Tag Archives: Bruce Schwichtenberg

More Than Just Ernie: The Best of Brick City Blog in 2012

It’s been another great year here at Brick City Blog.  Readership continues to grow, up 2.5x over 2011 and we tripled the number of e-mail subscribers.  As we prepare to flip the calendar to 2013, let’s look back at some of the best posts on the blog this year.

This year, the blog received a lot of traffic reading about the travails of State Representative Ernie Leidiger.

In February, we broke the story about Leidiger paying for a speeding ticket using campaign donations.  This was the most-read post on the site all year, was picked up by the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press, and spawned complaints that led to $800 in fines from the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board and the Office of Administrative Hearings.  Read it here:

Did Ernie Leidiger use campaign funds to pay off his speeding ticket?

But that wasn’t the only rough patch that Rep. Leidiger hit during the year.  Leidiger’s business activities came under significant scrutiny, first for a series of lawsuits his companies had lost and failed to pay the settlements for.

Meanwhile, Brothers Office Furniture lost a lawsuit and was ordered to pay $7,500 in damages in April 2011 and still hasn’t paid up (Case 27-CV-11-11245).  Per state law, such judgments are supposed to paid within 30 days.  The plaintiff in this case has had to go to court to get a writ of execution in an attempt to collect from Leidiger’s company — as of yet, unsuccessfully, as the judgment is still listed as active in the state court system.

And, that’s not the only lawsuit the Leidiger businesses have endured recently.  Judgments against Brothers Recycling & Liquidation ($32,389,90 from May 2011, also resulting in a writ of execution, Case 73-CV-11-4601) and Brothers Office Furniture & Liquidation ($1,415.28 from November 2011, Case 27-CV-12-3581) are also unpaid at this time.  Total it up and you’ve got over $40,000 in unpaid legal judgments against the Brothers family of businesses.

From: Hypocrisy, eviction, lawsuits and porn: what does the business career of Rep. Ernie Leidiger mean?

Later, it was discovered that Leidiger had $144,000 in unpaid taxes here in Minnesota and a long history of unpaid taxes when he was a California resident.  Finally, we were able to confirm that Leidiger had defaulted on his government-backed Small Business Administration loan.

Under the terms of the Patriot Express loan program that Leidiger took advantage of, the federal government guaranteed up to $450,000 of the loan.  The final amount that the government ended up paying related to this default was redacted by the SBA.

What is surprising is how quickly Jelco Parts went into default after receiving the loan.  SBA documents show that Jelco Parts, Inc. was considered in default by its lender, Crow River Bank, by July 25, 2010.  That’s only 11 months after the loan was finalized (August 26, 2009).  Typically, loan payments have to be delinquent for at least nine months in order for a loan to be considered in default (closing the business can also trigger a default, and documents from the lender in March 2011 requesting that the SBA pay off the remaining loan amount indicate the business was considered closed at that time.

From: Leidiger defaults on SBA loan; taxpayers left holding the bill

And that still wasn’t all.  In August, Leidiger made headlines for “getting loud” at a League of Women Voters voter ID forum at a senior living facility in Waconia.  Leidiger’s conflict with the LWV was the catalyst for another significant controversy in the County this election cycle — the refusal of many Republican candidates to appear at LWV forums.  This was a move we did not endorse.

What these four candidates are doing is demonstrating yet again that they’re not ready for the offices they seek.  Apparently, the forces in power at the Carver County GOP are immune to the lessons of history.  Just two years ago, they formally endorsed two challengers (and had a third refuse endorsement) to incumbent commissioners, saying that the Board wasn’t conservative enough.  Those three challengers all lost, by an average of 10 points.

Just last month, the same group of folks that spawned these four Commissioner candidates backed one of 2010′s losers, Bruce Schwichtenberg, in a primary challenge against the Senate Deputy Majority Leader and Tax Committee Chair, Sen. Julianne Ortman.  When the votes were tallied, Schwichtenberg lost by nearly 17 points.

The lesson to be learned here is that running further and further to the right — even in a conservative area like Carver County — is self-defeating.  It’s hard to get elected and it’s even harder to govern if you’re only willing to preach to a smaller and smaller choir of true believers.

From: Carver County GOP Commissioner candidates: talking to themselves

And we tested the claims of those GOP candidates — that the LWV forums were biased — and proved them to be utterly without merit.  Fortunately, the good folks of Carver County largely saw through these charades.

Here are the six questions that were asked (not including the opening and closing statements):

  1. Considering the decrease in aid from the State, what are your priorities for Carver County?
  2. Carver has been a rural county.  How do we maintain the rural/urban balance?
  3. The Carver County Community Development Agency (CDA) is responsible for community and economic development in the County.  Please assess the CDA’s record and suggest ways that it could change its operations.
  4. Do you feel that the decision to underwrite $10.8 million in bonds for the Oak Grove City Center project in Norwood-Young America was the correct one given the current economic conditions and the significant opposition of residents?
  5. Are you in favor of keeping the Public Health, Land, and Water Services Department in Chaska or moving them outside of Chaska and why?
  6. The 2011 County budget includes a 1.5% pay raise for county employees.  How do you justify this given the current economic environment?

These questions don’t seem “decidedly leftist” to me, nor do they assume a leftist world view.  In fact, two of the questions directly challenge spending decisions made by the then-current County Board.  All six questions allowed Republican candidates to talk about their vision of government and to advocate for the spending cuts they desired.

So what we’re seeing here from Messrs. Workman, Long, Beaudette, and Walter isn’t a legitimate gripe about the League putting its thumb on the scale.  It’s an attempt to duck real debate and to only have to talk to those within the conservative bubble.

From: Feckless and gutless

The two constitutional amendments that appeared on the November ballot were a hot topic of discussion.  We looked at Voter ID in September, and found it wanting.

A quick review of the numbers is in order.  Since 2008, there have been about 150 convictions for illegal voting in Minnesota.  That’s less than 0.01% of all votes cast in that time.  Practically all of these convictions have been felons voting before their rights have been restored.   Both the amendment and S.F. 509 are silent on this issue.  As one’s criminal record status is not any of the valid ID cards, passing this amendment would do nothing to address these problems. …

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office estimates that as many as 215,000 registered voters don’t have ID that would qualify under the requirements of the amendment and proposed enabling legislation.  That’s over 10% of the number of voters in 2010, over 7% of the voters in 2008.

We should not risk disenfranchising tens of thousands of citizens to prevent fraud that is almost non-existent.

From: How the Voter ID amendment could change voting in this state

In October we ran a guest post from Leanne Pouliot Kunze discussing her faith as a Catholic woman and why she felt it was imperative from that perspective to Vote No.

When I hear our young adults talk about this marriage amendment, it gives me hope.  Many compare it to historical accounts of various civil rights movements such as slavery and voting rights.   I truly hope its our generation of faithful Christians who courageously vote no and defeat this hurtful and discriminatory amendment, but if not, I trust it will not be long for the next generation to correct it and be on the right side of history.

It took courageous white men and women to extend human rights to blacks.

It took courageous Catholics to extend the Sacrament of Matrimony to inter-faith couples.

It took courageous Catholics to extend the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony to inter-racial couples.

It took courageous men to extend human rights to women.

And it continues to take courageous citizens, straight or otherwise, to stand up for the civil rights of everyone!

It is time for courageous Catholics and others to stand up and fight for the rights and freedom for ALL citizens to enter into a civil contract regardless of their sexual orientation. Our religious belief regarding homosexual acts should not interfere with our religious belief of justice, dignity of human life and Free Will of every individual.

From: Guest Post: Another Catholic Voting No

Another important topic was the protracted process of approving state funding for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium.  Our most-read post from that debate tossed the yellow flag in the direction of a half-baked, last-minute funding plan by the legislative Republican leadership.

The press conference where the outlines of this new proposal were sketched out was not confidence-inspiring, either.  At times, the legislators contradicted themselves, and to say the details of what could or could not be counted as “infrastructure” as part of the deal were fuzzy would be an understatement.  Team officials have been working for a decade to get a new stadium, and it’s only now — one day after legislative leaders State Sen. David Senjem and State Rep. Kurt Zellers said the session would be adjourned — that the “silver bullet” legislation comes out of the woodwork?

Zellers, in particular, continues to be a profile in political timidity on the stadium issue. After saying that he would let the legislative process play out and demanding that DFLers deliver one-half of the required votes — 34 votes — in the House, he’s gone back on his word.  The bill moved through House committees as Zellers demanded, and Minority Leader State Rep. Paul Thissen indicated he had the required 34 votes in his caucus for the bill, meaning that Zellers only needed to provide 34 of his party’s 72 members to get the bill passed.  Yet, he won’t move the bill to the floor.

From: Killing it softly: Republicans and the Vikings stadium

Finally, another of our most popular posts of the year touched on the intersection of popular culture and politics.

The constant theme of the Nolan Batman trilogy, in fact, is about how all people need to act nobly, look beyond themselves, and take their society back.  Wayne has an unfailing belief in the people of Gotham City and Batman is a symbol meant to inspire Gothamites to do the right thing.

In Batman Begins, Wayne as Batman — along with policeman James Gordon and assistant district attorney Rachel Dawes — challenge the corrupt Gotham City establishment.  In The Dark Knight, Wayne/Batman hopes that newly elected District Attorney Harvey Dent can be the symbol that helps push Gotham into a new era, by putting honest and worthy people into the existing social structures and positions of power.  We also see in TDK that the two boatloads of Gotham citizens don’t succumb to their fear and blow each other up as the Joker intended.  Finally, in TDKR, we see this notion brought forward again as the entire GCPD — once racked by corruption — comes together to try and stop Bane.  Multiple characters, most notably Selina Kyle and Deputy Police Commissioner Foley, turn away from their narrow self-interest and instead fight for all of Gotham.

From: The politics of The Dark Knight Rises: more complex and less ideological than you might think

Thanks to all of my readers, and the growing cadre of regular commentators who have made this a lively little corner of the internet.  I look forward to continuing the work here in 2013 and beyond!

Advertisements

Eastern Carver County takes some steps in a moderate direction

Every election cycle, we get the requisite story about Carver County’s long history of voting Republican.  2012 was largely a continuation of that trend, with Mitt Romney racking up nearly 60% of the vote in the County, and Congressional and Legislative Republicans winning re-election.  But there were some signs that the “suburbanization” of eastern Carver County may be starting to make Chanhassen and Chaska look more like their Hennepin County neighbors than like the rest of Carver County.

Let’s start off with the U.S. Senate race.  For the first time in recent memory, a Democratic candidate won the county.  Senator Amy Klobuchar cruised to victory by a double-digit margin over Republican nominee Kurt Bills.  Klobuchar won eight of the nine precincts in House District 47B (all of Chaska, precincts 3-5 of Chanhassen, and precincts 1-2 of Victoria), and tied with Bills in the ninth.  Much of that has to do with Bills’s historical weakness as a candidate, but it also speaks to the kind of Senator Klobuchar has been.  (Keep in mind, Klobuchar lost Carver County six years ago to Mark Kennedy).  Klobuchar has taken a moderate, low-key approach in the Senate, focusing on consumer issues and taking centrist positions on civil liberties and foreign policy, as well as many business issues.

Another notable result was on the marriage amendment.  If you look at House District 47B, the marriage amendment lost by nine points (45.4% yes vs. 54.6% no/no-vote).  The weak performance of the marriage amendment (compared to expectations) in traditional Republican areas like Carver County can in large part explain why it failed on a state-wide basis.

Interestingly enough, this vote puts eastern Carver County’s legislators, State Sen. Julianne Ortman and State Rep. Joe Hoppe, squarely in opposition with a large block of their constituents (While Hoppe’s 47B voted solidly against the amendment, 47A voted in favor of the amendment, allowing it to win SD 47 with 50.1%).  Both voted in favor of putting the amendment on the ballot, and Ortman fought back hard against allegations that she hadn’t been supportive enough of the amendment during her campaign for the GOP endorsement against Bruce Schwichtenberg.  Will Ortman and Hoppe back off of their support for their party’s divisive social agenda?

Meanwhile, the Carver County Commissioner races continued to show trends began in 2010.  In that cycle, the three incumbent commissioners on the ballot withstood challenges from the right.  This year, with all five incumbents up for re-election thanks to redistricting, all five incumbents were victorious.  Four of those incumbents fended off challenges from the right.  Tom Workman was the exception, as he was the lone incumbent who faced a less-partisan challenger.

What does this mean?  Is eastern Carver County poised to “turn blue”?  It may be too soon to say that, but it does show that demographic trends are likely over time to make this area more competitive than it has been in the past.  And Democratic candidates with the right mix of qualities can get a fair hearing from voters in these areas.  Democratic efforts should be focused on party-building and creating the infrastructure to support and develop these types of candidates that can compete and eventually win in eastern Carver County.  Klobuchar and State Senator Terri Bonoff are good examples of the sort of moderate candidates that would fit that mold.

[Edited to clarify a point on the marriage amendment, 11:20 11/13]

Carver County GOP Commissioner candidates: talking to themselves

Having been frightened away by the scary “leftists” at the Eastern Carver County League of Women Voters (even failing to follow through on their tough talk about how they would stand up to the LWV’s “lies” at last week’s Chanhassen Voter ID forum), four Carver County GOP candidates for County Commissioner have regrouped with a plan that only the brain trust responsible for this and this could come up with.

A member of the Carver County GOP Executive Committee has posted on the Chanhassen Villager’s website that of course voters will have access to see these candidates in action — at events sponsored by the party itself (an open house next week and a to-be-scheduled forum)!  We can see what Messrs Workman, Long, Beaudette, and Walter really meant by their letter — that in fact they only are willing to face questions from approving supporters.

In fact, it seems unlikely that we will see an all-hands-on-deck candidate forum like the LWV forums of previous cycles, where voters will get to see both candidates for the same office answer the same questions back-to-back.  That’s a huge loss to Carver County voters.

None of the four candidates have yet to identify any problem with any of the six questions asked of the Commissioner candidates by the LWV in 2010.  And they won’t either, because there wasn’t anything wrong with them.

What these four candidates are doing is demonstrating yet again that they’re not ready for the offices they seek.  Apparently, the forces in power at the Carver County GOP are immune to the lessons of history.  Just two years ago, they formally endorsed two challengers (and had a third refuse endorsement) to incumbent commissioners, saying that the Board wasn’t conservative enough.  Those three challengers all lost, by an average of 10 points.

Just last month, the same group of folks that spawned these four Commissioner candidates backed one of 2010’s losers, Bruce Schwichtenberg, in a primary challenge against the Senate Deputy Majority Leader and Tax Committee Chair, Sen. Julianne Ortman.  When the votes were tallied, Schwichtenberg lost by nearly 17 points.

The lesson to be learned here is that running further and further to the right — even in a conservative area like Carver County — is self-defeating.  It’s hard to get elected and it’s even harder to govern if you’re only willing to preach to a smaller and smaller choir of true believers.  (As an aside:  the notion that someone like Ortman wasn’t conservative enough was laughable on its face, as shown by Schwichtenberg’s absurd nit-picking over the record of someone who had spent a decade in the Senate.)

Not to mention the fact that the increased partisanship in these local races is proving detrimental in other ways.  Many of these candidates are running on issues that aren’t applicable to the County Board, like light rail or voter ID.  Some local conservatives get it.  If only the rest of them did, too.

And while local conservatives may think they’re immune from competitive electoral pressure, choosing to operate in an insular way does have risks, even in presumably safe seats.  Backing bad candidates who feel no shame regardless of their shenanigans and have no interest in representing all of Carver County’s citizens will someday catch up with them.

Ortman gets a second GOP challenger [UPDATED]

The Republican endorsement race for State Senate in District 47 looks to be heating up with the apparent entry of Bruce Schwichtenberg into the race.  Schwichtenberg, who has previously run (and lost) twice for Carver County Commissioner against Jim Ische, joins Kevin Masrud in challenging incumbent State Senator Julianne Ortman for the GOP nomination.  A letter from Schwichtenberg announcing his candidacy can be found below:

[Thanks to the tipster who gave me a copy of the letter!]

[UPDATE]:  Schwichtenberg has a website now.

Recount confirms Ische as winner

Not surprisingly, Jim Ische’s 761-vote lead in the race for Carver County Commissioner in District 5 held up in the recount requested by challenger Bruce Schwichtenberg.  Schwichtenberg will be responsible for the expenses of the recount.

Fiscal responsibility?

Bruce Schwichtenberg, who lost the Carver County Commissioner race in District 5 by 13 percent (761 votes), has requested a recount of the race.  Because the race falls outside the margin required to automatically trigger a recount, Schwichtenberg will be paying the expenses himself. 

Seems like a real waste of money.  And to think it was Schwichtenberg who campaigned against what he deemed wasteful spending by Ische and the rest of the Commissioners…


%d bloggers like this: