Governor Pawlenty names his DNR Commissioner, makes a few jobs permanent and says good-bye to his chief of staff. MPR, AP, the Star Tribune, the Pi Press, ECM Publishers and Forum Communications have stories.
WCCO-TV says Pawlenty is calling for stricter immigration laws.
The Winona Daily News says Goodview officials rip Sviggum over LGA.
Don Davis with Forum Communications says Pogemiller could be the wild card in the upcoming session and Coleman wants to reform the U.S. Postal Service.
The Wall Street Journal says trade and fiscal issues divide the Dems.
We get a greater glimpse at who backed “A Stronger-America-Minnesota." This the group the ran the anti-hatch ads. CQ Politics has this to say about the group:
A Stronger America, a 527 group based in Alexandria, Va., filed its first financial report with the IRS since registering in April 2006. The account reported, in a paper filing signed on Dec. 6 and just made available to the public, that it raised $797,300 and spent $616,700. And the major donor was Perry, who gave $500,000 on Oct. 26.
Although most of its funding came from this one source in Texas, most of the other donations were from Minnesota and Wisconsin. These included $75,000 from Local Action PAC (MN); $55,000 from the Committee of Automobile Retailers; $20,000 from the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce Leadership Fund-PAC; and $25,000 from the Minnesota Assn of Realtors; among others. The account paid Crossroads Media of Virginia $1,040,000 and Marudas of Minnesota $126,300.
Leigh Pomeroy writes in the Minneota Monitor that some old school DFLers won’t like an Al Franken candidacy but Pomeroy says Franken will drive up the college vote.
Slate writes about the 5 best political moments of 2006 (bloggers are on the list).
The New York Times says health care costs and pensions are rising too fast for some local governments.
The Star Tribune says former Minneapolis City Council members Dean Zimmermann sentenced today.
Posted at 10:18 AM on December 19, 2006
by Tom Scheck
DFL Congressman-elect Tim Walz is asking Congressman Henry Waxman to take a look at the D,M and E loan. He also questions South Dakota Senator John Thune's involvement in the loan (Thune worked as a lobbyist for D,M and E before he was elected). Check bullet point five on the letter. Things are getting interesting in choo-choo land..
Here's the Walz release:
December 19, 2006 Contact: Meredith Salsbery 507-351-7730 507-995-1751
CONGRESSMAN-ELECT WALZ & CONGRESSWOMAN MALONEY ASK FOR
CONGRESSIONAL OVERSIGHT OF DM&E PROJECT
(Washington, D.C.) - In a letter dated December 11, 2006, Congressman-elect Tim Walz (D-MN) and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) asked Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA), Chairman-designate of the House Committee on Government Reform, to hold oversight hearings on the proposed $2.3 billion dollar DM&E Railroad expansion loan currently under consideration at the Federal Railroad Administration.
The letter lists Walz and Maloney’s five specific concerns regarding the loan and urges Rep. Waxman to ensure that the Department of Transportation make the DM&E loan application documents public.
“The public should be able to scrutinize any taxpayer-backed loan of this magnitude,” said Walz. “At a time when many of our most successful and crucial public investments are coping with budget cuts, it is unthinkable to award a loan this large to a private company without any oversight from the Congress.”
“It is entirely fair to ask whether the biggest federal government loan to a private company in history is necessary or is just blatant government waste,” said Maloney who is slated to chair a subcommittee of the Government Reform Committee. “American taxpayers expect their government to make sound decisions, which is why I hope this loan will be carefully scrutinized. I applaud Congressman-elect Walz for making this issue a priority and for already taking action on it for his constituents and American taxpayers.”
“I would like to thank my colleague Congresswoman Maloney for joining with me to demand a thorough Congressional review of this project,” said Walz. “Given the potential impact of the DM&E’s expansion, the federal government owes First District constituents accountability, safety, and transparency—none of which it has delivered up until now. Holding hearings in the Government Reform Committee would mark an entirely new—and improved—direction in the debate over this critically important matter.”
And here's the letter Walz sent to Henry Waxman:
The Honorable Henry Waxman Chairman-Designate House Committee on Government Reform C/O 2204 Rayburn House Building Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Mr. Chairman:
We are writing to you about a pending taxpayer-financed loan, the largest ever by the federal government to a private company and one of the worst examples that we have seen of government waste, with our hope that you will decide to investigate further as you prepare to assume the Chairman's Gavel of the House Committee on Government Reform. The $2.3 billion loan application package in question is being sought by the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad (DM&E) to publicly fund the construction of a coal rail line into the Powder River Basin and a total re-building of DM&E's infrastructure. The loan is currently pending before the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).
Aside from the issue of whether at a time of squeezed national priorities this loan warrants such a large expenditure of taxpayer monies, there are a series of additional concerns we believe deserve oversight:
1. Based on a number of critical evaluations by third parties, the company appears to be a poor credit risk and the project appears unlikely to be able to cover its debt service. It is fair to ask: Will the taxpayers end up footing the bill for default by a private company whose shareholders are not known publicly?
2. The government's own statistics indicate that the DM&E is one of only two U.S. railroads under a formal FRA Safety Compliance Agreement, and has one of the worst safety records -- if not the worst safety record -- in the nation. This concern is magnified by the fact that the DM&E plans to run hazardous materials trains at high speeds through the heart of downtown Rochester, within a few hundred feet of the Mayo Clinic, whose large and vulnerable patient population would be virtually impossible to evacuate in the event of a hazardous materials spill.
3. The FRA is proposing to adopt an almost 5-year-old environmental impact analysis, completed by a different agency, which does not take into account DM&E's acquisition of an additional 1,100 miles of rail line, all in apparent violation of the FRA's own National Environmental Policy Act procedures.
4. The public knows very little about the DM&E, its ownership, and this application, given that they are being asked to support this railroad with $2.3 billion in taxpayer funds. Much more information needs to be made public about the ownership and structure of this business. The question needs to be asked: If the U.S. taxpayers make the loan, will it simply benefit the shareholders and management of the railroad, who can then turn around and sell it as soon as they obtain the loan money?
5. There are potential ethical implications. As we understand it, a U.S. Senator in his first year in office took public credit for the legislative provisions that made this recordbreaking loan application possible, but in the preceding two years he was paid $220,000 as a lobbyist for the DM&E, including $160,000 in the year he was running for the Senate. In fact, the Senator's lobbying termination report was filed during the same year he pushed the amendments that the DM&E in its public release claimed helped the Railroad. What kind of signal does this kind of reverse revolving door action send?
Therefore, we respectfully request that you consider sending a letter to the Secretary of Transportation to alert the Department and the FRA that the incoming Committee leadership believes that this record-breaking loan warrants careful congressional oversight. Additionally, the Secretary should provide to you the full set of documents and information concerning this loan so that these issues can be examined in the full light of the public that is being asked to bankroll this loan.
Thank you for your consideration of our request.
Carolyn B. Maloney
Member of Congress
Member-elect of Congress
Posted at 1:57 PM on December 19, 2006
by Tom Scheck
AP picked up on the Congressional Quarterly article that detailed who is behind "A Stronger America." This is the independent organization that was behind the last minute anti-Mike Hatch ads. If you're interested in looking at the list of donors, look here.
MPR's Tim Pugmire will have a story on this later today.