With an insider’s eye, Hot Dish tracks the tastiest bits of Minnesota’s political scene and keep you up-to-date on those elected to serve you.

Contributors in Minnesota: Patrick Condon, Baird Helgeson, Patricia Lopez, Jim Ragsdale, Abby Simons, Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Glen Stubbe. Contributors in D.C.: Allison Sherry, Corey Mitchell and Jim Spencer.

Justice Department to expand outreach to Twin Cities in expanded effort to halt ISIS recruitment

Posted by: Allison Sherry under Morning Hot Dish newsletter, 5th District, President Obama Updated: September 17, 2014 - 9:19 PM

WASHINGTON -- The Twin Cities were one of three muncipalities in the country that will participate in a pilot program to boost outreach in the Islamic community in effort to combat recruitment of naturalized Americans by the terrorist group ISIL, Department of Justice officials said Wednesday.

The pilot project will "bring together important Minnesota law enforcement, religious, and community leaders to expand outreach to Minnesotans," according to Sen. Al Franken's office, which has urged the Obama administration to deliver additional resources to Minnesota.

Two men with Minnesota ties were killed fighting for ISIL, or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, in the Middle East.

Rep. Keith Ellison, a Democrat who represents Minneapolis, has also encouraged administration officials to work with the Somali community because they can be allies in identifying vulnerable young people who can become radicalized, he said.

US Attorney for Minnesota Andy Luger, issued a statement late Wednesday: 

"The Somali community in Minneapolis and St. Paul will benefit greatly from the additional resources we expect to receive as part of the pilot program," he said. "Our Somali friends deserve to prosper in Minnesota in peace and security, and this program seeks to make that happen, and create a blueprint for the country for how to prevent the radicalization of vulnerable youth."

Jury convicts Michelle MacDonald of test refusal, resisting arrest

Posted by: Abby Simons under Minnesota campaigns, Republicans Updated: September 17, 2014 - 5:06 PM

A Dakota County jury convicted Minnesota Supreme Court candidate Michelle MacDonald of refusing to submit to a breath test and obstructing the legal process in connection with an April 2013 traffic stop.

MacDonald was found not guilty of fourth degree driving while intoxicated, while her attorney vows to appeal both convictions. He does not contest a third conviction of speeding.

“She’s disappointed as anyone to get a verdict like this,” said MacDonald’s attorney, Stephen Grigsby. “She intends to pursue the next procedure which is an appeal on the basis of law that allows innocent people to be convicted.”

The jury convicted MacDonald after a daylong jury trial that began Tuesday and ended Wednesday. The jury deliberated for about three hours before delivering the verdicts Wednesday afternoon.

MacDonald, was endorsed by the Minnesota Republican Party at its May convention to run against incumbent Justice David Lillehaug, only to draw ire a month later when charges came to light that she was stopped for speeding, refused to exit her vehicle and did not take a breath test.

MacDonald remained steadfast, maintaining her innocence and appearing at the party’s Minnesota State Fair booth even when she was told she wasn’t welcome, and earlier this month filing a complaint against the party and several members, alleging that they attempted to coerce her into renouncing her endorsement. The complaint was dismissed by an Administrative Law Judge.

Grigsby said he has nothing to do with MacDonald’s campaign and only serves as her attorney in the criminal case. He said MacDonald’s conviction on the test-refusal count is based on a legal interpretation of civil law, which leads to confusion among a jury.

“It’s like asking somebody to find a squared circle,” he said. “It’s not a fact, it’s a legal conclusion and juries only find facts.”

Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 12. In the meantime, Judge Leslie Metzen ordered a psychological evaluation for MacDonald.

MacDonald did not answer a call to her cell phone, and her voice mailbox was full.

Party line splits on House approval to arm Syrian rebels

Posted by: Allison Sherry under Morning Hot Dish newsletter, 1st District, 2nd District, 3rd District, 4th District, 6th District, 7th District, 8th District, Minnesota congressional, Democrats, Republicans Updated: September 17, 2014 - 5:23 PM

WASHINGTON -- It's not often that Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann and Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan join together to support the same amendment.

On Thursday, an odd blend of bedfellows voted against a $5 billion measure to arm Syrian rebels in the fight to combat the terror group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which passed 273 to 156.

Bachmann, Nolan and Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum voted against the proposal. Democratic Reps. Tim Walz, Collin Peterson and Keith Ellison joined Republican Reps. John Kline and Erik Paulson in support.

Bachmann tweeted after the vote: "Many of the so-called "moderate" rebels have already joined the cause of Islamic jihad. Concerned U.S. weapons could fall into enemy hands."

Nolan uttered a similar sentiment on the House floor Tuesday. His impassioned speech earned him exposure on the CBS morning news.

"Remember, last year at this time we were ready to attack (Syrian President) al-Assad and Syria. Now we appear in a tacit alliance with Assad and his allies to defeat ISIL," he said. "Today we appear ready to send $5 billion to the FSA ... The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result."

Paulsen said, in a statement, he supported the measure with reservations.

"I remain concerned about the administration's ability to effectively and appropriately vet Syrian opposition forces to ensure we are training groups aligned with our interest in defeating ISIL," he said, noting he found it "necessary to provide the president with this limited and short-term authority."

McCollum, in a statement, called the debate "rushed."

"The CIA is already training and arming Syrian fighters in Jordan, without congressional approval. How well has that worked? We are not discussing that as a body," she said.

The Senate takes this up Thursday. Sen. Al Franken in an interview on Wednesday said he had concerns about arming Syria and was still undecided.

McFadden blasts MNsure insurer pullout as Franken, Obama failure

Posted by: Abby Simons under Health care, Minnesota U.S. senators, Minnesota campaigns, National campaigns, Democrats, Republicans, President Obama Updated: September 17, 2014 - 12:16 PM

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden said the withdrawal of the largest insurer from MNsure, the state’s health care exchange, is evidence of the Affordable Care Act’s failure, blaming President Obama and his opponent, Sen. Al Franken, for enacting what he called a broken system.

PreferredOne was the top-selling insurer on MNsure, but its CEO said they’d be pulling out of the exchange, saying their participation was “not sustainable.” PreferredOne insured six out of 10 MNsure consumers who now will have to seek out other providers and may result in higher healthcare premiums.

“I’m a businessman, and as a businessman I know that when someone provides 60 percent of the market and is the low-cost provider drops out of the program, you’re going to see a significant increase in premiums. This doesn’t work.” McFadden said, pointing to a chart from the Hoover Institution that illustrated the tangle of functions that make up the ACA. “I’m very disappointed in President Obama and Sen. Franken because this program has been based on lies.”

The biggest of all, he said, is that Obama care decreased the cost of insurance in the country. PreferredOne’s withdrawal is proof of that, he argued. However, he said he does not believe the insurance company should be held responsible for leaving MNsure. He remained focused on a system he said could be fixed by a “state-based, market-based, patient-centered” system that allows consumers to buy their insurance across state lines.

Franken spokeswoman Alexandra Fetissoff said that because of the ACA, 95 percent of Minnesotans are now insured, while the state’s uninsured rate has been halved.

“Mike McFadden would repeal the health law and take us back to a time when women were charged more for health coverage simply because they were women, people with preexisting conditions were denied coverage, half the bankruptcies in this country were connected with health care emergencies and young adults couldn't get covered under their parents' plan,” she said in a statement. “Once again, Mike McFadden has proven that he would rather jump at the opportunity to play politics than actually solve problems.”

McFadden made his statements on the day the Franken campaign launched another ad claiming McFadden’s investment firm, Lazard Middle Market, was involved in a merger that moved an American pharmaceutical company to Ireland to avoid paying U.S. taxes.

McFadden called the ad “patently false,” saying his firm did not represent the company that made the inversion, and that Franken praised a similar move by Medtronic to new headquarters in Ireland. However, while Franken praised the move as a potential job-creator, he also said the it "needs careful scrutiny."

McFadden said he said companies leave the country because they lack the tax incentives to stay.

“What this is evidence of is you have a president and a Democratic senator and a Democratic Senate that don’t understand tax policy and haven’t done anything over the last six years to make the United States have a competitive tax climate.” he said.

Johnson blasts Dayton as "incompetent" as top-selling insurer exits MNsure

Posted by: Patrick Condon under Health care, Minnesota campaigns, Minnesota governor, Gov. Mark Dayton, Democrats, Republicans Updated: September 16, 2014 - 5:46 PM

Republican candidate for governor Jeff Johnson blasted Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday for what he called "breathtaking incompetence," after it was revealed that the insurance company that sold more policies on MNsure than any other is pulling out of the exchange. 

MNsure officials confirmed Tuesday that PreferredOne, the choice of nearly six in 10 consumers who have bought plans on the exchange, would no longer participate. Insurers are expected to release their 2015 MNsure rates in early October. 

"Mark Dayton was desperate to be the first governor in the country to implement Obamacare in Minnesota through MNsure," Johnson said at a Capitol news conference. "He got to handpick his board and handpick his staff and it has been an unmitigated disaster since day one." 

Johnson suggested that PreferredOne pulled out because it was offering artificially low rates on its plans under pressure from Dayton's administration. Jeremy Drucker, spokesman for Dayton's re-election campaign, called that ridiculous. 

"Of course, administration officials encouraged insurers on MNsure to provide the lowest rates possible to the people of Minnesota," Drucker said. "However, the companies were solely responsible for the rates they decided to offer." 

Dayton has owned up to MNsure's struggles. He apologized to consumers who struggled to buy coverage through the glitch-ridden website, and earlier this month he called MNsure's troubled launch the single biggest disappointment of his first term as governor. 

Johnson said if elected, his first goal would be winning a federal waiver that would allow Minnesota to pull out of conforming to the Affordable Care Act. If that's not successful, Johnson said, he would seek to replace MNsure's board of directors and its leadership staff. He also said he'd try to increase competition among those companies selling plans on the site. 

Drucker predicted that if Johnson is elected, he would seek changes that undermine MNsure's mission of boosting insurance coverage rates. 

"This would be devastating to Minnesotans," Drucker said.

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