Seventeen state lawmakers urged Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf to release the result of a full investigation into homophobic remarks made by a coach while calling his three-game suspension too lenient.
The strongly-worded letter signed by DFL legislators in both the House and Senate say the remarks made by special teams coach Mike Priefer to "...round up all the gays, send them to an island and then nuke it until it glows" is "tantamount to calling for the genocide of all LBGT people."
"Donald Sterling's highly offensive bigoted remarks did not come close to calling for the destruction of an entire class of individuals," the letter said in reference to the former Los Angeles Clippers owner. "Even so, he was rightly banned by the NBA and forced to sell his basketball team. A three, possibly shortened to two, game suspension for Priefer is an underwhelming response. Imagine if Priefer had called forhte extermination of any other group of people--communities of color or religious minorities, for example. It is a safe bet that the rush to seep the whole subject under the rug would not be so fast."
Former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, whose claims about Priefer's comments triggered the investigation, has threatened to sue for more than $10 million because the team won't release the report, but has held off as negotiations continue.
In the letter, the legislators remind Wilf that taxpayers contributed nearly half a billion dollars to the new stadium currently under construction, as well as continuing a sales tax exemption on ticket sales to the 2018 Super Bowl.
"In light of this enormous public effort, it is imperative that your organization be held accountable," the letter reads. "This is especially true when it would seem that Vikings leadership is turning a blind eye to such egregious misconduct and seems determined to remain opaque to the very public which has invested so much in the success of your team."
In a statement, Vikings spokesman Jeff Anderson said the organization considers Priefer's suspension appropriate.
"The Vikings retained two highly-respected and experienced lawyers to conduct a thorough and independent investigation of the claims made by Chris Kluwe. The results of their exhaustive six month investigation were provided to a leading employment law firm for review." the staement said. "As a result of these findings, we have taken the appropriate actions to hold individuals accountable and to ensure we continue to have a workplace environment that respects tolerance, diversity and inclusion. We have addressed this matter completely and are unable to comment further due to pending litigation".
Read the full letter here.
A state Office of Administrative Hearings panel rejected claims by Matt Entenza that Minnesota State Auditor Rebecca Otto lied when she said she had not voted for legislation requiring voter identification.
In an 11-page order issued Thursday, the three-judge panel rejected the official campaign complaint filed by Entenza, who is challenging Otto in a DFL primary Aug. 12. Entenza, a former House minority leader, filed for the office in the last moments before deadline, surprising Otto, a former House colleague, and many DFLers.
Entenza filed the complaint in June based on a Facebook comment Otto posted, after she was asked if she voted for Voter ID as a state legislator. Otto responded to the post saying "No, Lauren. It was not around in 2003. No one can find a bill on the issue when I served."
Otto wrote that no one could find a 2003 voter ID bill that she had opposed, as Entenza had claimed.
"Matt will say anything," she said in the post.
According to the ruling, two bills proposing the requirement of identification at the polls were presented on the House floor during the 2003 legislative session. Then-state Rep. Keith Ellison at the time presented an amendment removing the voter identification language from the legislation, which Otto voted against. Of the two bills, Otto voted against one that would require voter identification and in favor of another requring voter ID. However, the Voter ID language was stripped from the language in conference committee and Otto voted in favor of the revised version.
Otto said that the statement on her Facebook page was in reference to the highly- controversial proposed Voter ID amendment to the state constition defeated by voters in 2012, not the 2003 bills, which provided an exception for individuals without identification. Otto also maintained that she did not recall "Voter ID" being an issue when she served in the Legislature, and that her Facebook page is not "campaign material."
In dismissing the case, the panel concluded that "there are no disputed facts in this matter--only differing interpretations of the meaning of the phrase "voter ID," which is not sufficient for Entenza to bring a case.
"Ms. Otto's quick response to the Facebook post tends to support the conclusion that she subjectively understood her response to be truthful," the panel wrote.
Entenza campaign manager Dave Colling, who brought the complaint on the candidate's behalf, said Thursday that Otto's record on voter ID remains an issue for the campaign.
"Even though the case was dismissed it didn't go as far as to say she did not vote for voter ID," Colling said. "At the end of the day it doesn't change the fact that she voted for voter ID in the Legislature twice."
In a statement issued by the DFL, Otto's attorney, Charlie Nauen, called the ruling "a complete victory for Rebecca Otto over Matt Entenza's misleading claims and distortion of the facts."
"I have never voted for Voter ID," Otto said in the statement. "In fact, I campaigned against it."
"Rebecca Otto had it right," DFL Party Chair Ken Martin said. "Matt Entenza will say anything to get himself elected."
Read the ruling here:
Legislators are picking sides in the Republican governor's race.
On Wednesday both Republicans Marty Seifert, a former House minority leader from Marshall, and Jeff Johnson, a Hennepin County Commissioner released lists of lawmakers who have their backs.
Former House Speaker Kurt Zellers, who currently represents Maple Grove in the House, announced a list of current and former lawmakers in his corner two weeks ago. The three will face off against each other and businessman Scott Honour, the only one of the quartet who has not served in the Legislature, in an August primary.
Johnson's list of lawmaker-supporters is the longest, which stands to reason because he is the Republican Party's endorsed candidate for governor. Partisans are encouraged to back the candidate the party backs.
Supporters released by the Johnson campaign on Wednesday:
Former Republican legislators endorsing Johnson include:
Supporters released by the Seifert campaign on Wednesday:
Seifert's campaign said more lawmaker support is coming.
"Marty Seifert’s campaign for governor has locally announced several legislative endorsements from current and former legislators over the last week and will continue to do so for the next 10 days," it said in a news release.
Honour, who has not released a list of his legislative supporters, took a whack at his rivals through his campaign's Twitter account.
Photo: Minnesota Capitol/Source: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger
Updates: The word "pressured" regarding the expectation that partisan support party-backed candidate has been changed to "encouraged."
The HonourHousley tweet has also been added.
On Tuesday, a day after DFL Gov. Mark Dayton said he was unsure whether the MNsure health insurance rates should be released before the election, the governor asked his commerce commissioner to attempt an earlier release.
"Making the rate information public before open enrollment begins would provide families and businesses additional time and information to help them make informed decision," Dayton said in a letter to MNsure's legislative committee.
The timing of the rate release has long been a political football.
Republicans have hammered the administration to release the 2015 health insurance rates before the November election, saying they believe consumer costs will like rise. Waiting until Nov. 15, when open enrollment begins and several weeks after voters will decide whether to re-elect Dayton and legislative DFLers, amounts to a political "cover up," they've said.
On Monday, Dayton appeared to resist calls for an earlier release.
"I think they are going to be so badly distorted for political purposes that I don't think they will shed any light for consumers," the governor said in answering reporter questions about the release schedule.
But by Tuesday, the date the MNsure's bipartisan legislative oversight panel is scheduled to discuss an earlier release, Dayton had decided an earlier release would be beneficial.
In his letter to the committee, the governor said he would like Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman to request the state's health plans to agree to release rates around Oct. 1. That would give consumers about 45 days before open enrollment begins and put the 2014 release on roughly the same schedule as the 2013 release.
Here's Dayton's letter:
Photo: Star Tribune file photo
Gov. Mark Dayton said the idea of releasing the health insurance rates on the state's health exchange before the election may just add political heat without shedding any light.
"The Republicans will make a political issue out of MNsure between now and the election for anything and everything. And, you know, we're taking it one step at a time," Dayton said.
State law requires the rates for MNsure, the Minnesota version of the health exchange created in the wake of the federal Affordable Care Act, to be released in mid-November. Republicans in the Legislature and those who hope to unseat Dayton see politics in that post-election release, which one has called a "cover up."
On Monday, the DFL governor said that the Commerce Department has received preliminary rate estimates from plans and is now negotiating them down. Dayton said he has not seen those preliminary rates and is not sure if they should be released before the November election.
"I think they are going to be so badly distorted for political purposes that I don't think they will shed any light for consumers," Dayton said. "I don't think it is going to shed any light on it. It is going to add a lot of heat to the lambasting that goes on."
An early release would likely require sign off from the health plans.
"Throwing MNsure farther into the thick of the all the political shots that are going to be taken to me is not (serving any purpose,)" Dayton said.
The governor said he has not made a final decision on whether he believes the rates should be released early but is disinclined to move toward release because of pressure from Republicans to do so.
"We will see how it unfolds," Dayton said.
On Tuesday, a state legislative MNsure panel will discuss the rate release schedule.
"Gov. Dayton should put politics aside, and give Minnesotans the time they need in order to make an informed decision as to the healthcare coverage they need," the Republican Party of Minnesota said in a news release Monday.
Photo: Star Tribune file photo
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