Friday, February 04, 2011

A LTE on the Newman Pay to Play Scheme in the Annandale Advocate

From the Advocate

A breach of ethical conduct

From: John Deitering, Annandale

Scott Newman, our recently elected state senator, was in the news last week. In an astonishing breach of ethical conduct, his office sent an e-mail to the Minnesota Nurses Association that he would not meet with them because they supported his opponent (Hal Kimball) in last fall's election. Can you imagine if the mayor of Annandale instructed the snow plow crews to ignore your neighborhood because the residents had voted for the opposition?

Newman admits that his office sent the e-mail, but says he has no such policy. Really? What are the chances that one of his aides sent this e-mail without his consent? Senator Newman's actions are a direct attack on democratic principles; it's time for him to get out of government.

Editor's note: Newman apologized for the e-mail, which was sent by an aide. Newman noted that he was unaware that the e-mail had been sent. In a statement Newman said his policy is to meet with all groups.

McLeod County Chronicle Op Ed on the Newman Debacle

The opinion of a center-right newspaper in our district.  The same newspaper that didn't endorse Newman.
State Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, got off to a rocky start in his new job at the state Legislature when an e-mail from his office indicated he would not be meeting with individuals or groups that supported his opponents during the last election.

While the aim of Newman's e-mail may have been to minimize his availability to lobbyists, the strategy boomeranged.

Whether it was an error by a staffer, which Newman claimed, or an error of judgment on his part is still being debated. But make no mistake, it was an error.

His apology and taking responsibility was a start, but was the content of the e-mail his own philosophy? In his initial statement, Newman said, "I want to be clear, that is not my policy to reject meeting requests on a political or partisan basis. I look forward to continuing to serve all constituents of Senate District 18 as the legislative session continues."

We will give him the benefit of the doubt. His future actions will be a better indicator.

The real question is who wrote the e-mail?

Newman did not help his cause by "tossing his aide under the bus" when the initial allegation came out. If the aide took the initiative, wrote the e-mail and sent it out, then the aide should be fired.

If Newman wrote the e-mail for his staffers and not for general consumption, shame on him for even thinking that way.

Needless to say, the whole mess has been disappointing. Newman gave us high hopes that things would change at the Capitol this session. We did not expect this, however.

The Newman e-mail is a major distraction that takes the focus off what is really important - addressing the state's $6.2 billion budget shortfall.

DFLers have jumped on Newman by seeking an ethics hearing on his conduct. Republicans have countered the DFLers are being hypocritical by ignoring past indiscretions by Democrats. It seems to be politics-as-usual in St. Paul.

Let us get past this distraction and get on with the important business at the Legislature.

Let's get some "adult" leadership for once so we can all get out from under this budget mess we are mired in.

- R.G.

Indpendent Review (Litchfield) questions Senator Newman's story

Senator Newman needs to answer some serious questions.  Barricading himself in his office does nothing...
It should surprise no one that DFL senators have requested an ethics investigation of Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, on the grounds that he violated the public trust and brought dishonor to the Senate.

What isn’t so clear is whether such an investigation is worth the time, effort and potential distraction it could create for a Legislature that has enough on its plate simply trying to figure out how to dig its way out of a $6.2 billion budget hole.

That’s not to say we think Newman should receive a free pass. While some seem ready to accept the former administrative law judge’s explanation of miscommunication with his legislative assistant, we think he owes his constituents more.

After the Minnesota Nurses Association requested a meeting with the freshman senator, his office sent an e-mail saying he “will not see any organizations that donated to/supported his opponent Hal Kimball.”

This line alone could be explained away as a misunderstanding between Newman and his assistant. But the e-mail goes on to say that, “After some careful checking, I discovered that the MNA had donated to Kimball’s campaign.”

That’s the line that should trouble residents of Senate District 18 and Newman’s peers in the Senate, because it indicates something more was going on. We would prefer to believe Newman isn’t keeping an “enemies” list, but the fact that his legislative assistant did some “careful checking” and found the MNA had donated to Kimball’s campaign alludes to something more than a miscommunication. Either the assistant was told by Newman to check, or she did that investigation on her own.

Neither answer reflects well on Newman. Still, his constituents should hear something more by way of explanation than the “I should be giving clearer instructions” line Newman offered last week. He was elected to represent all of District 18, not just those who voted for him.

The senator and his Republican colleagues would like the whole matter to just go away. Republican Party Chairman Tony Sutton called the DFL senators’ request for an ethics investigation frivolous and “politically motivated.”

We would agree it could be politically motivated. But frivolous? The suggestion that a senator and/or his office staff keeps a list of those who don’t support him as a way to determine who he will and will not meet with should concern everyone.

It is a misperception — we hope — that Newman should want to clear up as quickly as he possibly can, and in greater detail than simply indicating he “should be giving clearer instructions” to his staff.

Devoting time to an ethics investigation and possible hearings probably would be a waste of time, as the Republican majority seems unlikely to censure one of its own over this issue.

However, Newman needs to make a better accounting of himself and assure his constituents that something like this will not happen again.

Until he does, Newman leaves the door open to skepticism about his ability to represent all people in his district and willingness to work with those who have opposing views.

My LTE about the Newman scandal

Published in the Hutchinson Leader
From Hal Kimball

If you believe Sen. Newman's story, then I heard about the Minnesota Nurses Association e-mail before the senator. According to the Star Tribune, Newman stated that “he had first heard of the e-mail early Tuesday morning.”

He first heard of the e-mail Tuesday morning? Really?

I knew about it around noon on Monday, when a Star Tribune reporter asked me questions about the MNA endorsement and if any donations from the MNA followed. The same Star Tribune reporter had stated that he called to seek comment from the senator on Thursday, several times on Friday, and several times on Monday. A similar story was relayed to me via a Pioneer Press reporter who called Tuesday morning after the AP filed a story.

Again, I find it very difficult to believe that Sen. Newman didn’t know about this e-mail for five days.
It’s time for Sen. Newman to come clean. His constituents in Senate District 18 are waiting.

Edtor’s note: Hal Kimball was the DFL candidate for the Senate District 18 seat in last fall’s election.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Senator Newman and the Senate Caucus

My good friend Eric Austin has a great post about the Republican Senate Caucus role in the whole Scott Newman tax on constituent work.

One point Eric made jarred my memory.
Given the dual role of “Executive Assistant to the Majority Caucus” and “Vice Chair of the Minnesota Republican Party“, has Michael Brodkorb been whispering in the ears of legislative assistants? Did those assistants take his advice a little too far?
I had a chat with a former GOP Senator last Spring before the end of the session.  While he named several reasons for leaving the Senate, he spent considerably more time discussing the efforts of Michael Brdkorb and Cullen Sheehan and the influence they had on Senators.

Legislators get a plethora of information before taking votes.  This specific retired Senator told me of a confrontation he had with Sheehan.  The confrontation centered over information the Senators were furnished with.  The data that had been provided the Senators wasn't accurate and he openly questioned the data.  He went on to state that a majority of the information he was receiving was heavily distorted, something he hadn't seen during his long service in the Senate.

It wouldn't be a surprise that Brodkorb and his crew are putting pressure on the legislative assistants.  Certainly they're working hard to blur the line between legitimate work on behalf of the state and shady partisan nonsense on the tax payers dime.

A Minnesota Data Practices Act request for correspondence between Newman and his LA and his LA and Brodkorb would probably provide the lefty blogosphere with weeks worth of fodder, and shed some much needed light into the workings of the Republican Senate Caucus.