Mike Ciresi

Do past positions on Iraq matter?

Sunday, October 21st, 2007

tice.jpgPatricia Lopez’s look this morning at the frankentruth1.jpg evolution of Al Franken’s thinking about the Iraq war raises a good many questions. Here are a few:

One way to interpret the facts Lopez reviews is this: Neither of the DFL’s leading Senate candidates was a bold, public opponent of the Iraq war when that was a risky thing to be.

Does this matter? Or — considering that the same could be said of several top Democratic presidential hopefuls — is a candidate’s current position on the war the only thing that counts?

If previous public positions, or the lack of same, don’t matter so far as the Iraq debate is concerned, could the candidates’ history on the war still be significant in another way? Might it reveal something telling about how they may respond to unknown future controversies that prove complex, confusing, and politically hazardous?

Issues may well arise during a six-year Senate term about which we know little or nothing today. What do Franken’s and Ciresi’s responses to Iraq suggest about their likely conduct in the face of the next high-pressure debate?

If candidates’ war records do matter in some fashion, who has the more impressive (or otherwise) record?

Is it Franken, who publicly supported the war and only with time turned against it because he at first trusted the administration and later worried about the consequences of a pullout?

ciresiOr is it Ciresi, who disapproved of the war from the outset but for years took no public step to express that oppostion?

Beyond his views on the Iraq mission specifically, does this story illuminate a Franken philosophy on military policy that could displease some liberals? Does it, for example, suggest that he embraces the concept of pre-emptive war under some circumstances — say, if the threat to be pre-empted were real and the adventure was not incompetently and corruptly conducted?

At the same time, does the Franken who comes into focus in this story differ in important ways from the caricature his critics like to draw? Is this the angry extremist they often portray — wrestling with himself over the right course in Iraq, admiring the sacrifice of American troops, even empathizing with the difficulties of those he disagrees with?

Or does this look like someone whose first instinct was to set partisanship aside where national security was concerned, until unraveling events in Iraq caused him to lose faith in the policy?
Meanwhile, if Franken’s evolving sentiments on the war soften and complicate his political image, don’t they also, as Ciresi warns, make it harder to portray Sen. Norm Coleman’s changing views as opportunistic and implausible?

If Franken can honorably struggle with the issue and reposition himself — particularly as he has lost confidence in the Iraqi government — why not Coleman?

DFL influentials choose Franken

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

lopez.jpgAfter months of fence-sitting, local DFL power brokers Sam and Sylvia Kaplan say they’ve decided to throw in with comedian Al Franken, who is in a four-way endorsement franken.jpgbattle with attorney Mike Ciresi, university professor Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer and environmentalist Jim Cohen.

Early and longtime backers of the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, the Kaplans have long enjoyed making a difference in the Minnesota political scene and helped elevate Rep. Keith Ellison when he sought party endorsement for his successful fifth CD race.

Sam Kaplan said that while he likes both Franken and Ciresi, he’d been won over partly by Franken’s active support of the party.

Franken became a fixture at DFL events in 2006, criss-crossing the state to raise money for the caucus and for downballot candidates.

Few endorsements make or break a campaign, but the Kaplans’ not only put their money where their mouth is, they get other ciresipeople to do the same. Ciresi, who is far behind Franken in the race for dollars, has maintained that money should not be the driving force in the leadup to party endorsement.

Kaplan says that’s true, but adds that “fundraising is not unrelated to a campaign’s effectiveness. It’s reflective of it.”


A more fluid Senate race?

Monday, October 1st, 2007

The question of the day is whether lack of enthusiasm for existing DFL U.S. Senate candidates could prompt others to take a fresh look at a race with an incumbent whose job approval consistently tracks below 50 percent.

DFLers have nursed a flicker of anxiety about their Senate choices for months now, fretting that neither comedian Al Franken nor attorney Mike Ciresi have what it takes to knock off what they consider an eminently beatable incumbent Republican.

Just a few months ago, Sen. Norm Coleman was rated among the three most vulnerable Republicans in the country by pundits. But, like Minnesotans at large, the political handicappers have been less than impressed with his challengers. The competitiveness of the Minnesota race has been steadily dropping.

Franken has the virtually the same negatives as Coleman (34% to Coleman’s 35%), but only about half the favorables (27% to Coleman’s 52%), while Ciresi is unknown to more than half of Minnesotans.

So here’s something to chew on: With numbers like that, should DFLers be looking around for more choices or should they rally around those they have? A new candidate would face daunting obstacles, not the least of which would be the task of raising nearly $30,000 a day just to catch up and mount a credible campaign.

Some insiders are hinting that a woman would have the inside track to national money, and a national Democratic source says that the DSCC is looking.

What are the pros and cons? How would the dynamic change if a Tarryl Clark or Margaret Anderson Kelliher got drafted? Who else comes to mind?

The Senate Poll: Coleman can be beaten, but maybe not by these guys

Monday, October 1st, 2007

tice.jpgThe new Star Tribune Minnesota Poll, published today on Politically Connected, our new political website, probably leaves each of the leading Senate campaigns feeling roughly the same way.

That is, they probably all feel pretty lousy about their own numbers but take what comfort they can from the lousy numbers of the others.

To wit:

Sen. Norm Coleman’s approval level, well below 50 percent, is thenorm_coleman.jpg archetypal symptom of a vulnerable incumbent. But he must be buoyed by Franken’s high negatives and Ciresi’s “Mike who?” factor.

franken.jpgAl Franken will see reasons in this poll to be confident that Norm Coleman and Mike Ciresi can be beaten. The question that may worry him is whether they can be beaten by a candidate inspiring so many unfavorable impressions as Franken is.

Mike Ciresi’s problem, reflected in the poll, is perhaps the easiest to fix. Aciresi candidate can introduce himself to voters more readly than he can reverse disapproval or an unfavorable impression. But with more than 40 percent of DFLers still having never heard of him, Ciresi had better get started on those introductions.

Question: Who has the biggest worry, and the best comfort?

What the Petraeus flap may tell us about the Senate race

Monday, October 1st, 2007

tice.jpgAs Kevin Diaz suggests an earlier post, the Senate race debate over MoveOn.org’s Petraeus ad in part shows Norm Coleman, Alpetraeus.jpg Franken and Mike Ciresi positioning themselves with key constituencies.

No doubt all three are sincere in their stated views. But surely they are not oblivious to the political effect of how they express them.

In fact, taking a close look at how they’ve chosen to fight this skirmish could reveal much about the shape of the Senate race — and about how each of the top candidates figures his own opportunities and challenges.


Staff writer Kevin Diaz on the Battle of Petraeus

Sunday, September 30th, 2007

diaz_1.jpgAnother day, another call for somebody to condemn something somebody else said regarding the war in Iraq.

There must be a Senate race in the offing in Minnesota.

On Wednesday, it was something Rush Limbaugh said on the radio. To wit: suggesting that troops who support Iraq withdrawal are “phony soldiers.”

This prompted a call Friday by Americans United For Change, an anti-war group that wants tocoleman.jpg defeat Norm Coleman, demanding that the Minnesota Republican “denounce” Limbaugh’s remark.

If it sounds like an echo of the flap over MoveOn.Org’s New York Times ad attacking Gen. David Petraeus as “Gen. Betray Us,” well, it is.

ciresiFor the past two weeks, Coleman has been pressing Al Franken and Mike Ciresi, the leading Democratic contenders for his seat, to denounce the MoveOn.Org ad, much as the Senate did with a bipartisan vote, including Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar.

Not only did the two DFLers decline, but Franken called the Senate action “ridiculous,” franken.jpgsuggesting that the upper chamber of Congress might have more important things to do than condemn a newspaper ad. Coleman responded with an ad criticizing Franken.

Then the House joined in the condemnation of the MoveOn ad. Again Democrats joined in overwhelmingly, including all Minnesota Democrats, with the exception of Rep. Keith Ellison.

Again Coleman called on Franken to reject the ad, saying “this is an issue that impacts the men and women serving over in Iraq.”

Again Franken declined, positioning him to the left of much of the Congress — but perhaps not to the left of the majority of the DFL delegates he needs to woo for the party’s nomination next year.

All of which proves one of two things:

Either voters can take the candidates at their words and believe that Coleman is truly indignant about Franken’s silence over MoveOn, and that Franken considers the flap truly silly.

Or, they can suspect that there’s politics being played on both sides: Base politics, each side playing to the folks who brung them to the dance.

Which do you think it is?


Guestposters Kevin Diaz and Jake Sherman on Mike Ciresi’s disclosure of $26 million in assets

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2007

WASHINGTON — Attorney Mike Ciresi, making his second bid for the U.S. Senate, reported family assets of $26.73 million between himself and his wife, Ann Ciresi, according to financial reports ciresireleased Tuesday by the Senate.

The Ciresi holdings, including stock, bond and retirement funds, came on top of income of $3.6 million last year from his Minneapolis law firm of Robins, Kaplan, Miller and Ciresi.

The new filing represents the first public glimpse into Ciresi’s actual wealth since 1998, when Ciresi served as lead outside counsel in securing a $6.1 billion settlement from the tobacco industry on behalf of the state.

In 2000, when Ciresi first ran for the U.S. Senate, his campaign reported his wealth only in ranges, valuing his assets at between $8.3 million and $25 million.

Ciresi’s wealth far outstrips that of his main DFL opponent, comedian Al Franken, who listed his assets last month in a range of between $4.3 million and $9.9 million. His campaign said the actual figure is closer to $4.3 million.

Federal candidates are only required to report their assets in broad ranges of value.

Incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman reported his financial holdings as a single IRA rollover, which he specified has a market value of $564,000.

Most of Ciresi’s wealth is in publicly and non-publicly-traded stocks, mutual funds, retirement and pension funds. Some $2.3 million is in private investments such as rental properties and a restaurant holding company in Florida. Nearly $9 million is invested in tax-free municipal bonds, many of them in public Minnesota housing and development agencies.

– Kevin Diaz and Jake Sherman

Guestposter Jake Sherman: Mike Ciresi raised $735,000

Monday, July 2nd, 2007

Minneapolis attorney Mike Ciresi plans to report raising $735,000 since beginning his bid for the DFL Senate nomination in May, press secretary Leslie Sandberg said. The Ciresi campaign will report $625,000 on hand.

ciresiCiresi and his wife Anne have each contributed $4,600 to the campaign and plan to report a $10,000 table at the Humphrey Day Dinner as a contribution.

“We feel very good about this,” Sandberg said of the total. “Funds won’t be an issue in this campaign. We feel like we’re going to have enough funds to be competitive.”

Seventy-three percent of Ciresi’s money comes from Minnesota donors, Sandberg said. Nearly all of it has come from individual donors.

Jake Sherman

Guestposter Jake Sherman’s full report on Wednesday’s dust up over pols’ high times years ago

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

Washington reporter Sherman has now filed a complete story on the youthful drug use of leading Senate candidates Norm Coleman, Al Franken and Mike Ciresi. Here it is.

McCollum endorses Ciresi

Thursday, May 3rd, 2007

ciresi.jpgebmug.jpgU.S. Rep. Betty McCollum has endorsed attorney Mike Ciresi in his bid for the DFL endorsement for U.S. Senate.

mccollum.jpgI’m not positive, but I believe it’s the first member of the delegation to commit in the race.

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