Minnesotan and CEO of RBC Wealth Management John G. Taft (yes, of those political Tafts) raised some eyebrows this month by writing an opinion piece called “The cry of the true Republican” late last month in the New York Times.
The harsh piece on the current Republican brand also raised the question: Is John G. Taft thinking about running for office? The answer is an unequivocal: no.
“I am not running for, thinking about or involved in politics in the state,” Taft said.
He said his piece for the Times was broader than partisanship and politics.
“My message in that article wasn’t about the Republican Party, even though that was the theme,” he said. ”My message was about responsible behavior and responsible leadership and that really is what’s lacking right now in Washington.”
He said, while he is not aiming for office, he is politically engaged. He is a member of the Itaska Project, he said he is engaged in “an effort to retool the financial system so it’s a force for good in society rather than being a force that disrupts the economy and people’s lives" and had been very involved in working to defeat last year’s constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage.
Last year, Taft gave at least $25,000 to the successful Minnesota campaign to defeat the constitutional amendment. In the previous 14 years, he had donated $8,875 to Minnesota causes and candidates, which included contributions to Democratic, Republican and Independence Party candidates.
Four Republican state representatives and two conservative groups announced a lawsuit on Monday against Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, alleging he overstepped his power in launching the state’s online voter registration website in September.
The petition, which will be filed in Ramsey County District Court, demands the website be suspended until it can be “openly and publicly vetted” by the Minnesota State Legislature, Dan McGrath, Minnesota Majority president said at a news conference.
McGrath and the lawmakers said they were not against online voter registration—only that it should not have been single-handedly implemented by Ritchie.
“Online registration could be the best thing since sliced bread; it could be the worst thing since the plague. We don’t know,” Said Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, who is listed as one of the plaintiffs on the lawsuit. “At this point it simply doesn’t matter. The Minnesota Legislature did not take public testimony to discuss online voter legislation.”
The suit asks for a court hearing on the issue on or before Dec. 15. Other plaintiffs include Representatives Jim Newberger, R-Becker; Ernie Leidiger, R-Mayer; and Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, along with Minnesota Majority and the Minnesota Voters Alliance. They are represented by Attorney Erick Kaardal. Attorney’s fees are being paid by the organizations, McGrath said.
McGrath said the lawsuit would not affect voters who used the online system to register for Tuesday's local elections. However, it could be cause for challenging election results, particularly in close races.
"The voters themselves will likely see no effect, but the elections could be challenged because unauthorized voters cast ballots when they weren't legally registered." he said.
Kaardal said he currently represents public watchdog groups in the Woodbury and Pelican Rapids school districts. If the elections are close, he said, "we would certainly be looking at the registration procedures."
The DFL Secretary of State said his office had the authority to create the system because of a 2000 law that requires state acceptance of electronic signatures as the equivalent of those on paper. Republican lawmakers asked him to take the system down in October, but declined to do so.
In a statement, Ritchie’s office said that although he wouldn’t comment on pending litigation, the Office was confident they were “on firm legal ground providing eligible voters with common sense tools base on Minnesota law.”
“Thousands have already benefited from these tools and we look forward to continuing to serve our citizens wit the most efficient government possible.” the statement said.
Drazkowski cited a Minnesota Supreme Court ruling from last year that Ritchie overstepped his bounds when he tried to write new titles for proposed constitutional amendments up for vote, including an amendment to require a photo ID for voting.
The lawsuit names no members of the Minnesota Senate as plaintiffs. Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, was anticipated to be listed as a plaintiff, but asked to be withdrawn due to a conflict, “where he couldn’t do it right now,” McGrath said.
In a statement, Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, didn’t explicitly express support for it, but called Ritchie’s implementation an “illegal and unilateral action.”
“Republicans have stated since the beginning of this new program, we don’t believe that we should have to sue for Secretary Mark Ritchie to follow the law.” he said.
Pre-registration for Tuesday's election has already ended, as the website makes clear, so unregistered voters who wish to vote will have to do register at their polling places.
Democrats and Republicans have said they plan to work on legislation next year to authorize online voter registration.
In response to the lawsuit, Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-Hopkins and the chair of the House Elections Committee, said: "Instead of filing a lawsuit, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle should work together to make it a permanent option available to all eligible Minnesota voters."
Occasional press speculation about U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar's prospects as a 2016 presidential contender has taken a new twist in light of recent reports that she signed on to a “private” letter with 15 other women in the Senate urging Hillary Rodham Clinton to run.
The letter, first reported by ABC News, also includes the signatures of potential Democratic rivals Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.
Reportedly organized by Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, the letter has the signatures of all the female Democrats in the Senate.
Although Klobuchar not infrequently makes it onto speculative media lists as a third-tier presidential contender, aides say she has publicly urged Clinton to run before.
Teasing about a presidential run, comparing the federal shutdown to an act of terrorism, former Gov. Jesse Ventura's is back.
"Even though I don't agree with President Obama on many issues, I do know that he was re-elected because We The People, the majority, wanted the Affordable Care Act. The bill was passed. And now, it's Congress, standing in o
ur way. They're holding the country hostage. Isn't that terrorism?," he said in an online petition that's gained a few thousand signatures.
Ventura, the one-term Independence Party governor, has said of late that's he is a "maybe" for a 2016 run.
Ventura-ologists have been here before. The former governor has long teased about higher office.
A selection from his flirtations:
Back in 1999, he said on ABC that he would be willing to run as vice president if General Colin Powell ran for president. "I told him I would never run for president. I never said anything about vice president," he said.
But in 2004, finishing up a stint at Harvard University, Ventura both said he was considering running and listed reasons he wouldn't -- "I wouldn't be able to get up in the night and drive to the 7-11 for a Slurpee," and his wife would never move to the White House.
In 2008, he said "I may go down and file" for the U.S. Senate. (He didn't.)
In 2011, upon losing a suit over the Transportation Security Administration's pat-downs, he said he was "thinking about" a presidential run to change the security rules. He also said that he would "fly commercially again." That same year, he said on "Good Morning America" that he would "give great consideration" to being Ron Paul's running mate.
Despite his frequent thoughts about higher office, the former governor, who had served as Brooklyn Park mayor before running the state, has not actually taken the leap.
Still, there's already this -- http://jesseventura2016.com/
Iowa state Sen. Kent Sorenson resigned today after a special investigator found probable cause that he violated the state’s ethic rules by taking money from committees tied to U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann's failed presidential campaign.
In a report filed with the Iowa Senate on Wednesday, independent counsel Mark Weinhardt found that Sorenson took money from two Bachmann political action committees by laundering the money through separate consulting firms.
Iowa Senate ethics rules prohibit legislators from receiving payment for work on political campaigns.
The money from the campaigns – the Bachmann for President committee and MichelePAC, a political action committee Bachmann created to raise money for other candidates -- was accepted by Grassroots Strategies Inc., a company that Sorenson owns, Weinhardt found.
Sorenson served as Bachmann’s Iowa State campaign chair until late December 2011 when he left to work for former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, just days before the 2012 Iowa Republican Caucus. Weinhardt’s report also found probable cause that Paul’s campaign paid Sorenson.
On two separate occasions, Sorenson issued written statements to the Senate Ethics Committee, denying the Bachmann campaign paid him. He could face a felony charge because of the denial.
“We find probable cause to believe that those statements were false and that Senator Sorenson knew they were false when he made them,” the report said.
Bachmann has also denied the allegations that her campaign paid Sorenson.
The U.S. House Ethics Committee, Federal Election Commission, Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Department of Justice are also conducting probes of her presidential campaign.
In an affidavit, former Bachmann chief of staff Andy Parrish revealed that Sorenson’s payments were routed through C&M Strategies, a company owned by Guy Short, who served as the national political director of Bachmann’s presidential campaign.
“Sorenson took the bulk of the money that C& M paid to GSI [Grassroots Strategies Inc.] as income for himself,” Weinhardt reported.
Weinhardt also investigated allegations that Sorenson and an associate stole an e-mail list of home school families from the personal computer of Barbara Heki, one of Bachmann’s Iowa campaign staffers. He did not find “clear and convincing evidence” that Sorenson committed a crime in connection with the theft.
Bachmann settled a lawsuit involving the matter. Terms of the settlement, reached in June, were not made public.
Here's a copy of the report: