September 2007

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?


Coleman on Limbaugh

Sunday, September 30th, 2007

tice.jpg (In honor of the upcoming launch of Politically Connected, the Star Tribune’s new political website, we’ll launch a flurry posts here about the way things are heating up in Minnesota’s U.S. Senate race, beginning with this one.)

At least partly in response to the flap over the ad calling Gen. Petraeus “Gen. BetrayUs,” liberal groups have seized upon remarks last week by conservative radio icon Rush Limbaugh in which El Rushbo applied the term “phony soldiers” to troops or veterans who speak out against the war in Iraq.

Here’s founding Big Questioner Eric Black describing the controversy.

As Eric reports, liberal voices are now wondering “whether those, including Sen. Norm Coleman, who were outraged by the ad that was insufficiently respectful toward Gen. David Petraeus, will bring equal energy to denouncing Limbaugh for being insufficiently respectful toward some of the troops.”

In response to an inquiry, Coleman released this statement to the Big Question Sunday:coleman.jpg

“Limbaugh’s suggestion that those who have served their country and express their opinions are ‘phony soldiers’ is wrong. There needs to be a level of civility and honest debate in this country about issues as important as this. Labeling an active duty General a traitor, or calling a soldier a phony for having a different opinion does not rise to the level of discourse we hold ourselves to in this country.”

Has Coleman met the challenge?

Paulsen is … in … sort of.

Friday, September 28th, 2007

State Representative Erik Paulsen (R-Eden Prairie) announced today that he will actively explore a run for Congress in Minnesota’s Third District and will form a federal campaign committee next week.

“I have received an outpouring of encouragement to run for the Third District seat,” said the former Majority Leader of the Minnesota House of Representatives. “I want to take the necessary steps to consider this race seriously. Forming a campaign committee is the next step.”

“Like all residents of the Third District, I was surprised by Congressman Ramstad’s decision last week to retire,” added Paulsen, who served as Ramstad’s district director prior to his state legislative service. “Jim’s leadership and voice of reason on so many issues will be missed by the people of the Third District. The Third’s next member of Congress should continue this tradition of effective, common-sense representation.”

Paulsen, 42, has been a member of the Minnesota House since 1995, and served as its majority leader from 2003 through 2006. He is married and has four children.

Michel is …. out in the 3rd District race

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

This just in from Sen. Geoff Michel. Are the skids being greased for Erik Paulsen?



September 26, 2007

Last week a great Congressman announced that he would not run for reelection next year. Jim Ramstad has been a role model public servant. Minnesota and the Third Congressional District are fortunate to have benefited from more than two decades of his time and energy. Jim had big shoes to fill: he took the torch passed to him by Bill Frenzel and served with skill and grace.
I’m proud to have worked closely with both Frenzel and Ramstad and consider each of them a mentor.

Today I am sharing with friends and supporters that I will not seek the 3rd District Congressional seat next year. After giving this serious thought, I have concluded that Congress is broken and the lifestyle of a member of Congress is unappealing.

It would be worth the effort if Congress was an institution that was working well. It is not. The life of a member of Congress is now perpetual campaigning, countless hours on the phone raising money, and incessant travel. Members of Congress seem very busy doing everything but the actual work of the people. I have four young daughters and a wonderful wife.

Trading soccer games, piano recitals and dinners at home for frequent flyer miles and long distance phone cards feels selfish to me.

Congress is even less popular than the President. Spending and earmarks are out of control. We see no solutions and very little debate about the important issues of today, including health care, immigration, and the environment. Is Congress preparing us for the retirement of the baby boomers and the need for entitlement reforms? Clearly the answer is no.

In contrast, state governments, governors and legislatures are moving on all of these issues. I am much more optimistic that Minnesota will be engaged and lead on these issues – even with our divided government. The issues that I have a passion for, lower taxes and efficient spending, education, the University of Minnesota, transportation and the environment are getting
attention and action right here in Saint Paul. I want to focus my time and energy where government and elected officials can get things done.

Staff writer Kevin Diaz on a spoof that could be a little wide of the mark

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

diaz_1.jpgThe Larry Craig saga playing out in a Hennepin County courtroom on Wednesday may hinge on the Idaho senator’s “wide stance.”

But for a doctor’s group worried about childhood obesity, the real issue is a wide girth.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a D.C. non-profit that promotes nutrition, is running ads on CNN in Minneapolis on Wednesday spoofing the Craig bathroom encounter at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

The ad, “Dirty Little Secret” ( depicts a faceless politician in dress shoes seeking campaign contributions — not sexual favors — under bathroom stall dividers. Here it is:

The imagery – tapping feet and all – is supposed to highlight contributions to politicians from agribusiness concerns, which the doctors’ group feels don’t always promote healthy eating. Subsidized school lunches with pork and beef are a particular sticking point.

Jeanne McVey, a spokeswoman for the group, says they are targeting members of the Senate Agriculture Committee, which is taking up nutrition programs in the farm bill next month. Both Minnesota senators are on the committee: Norm Coleman, a Republican, has received $389,366 from agribusiness PACs since 2000, according to the doctors’ group. Freshman Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, has taken $21,800 in ag PAC money.

The ads are also running in D.C. and in Georgia, home of Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss, who leads all members of the ag committee with $805,359 in PAC contributions from agribusiness PACs.

So what do greasy school lunches have to do with Craig, who is trying to have his guilty plea overturned?

“We’re using a news story that’s getting a lot of attention to draw attention to a serious issue,” McVey said. “The purpose of our ad is mainly to call attention to the subsidies for high-that foods that find their way into the school lunch program.”


Staff writer Kevin Diaz on Coleman’s response to Ahmedinejad

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

diaz_1.jpgAs Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad has been making headlines in New York, Normcoleman.jpg Coleman and a few of his U.S. Senate colleagues are working behind the scenes to build support for a congressional resolution pressing for stronger sanctions against the Iranian government and its Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

As always in politics, the language gets softer as the appeal gets broader.

As of Monday, the resolution called for “prudent and calibrated use of all instruments of United States national power” to head off Iran’s alleged support of Iraqi Shia insurgents, weapons exports, and its quest for a nuclear bomb.

Dropped from the document, which was first drafted Friday, is any call to “combat, contain and roll back” Iran’s activities inside Iraq. The latest version also deletes an earlier reference to the resort to “military instruments.”

Coleman, a Minnesota Republican, said the “principal focus is the same,” even if the language is not. Co-sponsors are Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., Joe Lieberman, the Connecticut Democrat who ran as an independent, and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

“All options are on the table,” Coleman said, “But we’re not making a statement about going to war.”

The final aim, Coleman said, is to draft a resolution this week that can muster broad bipartisan support.


Brian Sullivan is …. out

Monday, September 24th, 2007

This just in from Brian Sullivan

From: Brian Sullivan
Sent: Monday, September 24, 2007 12:35 PM
To: Brian Sullivan
Subject: Announcement Regarding the Third District Congressional Race

Dear Friends,

When Jim Ramstad announced his decision not to run for re-election as the Third District Congressman, I received many calls encouraging me to seek the Republican nomination, and I agreed to consider doing so. I appreciate the trust many of you have shown in me by asking me to get into this race. It would be an honor to serve the Third District as its Representative in the U.S. Congress. However, the timing is not right for my family or me. As a result, I have decided not to enter the race to replace Jim Ramstad as Minnesota’s Third District Congressman.

Mia and I had a third daughter this past April, and I acquired another business in May. It is simply not possible for me to disengage from either my family or my businesses at this time to run for this office.

I will continue to serve as Minnesota’s Republican National Committeeman, and I will work hard to elect a Republican congressman in the Third District.

Jim Ramstad has served our state and our country well these past 17 years as our Third District Congressman. He deserves our gratitude for his selfless commitment to public service. Our family wishes him all the best.

Best Regards,


Republican National Committeeman – Minnesota
Chairman and CEO, SterilMed, Inc.

Bubble bubble, housing trouble

Monday, September 24th, 2007

tice.jpgThe always illuminating Congressional Budget Office provides this calm but sobering overview of the trouble in America’s housing market and the effects it could have on the broader economic neighborhood.

CBO seems to doubt that the bursting of the housing bubble will pull the economy down intomonopoly_guy.jpg recession — but admits uncertainty is running high. Because a significant part of the economic damage is pyschological, consisting of a loss of confidence among businesses and consumers, its dangers are hard to predict.

I’d add that the political timing — with an intense campaign season just beginning — further aggravates this psychological risk. An election increases uncertainties and guarantees that even more economic humbug than usual will be slung by both sides in the months ahead. Some of the rhetoric will make current conditions out to be worse than they are, and some will warn of exaggerated economic disasters if the wrong side prevails. Nothing about it is likely to build confidence in the short run.

Here are some thoughts on other highlights of the CBO analysis:


In or out?

Friday, September 21st, 2007

Since the last posting, potential candidates to fill the Third District Congressional seat being vacated by Jim Ramstad have come forward and dropped off. Jeff Johnson, one name that was mentioned almost immediately, is …. out. He wrote this letter to supporters in an e-mail:

Dear fellow Hennepin County Republicans:

As some of you might have seen, my name has been mentioned in several sources as a possible candidate to fill Jim Ramstad’s seat in Congress. I’ve received many encouraging calls the past three days about this potential race and appreciate the trust many of you have in me.

I want to confirm for everyone, however, that I am not running for Congress. I announced this spring that I was seeking the Republican endorsement for Penny Steele’s open Hennepin County Board seat next year and I remain committed to that race.

I have spent the past four months making hundreds of calls to delegates and alternates in Hennepin County and feel great about the level of support I have in the county board race. I intend to continue an aggressive campaign for the endorsement as I believe it’s important for Republicans to unite behind a conservative candidate and work together to insure victory next November.

Thank you for your support and please feel free to call or email me if you would like to talk. You can reach ….. email me at


Some other names that we’ve confirmed are …. out, include Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, who said in an email that he is focused on his job as sheriff.

AN UPDATE: turns out you might be able to focus on a few things at one time. A representative for Rich Stanek calls to inform that he continues to “deliberate” about running. So that means he is not … out. But he isn’t …. in.

When we asked Stanek’s office about his position we got this this email back on 9/17. You read into it what you may:

Rich Stanek is focused on his work as Sheriff of Hennepin County.

Congressman Ramstad and his wife, Kathryn, have been close, personal friends for many years and Sheriff Stanek wishes them the very best for their

Congressman Ramstad’s unwavering support of law enforcement professionals throughout Minnesota and the nation is greatly appreciated and Sheriff
Stanek looks forward to the Congressman’s continued support on public safety issues affecting Hennepin County.

Another on the no list is House Taxes Chairwoman Ann Lenczewski, a DFLer from Bloomington.

The list remains fluid and this is by no means definitive or comprehensive or final. Keep watching

Staff writer Nina Petersen-Perlman on Ellison’s food-stamp challenge

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison announced today he will spend $21, the national average for food stamp benefits, on food for the rest ofellison.jpg the week as a part of the “There Shall Be No Needy Among You” campaign.

The Democrat is joining with Rabbi Steve Gutow, executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, to back the campaign, which is part of a yearlong effort to raise awareness on poverty issues. It also corresponds with both the Muslim holiday of Ramadan and the Jewish High Holy Days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, said in a statement that he could think of no better way to celebrate the month-long holiday. “To do so with my brethren in the Jewish Community is especially fitting because it underscores poverty does not discriminate; it knows no age or gender; no religion or race.”

Goals for the “Food Stamp Challenge” include raising the minimum food stamp benefit, fully restoring food stamp access to all legal immigrants and allowing households to deduct childcare expenses and exclude military pay when determining eligibility, according to the release.

In Minnesota 264,000 people receive food stamps, and 200,000 more are eligible to receive them.


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