Over the Coals 2007


Wanted: young, clueless shrew to choreograph a train wreck

Months before the national scandal over “politicization” of U.S. Attorney offices, veteran Twin Cities prosecutor Tom Heffelfinger stepped down and was replaced by thirty-four-year-old Rachel Paulose. Paulose returned to Minnesota directly from the staff of soon-to-be-ridiculed-from-office Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and shortly after staging a lavish “coronation” for herself at St. Thomas University, four of her top assistants resigned. Following reports that she referred to an African-American employee as “fat,” “black,” and “lazy”—but just before she got “kicked upstairs” to a job with the Justice Department in Washington—Paulose accused her critics of McCarthyism.

Foot-in-mouth disease: A bipartisan epidemic
It was politics as usual back in January when then-DFL Chair Brian Melendez fired off a press release accusing Senator Norm Coleman of choosing “partisan politics over the well-being of 29,000 Minnesotans” by voting against raising the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour. “Senator Coleman had better start putting partisanship aside and standing up for Minnesota’s working families,” Melendez threatened. There was one small problem: The Republican senator actually voted for the bill.

Not so fast—I might need some remedial help
Last winter, Minneapolis City Councilman Don Samuels advocated that a school in his district, North High, be torched. “Burn North High down!” he said. “I can’t be paying as a taxpayer for the education of my neighbors and 72 percent of them are failing—meaning black boys.” The redundancy of “paying as a taxpayer,” indicates that the councilman could use one of North’s remedial grammar classes. The erroneously inflated failure rate indicates that a statistics course is also in order. And perhaps one of North’s guidance counselors could help him with those anger management issues.

That’s why I’ve got this copy of War and Peace in my holster
During a debate on increasing funding for Minneapolis libraries vs. spending more money for police, Samuels said, “When you are a person at the other end of a gun … the only use for a book is to throw it at them, or block a bullet with it.”

Thou shalt not throw the good book in vain
In July, state Rep. Mark Olson, R-Big Lake, was convicted of misdemeanor assault following charges that, among other acts, he hurled a Bible at his wife. In court, Olson contended that on several occasions, as he sat placidly studying scripture, his wife tore the Bible from his hands and either hit him with it or slammed it on a nearby table.

DUI: Democrats Under the Influence

The president of the Minnesota Senate, James Metzen (DFL-South St. Paul), was arrested for drunken driving just two hours after closing the 2007 session. His blood alcohol measured .15, nearly twice the legal limit. (He got a fine and community service.) The story hit the national wires and resurrected a TV news report from a few years ago that showed state legislators drinking in Metzen’s office. The day after the arrest, the political gossip site Wonkette led with: “The Minnesota Legislature: Still the Nation’s Booziest.”

Unlike here, where the leader had the authority to do whatever Cheney wanted
By comparing the 9/11 terrorist attacks to the 1933 Reichstag fire, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison ran afoul of “Godwin’s Law,” which states that all civil discussion breaks down the instant Hitler is invoked. Ellison said, “After the Reichstag was burned … it put the leader of that country in a position where he could basically have authority to do whatever he wanted.”

Because journalism makes history breathe … and to prevent confusion among female readers
To illustrate a story about U.S. Senator Larry Craig’s “wide stance” incident at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport, the Star Tribune ran a front-page, above-the-fold photo of toilet stalls at the airport.

But can we get the Tax Bill in sonnet form?
DFL Rep. Phyllis Kahn’s bill to install a state poet laureate was written entirely in rhyming couplets by a creative House Research employee. A choice excerpt: "The poet will bve free to write rhyming lines/With removal only for cause/But we trust that the bard will promptly resign/If the verse reads as badly as laws."

Shit, man, that’s medieval
Marty “Mr. GOP” Seifert decided that his new role as House minority leader meant finding every possible way to rip Democrats and paint his party as a maligned underdog. In a March 5 press release he said, “With the Democrats in control, Minnesotans will be literally [emphasis ours] nickel-and-dimed to death.”

As a compromise, the City Council members offered to wear fezzes and drive around town in funny little cars
A resolution to ban circus animals in the city was barely defeated in a September Minneapolis City Council meeting.

Tackling the meat-and-potatoes issues
A small sampling of legislative proposals that helped tie up committee work this session:

  • DFL Rep. Erin Murphy proposed fining businesses $50 for not letting a customer use their private restroom in the event of, well, emergency.
  • DFL Senator Satveer Chaudhary told the Associated Press that a bill requiring foreign call centers to transfer Minnesota consumers back to the company’s equivalent U.S.-based call center—only after letting the callers grill the foreign operators—was an “OK to be angry” bill.
  • Several House Republicans co-sponsored a bill that would have canceled all legislative sessions in even years.

One little bridge falls and everyone gets so upset
While being quizzed by the Star Tribune editorial board after the 35W bridge disaster, Carol Molnau, lieutenant governor and transportation commissioner, told them, “We’ve done some things right.”

Maybe it wasn’t Rome burning, but still …

Sonia Pitt, now-former director of MnDOT’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, was in Boston when the I-35W bridge fell. Two days later, she hopped on a plane to Washington, D.C., where she spent nearly two weeks racking up hundreds of cell phone minutes chatting with a male “friend” at the Federal Highway Administration. She finally made it home in mid-August. A subsequent investigation revealed that she had no work-related reason to be in D.C., and had spent $26,000 in taxpayer dollars on her cell phone liaison, traveling to a host of conferences conspicuously close to her liaison’s office, and getting paid full wages for the trips.

Just another good government cover-up gone terribly, terribly wrong
When Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dianne Mandernach learned last year that thirty-five Iron Range miners had died from lung cancer related to asbestos exposure, she did what any reasonable government official would do: She ordered her department to study the matter—in secret. A Department of Health informational pamphlet released under Mandernach that was not kept secret claimed to find a link between abortion and breast cancer.


Back in 2006, many of us cringed to think what Michele Bachmann would do if elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. She delivered on our expectations, and then some.

Isn’t it some kind of crime to grope the President?
In a virtual replay of President Bush’s impromptu back rub of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the honorable congresswoman from Minnesota grabbed the president’s shoulder after his 2007 State of the Union speech and wouldn’t let go until she got a kiss. (By the way, Bachmann, Crystal Gayle called—she wants her wardrobe back.)

IMF to Bachmann: If you are caught, the secretary will disavow all knowledge of your actions
In February, Bachmann boasted that she knew of a secret plan by which Iran would take over half of neigh
boring Iraq and use the land to train terrorists to attack the United States. By the way, Googling “Michele Bachmann” and “bat-shit crazy” returns over twenty-one-thousand results.

Oberstar to Bachmann: As chairman of the Transportation Committee, I can assure you we already thought of that
In November, three months after the 35W bridge collapse, Bachmann introduced her own bill in Congress to fund rebuilding the bridge.







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