Dairy aid OK’d

A plan to increase dairy support prices in a time of historically low milk prices gained U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson’s support.

The Detroit Lakes Democrat, who is U.S. House agriculture chairman, said his committee has heard from dairy farmers that the industry needs help.

"Increasing the prices they receive will bring greatly needed relief to dairy farmers who need it desperately right now," Peterson said.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the federal government will increase money for dairy products, which he said will increase how much money all dairy producers receive.

Start with jokes

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty rehearsed what could be his presidential campaign stump speech with the Republican National Committee, and like any good speaker he knew to start with jokes.

"If you are a Republican in Minnesota, it is like being a polar bear in Miami," Pawlenty said as he opened his San Diego speech Thursday.

The jokes got a more partisan as Pawlenty moved on: "Apparently President Obama is making great progress on climate change. He is changing the political climate of this country toward Republicans."

Earlier in the week, the potential presidential candidate took another step to the national stage when the Republican Governors’ Association announced Pawlenty was elected vice chairman of the group.

‘A Senate star is born’

Al Franken and friends

A contributor to a prominent political blog proclaims new U.S. Sen. Al Franken is a star.

"A Senate star is born" reads the headline on Doug Kendall’s Huffington Post Web site contribution.

Kendall extensively quotes from a Franken speech of a few days ago supporting Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. He praises the Minnesota Democrat for his criticism of the current court, populated in a large part by Republican presidential appointments.

"This is a court that is willing to reverse itself to limit the rights of individual Americans," Franken said. "This is a court that is more than willing to overturn Congress to achieve its own agenda of what is right."

After listening to the entire Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Sotomayor, Kendall writes, "I can say with confidence that no one made these points as concisely and powerfully as Sen. Al Franken did."

During the hearing, Kendall said, Franken was both thoughtful and funny: "After shutting down his funny-gene for most of his campaign, Franken was laugh-out-loud funny at times in the hearings, stumping Judge Sotomayor with a question about a Perry Mason episode and grabbing an opportunity to briefly assume the chairman’s chair in his first week in the Senate."

Military loss loans available

Minnesota businesses financially hurt when an employee is called to military service may obtain interest-free loans.

Loans of $5,000 to $20,000 are available to small businesses, the state Department of Employment and Economic Development announced.

"Small businesses can face economic hardships when valued employees are away from work, serving their country in the military," said DEED Commissioner Dan McElroy. "These loans are intended to help businesses keep operating until the employee returns from active military duty."

Information is available at www.deed.state.mn.us/bizdev/loan.htm.

GOP begins Peterson attack

Updated:

Michael Brodkorb

Western Minnesota’s 2010 congressional race is under way, even without candidates.

The state Republican Party launches a radio advertising campaign against Democratic U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson Thursday, saying the 10-term congressman is out of touch with his district.

With Republicans assuming he will run again, it is the fist volley of a campaign in which Republicans promise to unseat Peterson, who has faced only a couple of close races since he first was elected.

A Peterson comment claiming a quarter of his constituents link Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to the Bush administration is invigorating Republicans in the district that stretches from Canada almost to Iowa.

"You take down a building one brick at a time," said Peterson’s 2006 opponent, Michael Barrett. "This in and of itself is not going to severely damage him. … I think it will be a combination of things. It is never too soon to get started."

Barrett, who lost by more than 40 percentage points and said health issues keep him from running again, has received 35 to 40 e-mails from people upset over the Peterson terrorist comment.
Deputy GOP Chairman Michael Brodkorb said the issue will stick to Peterson.

"Collin Peterson is going to find himself going forward in the eye of a storm," Brodkorb said.

More than a dozen western Minnesota radio stations will carry the commercial saying that Peterson’s votes do not fit with his agriculture-dominated district, as well as criticizing his terrorist comment.

Peterson said political extremists like those who believe in the terrorist-government connection can take over public meetings, giving that as a reason he does not hold general town hall meetings.

"Really, Collin, 25 percent of your constituents are so out of touch they believe the U.S. government caused 9-11?" the commercial says. "So you won’t hold town meetings? They’re not out of touch. You are."

Brodkorb said the commercials will cost "five figures," but would not be more specific. He said it would be hard to be in Peterson’s 7th Congressional District and not hear the spots, which are scheduled to air into next week, although he left the option open for running them longer.

Peterson, who often returns western Minnesota reporters’ calls, responded to a request for an interview with a prepared statement late Wednesday afternoon: "On Monday I apologized for my off-the-cuff remarks on this matter, and I continue to stand by that statement. As for the Republican Party’s new ad, I think they can say whatever they want. I’m guessing that my constituents are more interested in cutting the deficit and getting spending under control, and getting a health care bill that works for them and that we can afford."

Peterson is one of many members of Congress who have complained that people with extreme views have hijacked town hall meetings so others cannot express opinions or ask questions.

The Washington-based Politico Web site quoted Peterson as saying: “Twenty-five percent of my people believe the Pentagon and (then-Defense Secretary Donald) Rumsfeld were responsible for taking the twin towers down. That’s why I don’t do town meetings.”

Peterson said he conducts forums on specific topics to prevent extremists from taking over meetings.

The GOP commercial criticizes Peterson’s votes on several issues, saying they do not match the will of people in his district.

"I think it is pretty difficult for him to justify some of those votes," Brodkorb said, emphasizing a recent one in which Peterson voted for an anti-global warming measure. "A town hall meeting is an opportunity for him to explain his position."

Peterson says he used his position as House Agriculture Committee chairman to make the global warming bill better for farmers.

Several high-profile Republicans are considering running against Peterson, Brodkorb said, refusing to name names.

Republicans have not been successful against Peterson, one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress. He has served in the House since 1990, and since 1996 has received 65 percent to 72 percent of the vote in his elections every two years.

The radio commercial itself may not damage Peterson, Barrett said, but "it is going to linger."

Independent voters will decide Peterson’s fate, Barrett said, since there are more of them than either Democrats or Republicans in the 35 counties the 7th Congressional District touches.

 

Outdoors funding meetings set

A committee that recommends how to spend sales tax money on outdoors projects plans a series of meetings to hear from conservation professionals and the general public.

The Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council must annually recommend how to spend millions of dollars raised from a sales tax increase voters approved last year. Next year’s spending will be considered at upcoming meetings, each dealing with a separate type of funding:

– Prairie funding, Tuesday, New Ulm Holiday Inn, 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. for conservation professionals meeting, 4:30-5:30 p.m. for public input.

– Urban funding, Minnesota State Retirement Systems Building, 60 Empire Drive, St. Paul, 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. for conservation professionals, 3:30-4:30 p.m. for public.

– Southeast forest funding, Aug. 7, University Center Rochester, Atrium 103, 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. for conservation professionals, 4:30-5:30 p.m. for public.

– Northern forest funding, Aug. 11, the Minnesota Forest History Center, Grand Rapids, 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. for conservation professionals, 4:30-5:30 p.m. for public.

– Forest-prairie transition funding, Aug. 17, Holiday Inn on the Lake, Detroit Lakes, 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. for conservation professionals, 4:30-5:30 p.m. for public input.

After the council makes its spending suggestions, the Legislature makes the final decision.

Klobuchar for president?

Sen. Amy Klobuchar

The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza was pontificating in his The Fix blog about a lack of credible female politicians ready to run for president when many of his readers offered up one name: Amy Klobuchar.

A year ago, the Minnesota Democrat in her first term as U.S. senator was mentioned as a potential vice presidential candidate for Barack Obama. Now, several are thinking about her for the top spot, presumably in 2016, although one person responding to Cillizza suggested Vice President Joe Biden could be a one-termer and Klobuchar could become Obama’s second-term running mate.

Klobuchar’s name has come up before as potential presidential timber, but not nearly often as Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who the national media has taken to calling T-Paw.

"I think Klobuchar of Minnesota has the best chance of anyone currently in Washington," one person posted. "Definitely someone who should have been mentioned."

Added another: "Amy Klobuchar is a machine. She works on her job as a senator and her political profile literally day and night. If T-Paw can be considered a national candidate with two wins at 42 percent of the popular vote, then certainly a 57 percent vote winner in Purple MN can get on the national stage. No one — literally no one — will outwork her. Something to keep an eye on for 2016."

But some Cillizza readers noted a potential Klobuchar downfall.

"Very likeable and certainly competent, she has a goofiness that wouldn’t work well on the presidential trail," one wrote.

"I actually like her a lot, but she might be a little too quirky to win a nationwide election," added another. "Kind of like Joe Biden, but without the ego."

GOP to launch anti-Peterson ad campaign

Minnesota Republican leaders plan to launch an advertising campaign against U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson.

Deputy Republican Chairman Michael Brodkorb said the ad campaign is partially a result of the western Minnesota Democrat saying that a quarter of his constituents think the Bush administration had ties to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“Twenty-five percent of my people believe the Pentagon and (then-Defense Secretary Donald) Rumsfeld were responsible for taking the twin towers down,” Peterson told Politico, a Washington-based news organization. “That’s why I don’t do town meetings.”

Brodkorb will unveil the ad campaign at 11 a.m. Wednesday in the party’s St. Paul headquarters.

The advertising "will be a combination of two things," Brodkorb said. One is Peterson’s "out of touch voting record" and the other is his Politico comment that shows he "is an out of touch congressman," the deputy chairman said.

Peterson’s comment was buried deep in a Politico story about people who take over some congressmen’s public meetings to discuss their theory that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States, thus making him ineligible to be president (his birth certificate says he was born in Hawaii as do newspaper birth announcements from the time). Other conspiracy theorists, such as those linking the Bush White House to terrorists, also dominate meetings, the story said.

Minnesota GOP Chairman Tony Sutton called Peterson’s comments bizarre and demanded an immediate apology.

"If anyone was offended by my off-handed comment I sincerely apologize," Peterson said in a statement.

Peterson said that too often he sees extremists, both politically left and right, take over open forums. So, he added, he holds forums on specific topics to make it more difficult for people to discuss at length topics of little interest to most Minnesotans.

Peterson: Many see Bush-terrorist link

U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson

U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson provided Republicans an opening to attack him when he said he does not hold town hall meetings in his western Minnesota district because many constituents believe the Bush administration helped carry out the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“Twenty-five percent of my people believe the Pentagon and (then-Defense Secretary Donald) Rumsfeld were responsible for taking the twin towers down,” Politico Monday quoted Democrat Peterson as saying. “That’s why I don’t do town meetings.”

The comment thrilled Minnesota Republicans, who have struggled against Peterson. State GOP state Chairman Tony Sutton called it "really bizarre," but said the comment should help the GOP recruit candidates to run against Peterson.

The veteran congressmen said his constituents know him and know they can reach him when needed.

"If anyone was offended by my off-handed comment I sincerely apologize," Peterson said in a statement. "I certainly wasn’t trying to make fun of anyone. What I was talking about was simply that there are the people in Minnesota’s 7th district who have called me and talked to me about this question.

"The other point I was trying to make is that there are people in the 7th district who freely identify themselves as outside the mainstream, on the left and on the right, who try to hijack public forums like town hall meetings. That’s why I do my district meetings on specific topics and in a variety of forums."

The next election is more than 15 months away, but Sutton said there is no doubt Monday’s quote will energize western Minnesota Republicans.

"I have got a feeling it is going to be a lot better," Sutton said of candidate recruitment. "I think Collin Peterson has gotten by and says, ‘ah, shucks, I am one of you’" when in his 7th Congressional District, but then votes with liberals in Washington. Sutton said Republicans have done a poor job of telling voters that in the past, but "we are not going to let it happen again,"

Some Republicans already are considering challenging Peterson, the GOP chairman said.

Politico reports that conspiracy theorists, such as those who tie the Bush administration to terrorists, sometimes dominate congressmen’s public meetings.

Peterson’s quote was deep in a story about how members of Congress deal with people who think President Barack Obama was not born in the United States, which would make him ineligible to be president (his birth certificate says he was born in Hawaii).

Republicans have not been successful at getting anything negative to stick to Peterson, one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress. He often has opposed Democratic proposals and says he works behind the scenes to change them to be more favorable to his farmer-heavy district that stretches from Canada almost to the Iowa border.

Peterson has served in the U.S. House since 1990, and since 1996 he has received 65 percent to 68 percent of the vote in his elections every two years.

 

Pogemiller wants leader summit

Sen. Larry Pogemiller

Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller wants to gather 17 former governors, Senate majority leaders and House speakers for an economic summit, setting the stage for a budget-fixing 2010 legislative session.

"The underlying aim of the Minnesota Leadership Summit will be specific: to lay out a road map towards long-term balance in the state budget and sustainable growth in Minnesota’s economy," Pogemiller said. "The summit would allow us an opportunity to look towards the future, build on the reform ideas brought forward from past and current lawmakers on both sides of aisle and lay the foundation for a productive 2010 session with a focus on repairing the state’s once sterling economic reputation."

Pogemiller, a Minneapolis Democrat, got the idea from former Gov. Arne Carlson, a Republican who has not been the GOP’s favorite. Carlson penned a column calling for a long-term budget-balancing strategy.

Those invited to the summit include Senate majority leaders Pogemiller, Dean Johnson, John Hottinger and Roger Moe; speakers Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Steve Sviggum, Phil Carruthers, Dee Long, Robert Vanasek, David Jennings, Harry Sieben Jr. and Martin Sabo; and governors Tim Pawlenty, Jesse Ventura, Carlson, Al Quie and Wendell Anderson.

Pogemiller said the summit needs to be soon, but set no date.

Those invited have not publicly reacted.

While Pawlenty this summer cut state programs to balance the budget, a new deficit that some say will be $6 billion faces lawmakers and a new governor in 2011. However, next year’s Legislature could trim that deficit by making changes in the middle of the now-month-old two-year budget.

Pawlenty No. 2 Republican governor

Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s next step toward a potential presidential run was taken today.

The Republican Governors’ Association announced Pawlenty was elected vice chairman of the group, although the vote actually happened more than a week ago. He is to work with association Chairman Haley Barbour, Mississippi’s governor, to get Republicans elected in 39 upcoming races.

“Electing fiscally responsible governors is the most important task facing our party between now and the end of 2010,” Pawlenty said. “Winning these races is key to rebuilding the GOP and strengthening our economy."

Pawlenty will work with donors and the campaign staff for GOP candidates, an asset to someone building a national organization.

“Gov. Pawlenty has been a leader in the effort to grow the Republican Party beyond our traditional base while remaining true to our principles,” Barbour said. “His firsthand knowledge of how to win in a so-called purple state will be a major asset to the RGA."

A GOP governors’ news release added: "As states around the country face historic budget deficits, Gov. Pawlenty was selected for the post because of his successful record of controlling taxes and spending in Minnesota over his two terms as governor."

Pawlenty announced last month that he will not seek a third term, fueling speculation that he will run for president. However, he has refused to confirm that he is interested.

It is Oberstar’s big week

U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar at Minnesota Capitol earlier this year

This is an important week for U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar and his hopes for a new transportation funding bill.

Washington media report today that Oberstar, a Minnesota Democrat and House transportation chairman, hopes the House this week approves $3 billion as a stop-gap measure until a six-year transportation bill can be passed in the fall.

Oberstar insists that a $500 billion transportation overhaul measure is vital, while the Obama administration and some key senators prefer to extend current policies and funding levels for 18 months. The chairman opted for the $3 billion temporary funding bill as a way to buy time for him to sell his long-term solution, the newspaper Roll Call reports.

The House recesses for a summer break this week, while the Senate probably will stick around next week. But with current transportation funding ending in September, there is pressure for Congress to pass something before heading home. If the House passes the short-term Oberstar measure, senators may feel they have no choice but to go along.

Roll Call reported: "Oberstar’s bill, which would tilt federal transportation policy toward sustainability and ‘intermodal’ transport, is the culmination of an impressive career that has seen the 74-year-old rise from the top staffer slot on the former House Public Works Committee to chairman of its current incarnation, the Transportation and Infrastructure panel. With more than four decades of experience under his belt, Oberstar is acclaimed for his policy expertise. …"

"But relations between the White House and the 18-term congressman have soured in recent months. Oberstar was furious earlier this year after White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said a proposal to tax vehicle miles traveled was a nonstarter. The tension was exacerbated by the administration’s call earlier this summer for the 18-month extension."