Monday, September 25, 2006

Inside Minnesota Politics: Prendergast Interviews David Strom

Well, I just got off the phone with our old pal, David Strom of the Taxpayer’s League of Minnesota. Dave and I go way back; I’ve despised everything the man stands for for years.

But this afternoon was the first time we’d ever actually spoken. And I must say he’s got a very charming phone manner—friendly, professional, very forthcoming with opinions. Refreshing change from dealing the people who run campaigns for political parties.

The reason I’d contacted Mr. Strom was to ask him about a poster I’d seen for the first time in one of our local tobacco shops. (I am a cigar smoker.)

This poster was circulated by the Taxpayers’ League of Minnesota (their name was at the bottom of the poster.) The headlines at the top of the poster read: “Are high cigarette prices making you angry? YOU CAN THANK THESE POLITICIANS WHO MADE IT HAPPEN!” Immediately following were photographs of three Minnesota elected officials—Governor Tim Pawlenty, Senator Michele Bachmann, and some guy you and I don’t really care about.

You can imagine my reaction. A rift between Senator Michele Bachmann and the Taxpayers’ League? That’s news! So I called Mr. Strom and asked him when the posters went up and if Bachmann and the Taxpayers’ League had patched things up since then.

It turns out that that’s old news, according to Strom. The League circulated those posters in tobacco shops about a year ago, he said. The cigarette tax hike rift between Bachmann and the League is over, and Strom confirmed that she is now the current favorite of the Taxpayer’s League in the 6th district congressional race.

While I had Strom on the phone, I asked him for his take on another apparent rift between Bachmann and the Taxpayers’ League. Earlier this year, when Bachmann and GOP elder statesman Phil Krinkie were in a knife fight to get the Republican endorsement for Congress, they had a “little disagreement” about which of them had the best record with the Taxpayers’ League.

Bachmann’s campaign released a statement claiming that her standing with the League was better than Krinkie’s. This caused Krinkie to explode. He indicated that that statement was false and indicated that legal action was forthcoming if Bachmann didn’t correct and withdraw the false statement.

The Taxpayers’ League got in between them and tried to settle the dispute. Strom says he called Andy Parrish, Bachmann’s campaign manager—“several times”--to try to straighten him out: Krinkie’s record with the League was indeed better than Bachmann’s. Strom told me that the basis of the Bachmann claim turned out to be an inappropriate “apples to oranges” interpretation of the candidates’ records that didn’t take proper account of their records over different time periods. He told the Bachmann campaign that they should withdraw the false claim.

Strom was puzzled by their unwillingness to do this. He finally had to straighten out the record himself, with a public statement denying the accuracy of Bachmann’s claims.

So dat’s da name of dat tune: Bachmann was making a false statement about a fellow conservative Republican and refusing to withdraw the charge when she was called out on it. Why would she refuse to withdraw the charge, once the League told her campaign manager it was false?

My opinion (not Strom’s): She didn’t withdraw the false charge right away because—she wanted to win the nomination. Didn’t matter to her whether it was true or false: the more days the false charge is circulated, the more damage is done to Krinkie. I think she understood that Krinkie wouldn’t go ahead and sue her—that would finish Krinkie with the Christian fundamentalist voters in this state, if he did that.

What did we learn from this? First: that Michele Bachmann will do anything to get ahead, including stabbing a fellow conservative in the back. Second: If you want the “inside story” on Minnesota politics—read the Stillwater Tribune.


At 7:46 PM, Blogger David said...

As a fellow cigar smoker, I'd love to send you some stogies (which cross party lines easily, I have found).

You can send your address to me at the League, dmstrom (at) taxpayersleague (dot) org

At 8:53 PM, Blogger Prendergast said...

It's no good, Strom, you can't bribe me. I'm a "JOURNALIST."

Thanks for the offer, though, that's very gracious of you. Maybe I will see you down in a smoking lounge in St. Paul sometime and I can explain the transcendence of the liberal philosophy to you over a couple of Montecristos.

"Alcibiades", eh? Tres classique, n'est-pas? Strange choice for a person as central to Minnesota political life as you are, though. Alcibiades was a smart cookie, a great leader, but he was also notoriously unethical. It would have been better PR to go under the name "Demosthenes," I think.

Thanks again for the offer.


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