consultants are sandburs

Sunday, March 01, 2015

"Dollars for Democrats." Curiously, Rukavina gets mentioned.

Glen Taylor's Strib reporting:

The call center relocated to Eveleth in 2006 thanks in part to a $625,000 loan from a unique state agency called the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB). It doles out about $40 million each year, much of it from a tax on taconite, in the name of bolstering and diversifying the Range economy.

In its first incarnation, the call center on the Range failed to meet job targets, but the IRRRB gave the company, Meyer Associates, more time to repay the loan. It shut down anyway last year. The IRRRB let Meyer’s owner walk away and wrote off the $250,000 Meyer owed, records show.

Then a former Meyer executive reopened the phone bank under the name of his new company. The deal allowed him to pay $50,000 for equipment that had been purchased with $500,000 in IRRRB money. The largest political client for the call center remained the same: a group called Dollars for Democrats.

Officials at the IRRRB say jobs, not politics, are behind its dealings with the two firms.

[italics added]

Jobs not politics. Uh-huh. Sure.

The item continues:

The call center’s death and resurrection come at a crucial moment for the IRRRB. In December, a month after Republicans won control of the Minnesota House, the agency voted to spin off up to $100 million from its key trust fund into a private nonprofit corporation — safe from lawmakers who might take the money for other purposes.

[empahsis added during post updating]

The Wellstone plane disaster was outside of Eveleth. It is easy to have little love for the town.

It is a lengthy item, with the quoted text early in the reporting.

UPDATE: Further in the item, this:

Questions about using public money to aid a DFL player were never a topic of discussion, people on all sides said.

At the time the IRRRB commissioner was Sandy Layman, a Republican appointed by Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Samargia said he was “actually fairly surprised” Pawlenty’s administration signed off on the deal.

Layman “knew that at that point 70 percent of our business was Democratic calling,” he said. “We weren’t hiding what we did.”

In e-mails to the Star Tribune, Layman said she couldn’t clearly recall the project, but said a customer list would have been part of business plan review. The company “met due diligence tests and several levels of review,” she wrote. Layman declined to be more specific.

Said Rukavina: “I think Sandy might have brought it up privately to me once, that these people call for Democrats, and I said ‘So what?’ ”

FURTHER UPDATE: One thing Glen Taylor's Strib reporter did not mention, so that it is unclear whether the question has even so far arose; is the same call solicitation center also paid to huckster support for sulfide mining and unncessary piplines so that oil can be routed to the Gluf Coast for shipping to Europe vs being sent by train to east coast refineries not serviced by pipelines but relying upon train or ship delivery of crude. Or if not that specific call center, has IRRRB put funds into some other such call center which may be doing that kind of huckstering, that is the ancillary question. To me environmental depredation is a major worry, and the full dimension of call center mischief is being overlooked/hidden, unless that question is at least asked, with due investigation, and the result reported.

If IRRRB money, money basically from taxation, is being used to lobby for corruption or possible corruption of the environment in ways possibly irreversible over centuries, we should be told THAT.

YET MORE: Strib has carried reporting by Aaron Brown, e.g., here.

He might be the ideal Strib insider to pursue whether IRRRB money is being used for sulfide mining or pipeline lobbying and/or propaganda.

Brown has his own independent web publishing site:

However, with Glen Taylor's Strib taking shots that appear partisan anti-DFL, it would be in the better interest of that press outlet to publish anything Brown might uncover, if the question interests him, rather than people reading one thing is Strib and having to go to an independent website to see further coverage.

YET MORE UPDATING STILL: Sorensen looks at Strib's reporting, and goes well beyond that in researching and presenting her ideas, and while her writing speaks for itself, one might infer a feeling on Sorensen's part that Strib coverage was perhaps less than fully fair and balanced.

Sorensen, as well as Aaron Brown, might be a good person to look at the bigger picture of possible IRRRB mischief in the mining and pipeline direction. While clearly skeptical of frac sand mining, she may also have opinions and interests in sulfide mining which could potentially square with her finding out if IRRRB cash is going into pipeline or sulfide mining propaganda. Not that she'd do it at my urging, but possibly out of her own set of interests.

____________FINAL UPDATE_____________
To clarify things, I have no evidence whether anyone is running either a boiler room or robocall push effort favoring sulfide mining or pipeline construction, in Minnesota or on a national basis. I have not been called, nor the household, unless one of the robocall rapid hangups was before any such spiel could be pitched. But upon reading of advocacy solicitations in another context, the question came to mind. I wonder now, what is the answer.

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