

Coleman wasn’t available Tuesday to elaborate. Nor were any of his spokespeople, or those in the press shops at the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee, the folks who are supposed to see to it that Bachmann gets reelected. Bachmann, for her part, issued her own apppeal to supporters, highlighting the fact that “Democrats have me on their list of TOP 8 GOP TARGETS TO DEFEAT!” (Emphasis hers).
Some critics, meanwhile, are wondering how all this positions Coleman in the political future. Wrote an administrator at the checksandbalances web site: “Where is the ‘moderate’ Norm Coleman?”


September 24th, 2009 – 1:19 PM by Bob von Sternberg

Even as they run for re-election this year, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman are widely considered to be likely DFL candidates for governor in 2010.

And even though neither one has actually declared his candidacy, the DFL today did just that — sort of. Its announcement for its annual Founders Day dinner on Saturday listed both mayors as one of the party’s candidates for governor.

Never reluctant to gig the other side, the state Republican Party was quick to mock the apparent slip, quoting party chair Tony Sutton as saying he’s “thankful to the DFL Party for ending the ridiculous charade that Coleman and Rybak are somehow not candidates for governor.”

Fact check: Bachmann’s office and improper franking

September 23rd, 2009 – 12:03 PM by Eric Roper

There has been some buzz lately surrounding a newsletter sent using taxpayer money by Rep. Michele Bachmann to an address in Colorado. Under House franking rules, members of Congress may not use taxpayer money to send a mass communication outside of their district – which is exactly what happened here.

The Star Tribune reached out to the House committee that oversees franking, whose spokesman Kyle Anderson said that this letter could be grounds for a complaint alleging a violation of House franking rules.

But is this an attempt by Bachmann’s office to use public money to garner support outside of her own district? It doesn’t look like it.

We contacted her office and they spoke to the third-party company that assists with their mass mailings, Aristotle. The company responded with a formal and rather technical letter (below) explaining that it was their error and that people who had changed their address were accidentally not removed from the mailing list.

The intended recipient of the letter moved to Colorado from Stillwater about a year ago, said her fiancee Matt Schmoeckel.

“The contract which your office has with Aristotle is only for constituents of Minnesota’s Sixth Congressional district, in keeping with Franking rules which indicate that mass mail should only be sent to your constituents,” wrote Aristotle president Dean Aristotle Phillips. “We accept responsibility for the omission of the date from this field and expect that it should be limited to this instance.”

Aristotle Letter I.JPGAristotle Letter II.JPG

Photo of mailer from spaceman7 on Flikr.

Franken’s second bill targets product labelling

September 23rd, 2009 – 11:17 AM by Eric Roper

Sen. Al Franken introduced legislation today which would require cleaning products to display a label with all of their ingredients.

Franken’s second bill, the Household Product Labeling Act, expands on an existing law which requires household cleaning products to list hazardous ingredients but not necessarily ingredients that can be harmful after long periods of exposure. A companion bill in the House was introduced this June Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y.

“Moms and dads have a right to know whether harmful chemicals are present in their kitchen cupboards,” Franken said in a statement. “When my wife Franni and I were raising our own kids, we were constantly concerned with what we used to wash their cribs, their pacifiers, the floors, and surfaces they played on.”

“Michele Bachmann” makes it to SNL

September 18th, 2009 – 3:03 PM by Bob von Sternberg

Rep. Michele Bachmann (actually, a reasonable satiric facsimile) made an appearance on Saturday Night Live’s Thursday in a sketch that lampooned Republicans’ response to President Obama’s health care address last week. Her moment in the sun comes a little over a minute into the clip.

Bachmann speaks to conservative conference

September 18th, 2009 – 10:55 AM by Eric Roper

Rep. Michele Bachmann reiterated many of her health care views to a conservative conference here in Washington this morning, calling for less state barriers for purchasing health insurance.

Bachmann spoke to a packed room of conservative supporters during a health care “town hall” at the Values Voter Summit, hosted by the Family Research Council. Several hours from now, Gov. Tim Pawlenty will arrive to deliver one of the main speeches of the event (following a speech by Bill O’Reilly).

Bachmann emphasized that people should be able to purchase health insurance across state divides to avoid state-specific insurance policy mandates.

“Why not try that option before a two trillion dollar monstrosity destroys the greatest health system there’s every been in the world?” Bachmann said.

She said that president Barack Obama should look to Texas as good example of a pilot program for tort reform. Bachmann also defended much of the recent criticism and protests of the Democratic health care reform plans.

“These are very common sense decisions people are making because they realize we are losing something precious at a speed never before seen in this country,” she said.

Addressing other recent issues, Bachmann criticized the House for its vote yesterday to vastly expand government student lending programs and warned that it will lead to a larger government presence in private industry along with the cap-and-trade bill.

Near the end of the question-answer portion of the event, a woman speaking in a whisper approached the microphone to say that she had received three abortions which led to a “downward spiral” of drinking and doing drugs.

“There is forgiveness, there is a way forward and there is life after,” Bachmann told her.

Bachmann elated at House vote on ACORN

September 17th, 2009 – 3:16 PM by Eric Roper

The House voted today to cut all federal funding from ACORN, a cause Rep. Michele Bachmann has been championing for several months.

She introduced a bill in June to block federal housing dollars from going to groups indicted for voter fraud, and battled with Rep. Barney Frank this spring over an amendment to do the same in the Financial Services committee (which she called the “ACORN amendment”).

“For several months now, I have been calling for the House to strip taxpayer funding to ACORN and finally, the Democrat majority has come to their senses and done just that,” Bachmann said in a statement. “ACORN has been in the news time and time again for violating election laws, but the Democrat majority refused to stop the flow of tax dollars to this organization. The vote today to finally strip them of their funding could not have come soon enough. I hope this vote is followed by a thorough investigation by the IRS, DOJ, and Congress into ACORN’s years of shady activities and abuse of the law and public trust. What a tremendous victory for the taxpayer!”

Only two members of the Minnesota congressional delegation voted against the provision to block funds from ACORN: Democrats Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum.

Kline stumps against another public option

September 17th, 2009 – 10:13 AM by Eric Roper

Kline House Floor.JPGAs the House prepares to vote on a bill that would largely do away with private lending in higher education, Rep. John Kline railed yesterday against the expansion of a “public option” in the student loan industry.

This all sounds very familiar.

“We’re not talking about health care today, but perhaps we should be,” said Kline, the top Republican on the Education and Labor committee. “The vote we will take on student lending is a culmination of a plan set in motion more than a decade and a half ago – and one that bears an eerily strong resemblance to the health care debate that rages on today.”

Kline explained that moving toward a fully government option means moving away from “the choice, the competition, and innovation of the private sector.”

He said, “What is absolutely clear is that forcing the public option is a government takeover.”

It will mean that school across the country will have to “scramble to make the personnel and infrastructure changes necessary to administer a program that is run by the Federal Government.”

It may sound like the health care debate, but it surely won’t last as long. The bill is expected to pass today.

Update: Rep. Michele Bachmann just blogged at that the student loan public option is “not to be confused with the public option for health care — but the similarities can’t be overlooked”

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