Rep. Michele Bachmann sought to diminish former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich's leading position in the Republican presidential nomination battle at last night's debate in Sioux City. She accused Gingrich of influence-peddling and weakness on opposition to legalized abortion. Gingrich fought back accusing Bachmann of untruths.
Asked by a Fox News moderator how she could back up her claim that Gingrich was paid to lobby on behalf of Freddie Mac, Bachmann said Gingrich's paycheck was confirmation.
"That's the best evidence you can have. Over $1.6 million dollars," said Bachmann. She said Gingrich was promoting Freddie Mac at a time when she was trying to dismantle the mortgage giant.
"He was taking $1.6 million dollars to influence senior Republicans keep the scam going in Washington D.C. That's absolutely wrong," Bachmann said,
In response, Gingrich snapped back at Bachmann. "Sometimes people ought to have facts before they make wild allegations," he said.
"What she just said is factually not true. I never lobbied under any circumstance," said Gingrich who doesn't deny Freddie Mac paid him but says it was for consulting work, not lobbying.
Bachmann said Gingrich's explanation does not add up.
"You don't need to be within the technical definition of being a lobbyist to still be influence-peddling with senior Republicans in Washington, DC." Bachmann said.
Later in the debate Bachmann was asked to outline her concerns about Gingrich on the issue of legalized abortion. She accused Gingrich of failing to pursue opportunities to defund Planned Parenthood when he was in Congress and that he lacked aggression in opposing fellow Republicans who supported partial birth abortion.
"When he was in Washington D.C. he made an affirmative statement that he would not only support, but that he would campaign for Republicans who were in support of the barbaric procedure known as 'partial birth abortion'. I could never do that," said Bachmann who called opposition to legalized abortion a "seminal issue," for Republicans.
"It's something that we can't get wrong and as president of the United States, I will be 100 percent pro-life from conception until natural death," said Bachmann.
Gingrich, again, accused Bachmann of being wrong.
"Sometimes Congresswoman Bachmann doesn't get her facts accurate," said Gingrich who cited his 98.5 percent right to life voting record over 20 years along with efforts to ban partial birth abortion.
But Bachmann did not back down and demanded a rebuttal.
"This isn't just once. I think it's outrageous to continue to say over and over through the debates that I don't have my facts rights when, as a matter of fact, I do. I'm a serious candidate for president of the United States and my facts are accurate," said Bachmann reiterating her point that Gingrich failed to hold some fellow Republicans accountable on partial birth abortion.
Finally Gingrich conceded the point.
"What I said on that particular issue is, I wouldn't go out and try to purge Republicans. Now I don't see how you're going to govern the country if you're going to run around and decide who you're going to purge," said Gingrich who said he has consistently opposed partial birth abortion and supports prohibiting legalized abortion. Gingrich also said as president, he would defund Planned Parenthood.
In addition to criticizing Gingrich, Bachmann attempted to address electability questions about her candidacy, claiming that the elections she has won for Minnesota Senate and Congress were won not only with the support of Republicans, but also with votes from independents and even Democrats.
"People wanted to know, who could they trust? They knew that, in me, they may not always agree with me, but they knew that I was a woman who said what she meant and meant what she said and they respected that level of authenticity and sincerity," said Bachmann.
Bachmann will seek to build on any momentum the last few debates have given her struggling campaign with a weeks-long bus tour of Iowa in which she plans stops in all of its 99 counties.
In an interview with MPR News Thursday afternoon on her campaign bus, Bachmann said the strategy mimics her successful summer campaign push in Iowa.
"Of all of the candidates, no one has done more retail politics in Iowa than I have done and I am very happy to have done that. I think that paid off very well for the Straw Poll. I'm the candidate that won the straw poll and now we're employing the same strategy. We're going to be in all 99 Iowa counties and I think that's exactly what we need to do to actually meet people where they are, shake their hand, speak with them. Iowans want to know they matter and they matter to me."
Bachmann kicks off her bus tour Friday with several stops planned in conservative northwestern Iowa.
The next debate is scheduled for January 7, just a few days after Iowans will finally cast ballots in the GOP nomination battle. That debate will take place in Manchester, N.H. with the remaining candidates.
Posted at 6:00 AM on December 16, 2011
by Tom Scheck
Filed under: Daily Digest
GOP Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch dropped a bombshell on the State Capitol last night announcing that she was stepping down as Majority Leader and wouldn't run for reelection. Koch says she felt "it was time" and said she wasn't taking the action to make a run for another office (but didn't rule out a run in the future). Here's the letter Koch sent out.
Senate GOP leadership elected Assistant Senate Majority Leader Geoff Michel as temporary Majority Leader. An election has to be held within two weeks (Dec. 29) to elect a new majority leader.
Tidbit: Michel, David Hann and Dave Thompson are names that have been floated for the top job.
AP is reporting that Minnesota is one of nine states that won "Race to the Top" early learning money.
Minnesota's unemployment rate dropped even though employers cut 14,000 jobs in the state.
Governor Dayton and other governors are urging Congress to act on unemployment benefits.
MPR says the drop in unemployment ends extended benefits for jobless Minnesotans.
Three people, including a Cook County prosecutor, have been shot at a Northeast Minnesota courthouse.
MPR says the group suing to stop Gov. Dayton's child care unionization effort isn't as broad based as suggested.
The last Ranger rolls off the line today at the St. Paul Ford plant.
U of M grad students are trying to unionize.
Ramsey County is proposing a countywide food and beverage tax to pay for the new Vikings stadium.
A spending deal has been reached to avert a government shutdown.
Talks continue on extending the payroll tax break and an extension of the unemployment benefits.
MPR says, despite promises to do things differently, the budget process reverts to business as usual.
The U.S. marked an end to the war in Iraq.
Minnesota's Red Bulls will remain in Kuwait until May despite the end of the Iraq war.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu says Minnesota weatherized more than 18,000 homes as a result of federal funds.
Franken also voted against the Defense bill.
Backers of a Stillwater Bridge replacement concede Congress won't act on the bridge this year.
The U.S. House passed a bill restricting welfare ATM use. GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen is mentioned.
GOP Rep. John Kline and GOP Rep. Chip Cravaack are upset that the spending bill doesn't include a policy provision on managing gray wolf populations in the upper Midwest.
DFL Rep. Betty McCollum voted against a bill that would allow the president to have a line-item veto.
Race for MNGOP Chair
Former state Rep. Mike Osskopp announced last night that he's running for chair.
Race for President
An AP poll finds that more than half of those surveyed think President Obama should lose.
Newt Gingrich compared himself to Ronald Reagan at last night's debate.
Gingrich was on the defensive, however, for most of the debate.
Bachmann teared into Gingrich at the debate.
Roll Call says Mitt Romney struggles to defend the arguments that he flip-flops.
Bachmann says PolitiFact rated all of her arguments as true. PolitiFact gave that a Pants on Fire rating of false.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley will announce today that she's backing Romney.
Gingrich says voters are looking past his personal history.
CNN's Gallup poll says Gingrich is losing steam and Romney is reclaiming some meomentum.
The Washington Post says the FBI considered a sting aimed at Gingrich in 1997.
CNN says Ron Paul is making a serious challenge in Iowa that could rock the GOP race.
Metropolitan Airport officials say police were acting on mistaken information when they arrested a business executive who is a top contender to be the new chair of the Minnesota Republican Party.
Airport police arrested Brandon Sawalich yesterday when he returned from a business trip for suspicion of trying to avoid paying the motor vehicle tax, which is a gross misdemeanor. Metropolitan Airports spokesman Patrick Hogan says a clerical error led officers to suspect the tabs had been expired for a year and a half, not for six months. He says Sawalich will be issued a ticket and that police will not pursue the gross misdemeanor charge. He says police did not overreact.
"They went on what they believed to be true. They believed at the time that there was enough evidence that there was an intent to avoid paying motor vehicle taxes to make the arrest. But after that happened we had a chance to look into it further and were able to clear up some of the discrepancies. "
The Minneapolis-St. Paul airport police arrested Brandon Sawalich last night for expired license plate tabs. The arrest data report said Sawalich was arrested for "Intent to Escape MV Tax, SS 168.35"
It isn't clear exactly why Sawalich was arrested for having expired tabs, but it's a gross misdemeanor offense. The police report has not been made available yet.
"I was placed under arrest for expired tabs," said Sawalich. "I was in disbelief and dumbfounded."
He said his assistant was driving his truck to pick him up when police stopped her. They waited for him to arrive and arrested him because the tabs were so far out of date. He said his truck had been in storage, and that's why the tabs had expired.
He says he's reconsidering his run for state party chair because he doesn't want his arrest to be a distraction.
Sawalich has been considered the leading candidate to replace Tony Sutton as chair of the Minnesota Republican Party. He was picking up significant endorsements from key Republicans including House Speaker Kurt Zellers, former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert and others.
He said he's re-evaluating his run for chair.
"I don't want this to be a distraction," he said.
Here's the initial Public Arrest Data from the Airport Police Department:6 Comments)
The fact-checkers were out in full force during Thursday night's Republican presidential debate in Sioux City, Iowa.
It was the last gathering of the candidates before the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3.
Several fact-checking outlets looked at claims made by Rep. Michele Bachmann on topics ranging from Iran's nuclear capabilities to the number of jobs that would be created during by building an oil pipeline.
So instead of doing our own check today, here's PoliGraph's round up of last night's best reports.
"We have an IAEA report that just recently came out that said literally Iran is within just months of being able to obtain that weapon," said Bachmann.
She is referring to a recent report by the International Atomic Energy Agency regarding Iran's nuclear program.
As FactCheck.org points out, unnamed sources told the Los Angeles Times shortly before the report came out that Iran had the technical ability to design a nuclear weapon within six months if it wanted to.
But FactCheck.org also writes that the actual report isn't so definitive. While the Agency believes that Iran has "serious concern regarding possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear programme" and that intelligence gathered on the issue is "overall, credible," it stops short of saying that the country is "within months" of having an operative weapon.
The delayed Keystone XL pipeline "would have brought at least 20,000 jobs," Bachmann contended.
Several of the candidates, including Bachmann, criticized President Barack Obama for delaying action on the oil pipeline that would start in Canada and stretch as far as Texas.
Bachmann's jobs estimate is one frequently touted by TransCanada Corporation, the company proposing the project, and other proponents.
But it's on the high-end, because it assumes that only one person holds a pipeline related job for one year, FactCheck.org reports. So, if a pipeline construction job lasts for two years and the same person has the job, the number of jobs created declines.
Meanwhile, the State Department estimates that between 5,000 and 6,000 construction jobs would be created.
"The evidence is that Speaker Gingrich took $1.6 million [from Freddie Mac]. You don't need to be within the technical definition of being a lobbyist to still be influence peddling with senior Republicans in Washington, D.C., to get them to do your bidding," Bachmann said.
CNN previously reported that Newt Gingrich's consulting group had taken between $1.6 million and $1.8 million from Freddie Mac for its services.
But CNN said Bachmann's claim was misleading.
"While Freddie Mac was a Gingrich Group client, Bachmann did not offer hard evidence that Gingrich lobbied for Freddie Mac."
PolitiFact.com came to a similar verdict about Gingrich's history with Freddie Mac, writing that "Gingrich is technically correct that he was not a registered lobbyist for Freddie Mac. But it appears he took pains to avoid being subject to the rules. Giving strategic advice is widely considered a way of using political influence without having to register."
Posted at 2:25 PM on December 16, 2011
by Brett Neely
Filed under: U.S. House
WASHINGTON - With strong bipartisan support, the U.S. House passed a trillion dollar spending bill Friday afternoon that funds much of the federal government through the end of the fiscal year next September.
The bill passed 296-121, with the support of 149 Democrats and 147 Republicans. 86 Republicans broke ranks with their party to vote against the measure. Five of Minnesota's eight House lawmakers voted for the legislation, two opposed it and one was not present to vote.
Voting in favor were Republican Reps. John Kline and Erik Paulsen and DFL Reps. Betty McCollum, Collin Peterson and Tim Walz. Republican Chip Cravaack and DFLer Keith Ellison voted against the measure. Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann was campaigning for the GOP presidential nomination in Iowa and did not return to Washington to vote.
Speaking moments before he cast his vote, Ellison said he could not support the bill because of what he called Congress's "turn toward austerity" rather than emphasizing job creation.
"I know it needs to pass, I know it's important but I also don't want to bless it with my support but I don't want to say, 'yeah, this is thumbs up this is the way it should be done,' or even close," said Ellison.
None of the congressional offices have issued press releases about the vote, but once they come out, we'll post them below.
Rep. Chip Cravaack (R) - "Language that would prevent the Administration from diverting Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund dredging monies to other federal infrastructure programs was stripped in conference committee. The bill also lacked the Senate-stripped provision to give Minnesota jurisdiction over the wolves within its borders and spent $915 billion without any substantive reforms. What's more, the bill cut funding for Forest Service timber sales programs. Next time the conference committee meets behind closed doors it should take into greater consideration the needs of the Eighth Congressional District."
Less than a week after declaring his candidacy for the Republican Party of Minnesota's top spot, Starkey Laboratories Senior Vice President Brandon Sawalich has dropped his bid.
"I am grateful for the opportunity to have met and spoken with many wonderful people during my candidacy for Chair," he said in a statement.
"The time and dedication you put forth from the ground up is immeasurable and cannot afford distractions for the uphill battle our party has in store," he said.
"It is for that reason I am respectfully withdrawing my name from this process. Our party must continue the path to unity and become one that is inclusive not exclusive. I intend to fully support the endorsed candidate for Chair and will continue to work hard to get republicans elected in 2012."
Sawalich was arrested on Dec. 15 by the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport police for expired license plate tabs.The police thought Sawalich's tabs had been expired for a year and a half, which is a gross misdemeanor offense.
But due to a clerical error, the police were wrong; Sawalich's plates had only been expired since June, 2011. He'll now only have to pay a ticket.
Sawalich may have replaced former chair Tony Sutton, who resigned earlier this month.
Meanwhile, Sawalich's statement hints at a separate crisis playing out this week within the state's top Republican leadership. Late Thursday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch stepped down from her post and said she would not seek reelection. She has been accused of an inappropriate relationship with a Senate staff member.
Republican leaders in the Minnesota Senate today said Amy Koch stepped down as Senate Majority Leader yesterday after they confronted her about allegations that she engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a male staffer. Koch abruptly resigned on Thursday, surprising some of her closest colleagues. She said at the time that she felt it was time to resign her position.
Interim Senate Majority Leader Geoff Michel said they confronted Koch after several staffers complained Koch's inappropriate relationship with a male staffer caused them considerable discomfort.
"None of us are perfect," Michel said. "We don't claim to be. We want to be proud of the Minnesota Senate and how it's run. We understand that's a special obligation on those of us to maintain the high standards."
Michel said Koch did not confirm or deny the allegations. She did not return calls to MPR News today.
Michel would not identify the Senate staffer in question except to say it was a man.
Here's the audio from today's news conference that included Senator Michel, GOP Sen. David Senjem, GOP Sen. David Hann and GOP Sen. Chris Gerlach: Listen(2 Comments)
Cal Ludeman, Secretary of the Minnesota Senate, confirmed to MPR News tonight that Senate Republican Caucus spokesman Michael Brodkorb is no longer working for the Minnesota Senate. Ludeman would not say whether Brodkorb resigned or was fired.
Brodkorb was the key contact for Republicans in the Minnesota Senate. He also worked on the message and talking points for Senate Republicans.
In October, Brodkorb stepped down as deputy chair of the Minnesota Republican Party. He resigned so he could serve in a volunteer capacity with GOP state Sen. Mike Parry's campaign for Congress.
Brodkorb did not return a phone call in time for this report.
Update: Ben Golnik, a senior adviser to Mike Parry's campaign for Congress, says Brodkorb has left his role with the campaign. Brodkorb resigned as Deputy Chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota in the fall to take a voluntary role with Parry's campaign.(7 Comments)