A lifelong resident of Minnesota, Michael Brodkorb is an experienced communications, social media, public affairs & research consultant and is an observer of all things political. He also blogs at politics.mn. He lives in Eagan with his family.

Posts about Politics

Will the GOP finally leave the 1960s in 2014?

Posted by: Michael Brodkorb Updated: December 28, 2014 - 11:42 PM

In the aftermath of another election, Republicans are once again looking at the membership of the Grand Old Party with the goal of building a bigger political tent. The race to win the White House has already begun and Republicans find themselves trying to build a party that can be competative in 2016.

From the Associated Press

Republican strategists hope that a more diverse slate of candidates will help appeal to a growing minority population that has given Democrats a decided advantage in the last two presidential contests.

It's unclear, however, whether changing the faces of the GOP's messengers will be enough to take back the White House in 2016. As critics point out, Republicans have alienated some minority voters by pushing for voter identification laws that disproportionately affect nonwhites, while resisting comprehensive changes in the immigration and criminal justice systems.

"They're going to have to make a decision about whether they're going to build a meaningful multiracial coalition by respecting and defending the rights of all people in this country," said Benjamin Jealous, a former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, "or whether they're going to continue to play this dog-whistle politics that have besmirched the Republican Party since the days of Barry Goldwater."

The Republican Party has struggled with attracting support from minorities since Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Goldwater, the Republican presidential nominee, opposed it. But Jealous and others suggest there are signs of hope in a crowded and diverse 2016 Republican class.

While the 2014 election results favored Republicans nationally, the voter turnout was the lowest in decades. Winning the White House in 2016 may be the immediate prize for the Republicans, but a long-term strategy for building a more diverse political party should be ultimate goal.  

Ortman confirms payment to rival candidate

Posted by: Michael Brodkorb Updated: December 16, 2014 - 9:10 PM

Former Republican U.S. Senate candidate and current State Senator Julianne Ortman confirmed tonight that her U.S. Senate campaign wrote a check to rival candidate Monti Moreno, but denies that the payment was authorized by her campaign. Moreno claims that he received the payment for endorsing Ortman's candidacy at the Republican State Convention this past summer.  

In response to new questions about the payment to Moreno, Ortman wrote tonight the "check was not authorized by me or by the campaign." Ortman added that "the matter has been referred to [a Federal Election Commission] Compliance expert."

In an interview last month, Ortman would not specifically answer repeated questions regarding her campaign’s payment to Moreno. At the time Ortman wrote, "I don't know about a check to Moreno” but she declined to answer if her campaign committee wrote Moreno a check. Today’s statement is the first from Ortman that acknowledges a check was written from her campaign.

However, despite the check’s existence, the expenditure does not appear on any of Ortman’s filings with the FEC. Ortman’s campaign has had ongoing compliance issues with the FEC, which led her to file one overdue report and amendments to every previously filed report late last month.

Moreno has repeatedly claimed he received $400 from Andy Parrish, who served as a top advisor to Ortman’s campaign, for endorsing her candidacy. Moreno said in a past interview that Andy Parrish wrote him a check in Ortman's campaign office a few days after the Republican State Convention.

Ortman’s statements today seem to indicate that Andy Parrish acted outside his authority when writing the check to Moreno. However, sources inside the Ortman campaign claim that Andy Parrish did have authority to write checks for Ortman's campaign, and did so frequently.

Andy Parrish did not respond to multiple requests for comment about the check to Moreno. Andy Parrish also declined to comment on Ortman's claim that the check written to Moreno was "not authorized by [Ortman] or by the campaign."

Charles P. Erickson, who serves as Ortman’s campaign treasurer and is a member of the Waconia City Council, did not respond to a request for comment. Jim Sanborn, who is listed as the assistant treasurer of Ortman’s campaign committee and was recently elected as the mayor of Waconia, also did not respond to a request for comment.

Picture source: Andy Parrish, Julianne Ortman for U.S. Senate, Monti Moreno for U.S. Senate

Twitter account for local Home Depot store shutdown after "war crimes and torture" tweet

Posted by: Michael Brodkorb Updated: December 15, 2014 - 6:25 PM

Tweets highly critical of former President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were sent today by a Twitter account used by the Home Depot Kitchen Design located at a Home Depot store in Apple Valley. Less than two hours after being sent, the tweets were deleted and the Twitter account was taken down. 

The tweets, which contained an image of Bush and Cheney with the text "we....committed documented war crimes and torture" were first noticed by Brian McClung, President of McClung Communications & Public Relations. 

The store manager at the Home Depot in Apple Valley connected to the Twitter account said all media calls about the tweets were being answered by public relations staff at Home Depot's corporate office.

Stephen Holmes, Director of Corporate Communications for Home Depot said in a statement that this was not  "a company Tweet or a company statement."  Holmes added that Home Depot "quickly investigated and an employee admitted to accidently retweeting this, not realizing it was coming from the store’s Twitter account." Holmes did not know if the Twitter account would be activated again. 

Picture source: Brian McClung via Twitter

Ortman's campaign files another amended finance report

Posted by: Michael Brodkorb Updated: December 4, 2014 - 4:10 PM

The campaign treasurer for former Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate Julianne Ortman filed a third version of the 2014 April Quarterly Report for Ortman's campaign, according to documents posted on the Federal Election Commission's (FEC) website today.  

The latest April Quarterly Report filed by Ortman's treasurer contained the pages which were missing from a report filed on November 20, 2014 and posted last week by the FEC. Over 100 pages of the campaign’s amended April Quarterly Report were missing, including all of the pages which would detail the campaign's expenditures from January 1 to March 31, 2014.

The reports were mailed to the FEC two days after it was reported the pages were missing from Ortman's report

The complete 2014 April Quarterly Report was required to be mailed by April 15, 2014 - over seven months ago. In the last few weeks, Ortman's campaign has filed one overdue report, and amendments to every previously filed report. Ortman declined a request for comment on why her reports were filed late and incomplete. She also declined to comment about the lack of transpaprency in filing amended reports that were originally filed last year. 

Charles P. Erickson, who serves as Ortman’s campaign treasurer and is a member of the Waconia City Council, did not respond to a request for comment. Jim Sanborn, who is listed as the assistant treasurer of Ortman’s campaign committee and was recently elected as the mayor of Waconia, also did not respond to a request for comment. 

In each of the new filed reports (except the 2014 Pre-Primary Report, which only covers three week’s time) Ortman’s campaign overstated the amount of money it had raised and understated the amount of money her campaign had spent, which led to inflated cash on hand totals at the closing of the reporting period.  

The flury of newly filed reports come as allegations involving offers to pay the campaign debts of two Republican candidates who endorsed Ortman's campaign were reported. These issues came during a review of Ortman’s campaign finance reports after inconsistencies were made public by the FEC.

The campaign must file one more report for this reporting year, which is due on January 31, 2015.

Picture source: Julianne Ortman for U.S. Senate

Ortman's new campaign finance reports raise more questions

Posted by: Michael Brodkorb Updated: November 26, 2014 - 9:56 PM

Over the last week, I wrote about allegations involving offers to pay the campaign debts of two Republican candidates who endorsed former Republican U.S. Senate candidate Julianne Ortman's campaign. These issues came during a review of Ortman’s campaign finance reports after inconsistencies were made public by the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

Ortman declined to provide copies of her updated FEC reports, writing in an email last week that her committee's campaign finance reports would be "available in a couple of days on the FEC website."

Today the FEC posted the campaign reports filed by the campaign committee. This included one overdue report, and amendments to every previously filed report. The reports filed this week by Ortman's treasurer, Charles P. Erickson, who is also a member of the Waconia City Council, clear up some of the issues raised by the FEC, but also generate more questions about the financing of her candidacy for the U.S. Senate.

One of the major questions raised by the FEC was related to inconsistent opening and closing cash on hand balances on two consecutive reports, creating the appearance of almost $130,000 in “missing” funds, which I detailed here. The new reports correct this inconsistency, but over 100 pages of the campaign’s newly amended April Quarterly Report are missing, including all of the pages which would detail the campaign’s expenditures.

It is unclear whether Ortman’s campaign failed to send all of the pages to the FEC, or whether there was an error when the reports were scanned by officials with the Secretary of the U.S. Senate. (Candidates for U.S. Senate file their paperwork on paper forms, not electronically.) A phone call to the FEC was not immediately returned, and Ortman and her treasurer did not respond to a request for comment about the missing pages.

Without the detail that should be included in the missing pages, it is impossible to reconcile the report that was previously filed with the new report to determine what was changed. It is also not possible to tell where and how the campaign’s money was spent.

In an unusual move, Ortman’s campaign this week also filed amendments to every report that they had previously filed with the FEC. In each of the reports (except the 2014 Pre-Primary Report, which only covers three week’s time) Ortman’s campaign overstated the amount of money it had raised and understated the amount of money her campaign had spent, which led to inflated cash on hand totals at the closing of the reporting period.  

In total, the campaign understated its expenditures and overstated its cash on hand by almost $80,000 in the April Quarterly Report, which was the last report that was published prior to the Republican Party of Minnesota’s endorsing convention in May. Ortman told a reporter on April 17 that her campaign had “about "$250,000" cash on hand when the actual amount, according to these new reports was $151,000.

The chart below details the variances in Ortman's camapign finance reports filed by her committee.

Ortman’s October Quarterly Report, which was due on October 15 but filed this week shows the campaign with cash on hand of $182.74 and outstanding debts of over $44,000.

The campaign must file one more report for this reporting year, which is due on January 31, 2015.

Picture source: Julianne Ortman for U.S. Senate

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