Minnesota, a state known for clean politics, ranks among the worst for financial disclosure from the judiciary, according to the Center for Public Integrity.
"Minnesota is at the back of the pack for financial disclosure requirements, ranking 45th in the country along with Iowa," the Center found in a nationwide study of disclosure required of supreme court justices. "It has a self-policing system for enforcing the disclosure rules, in which Supreme Court justices would be asked to rule on a complaint about themselves. And the state currently does not require judges to report gifts, investments such as stocks or any financial debts on the one-page form."
The Center gave Minnesota an "F," for its judicial disclosure requirements. Minnesota's low ranking on this score is not unusual -- the state often gets below average grades from good government groups that measure transparency and disclosure required of public officials.
Earlier this year the state's campaign finance agency and some lawmakers pushed for more financial disclosure from lawmakers and other public officials. While that proposal largely fell by the wayside, Minnesota did increase the disclosure required of the judiciary.
From the Center: "Minnesota is toughening its requirements starting next year, meaning its lousy grade will undoubtedly improve. Legislation passed this year will require judges to file an additional form that other state officials already file. The form will ask judges to report investments, locally owned real estate and even involvement in horse racing starting in January 2014."
The U.S. Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates told U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar the case of Shezanne Cassim, a former Minnesota resident imprisoned in Abu Dhabi, is his “highest priority.”
Cassim and several friends were imprisoned after filming a mock documentary about teen life in Dubai and uploading it to YouTube.
A U.S. citizen, Cassim has lived and worked in Dubai since he graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2006. He was arrested in April and charged with violating a cybercrimes law. After spending two months in jail in Dubai, he was transferred to a maximum security prison.
Ambassador Michael Corbin “personally pledged to me that he would make it the highest priority,” Klobuchar said Tuesday. The two talked by phone late Monday night.
The U.S. State Department has visited Cassim regularly and attended all his court hearings.
Family members on Tuesday said Cassim was initially denied legal counsel and forced to sign a document in Arabic that he could not read while jailed in Dubai.
Cassim’s next court date is Dec. 16. The judge in his case is waiting for an Arabic translation of the video, “Ultimate Combat School: The Deadly Satwa G’s,” which began with a disclaimer stating that it was fictional.
Klobuchar also plans to reopen discussions with Yousef Al Otaiba, the United Arab Emriates' ambassador to the United States, about Cassim's case, she said.
U.S. Reps. Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum are among the House Democrats who plan to fast today in support of activists pushing the House to take up comprehensive immigration reform.
The lawmakers took over for three activists who had camped on the National Mall without food for three weeks to raise awareness and make the case for reform.
The U.S. Senate passed an immigration bill this year, but work on legislation has stalled in the Republican-led House.
“It is imperative that the House of Representatives follow the bipartisan lead of the United States Senate and pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation before the end of this year,” McCollum said in a statement.
“Immigration reform is one of the most pressing issues facing our country today and it has the support of the business community, faith leaders, law enforcement, labor, and families throughout Minnesota.”
Minnesota Republican Party deputy chairwoman Kelly Fenton is leaving her post to make a run for state House.
“I am proud that I served our party during a time of great challenges and was able to provide the leadership to successfully deal with a financial crisis and develop a framework which would enable our party to continue moving forward,” Fenton said in a statement.
Fenton came aboard about two years ago as the party began to rebuild after racking up millions in previously undisclosed debt, a burden that caused former Party Chairman Tony Sutton to abruptly resign.
Fenton worked with former GOP chairman Pat Shortridge to begin digging out from the debt and restore confidence among donors and activists.
A Woodbury resident, Fenton is now vying for the House District 53B seat. State Rep. Andrea Kieffer, R-Woodbury, has decided not to seek a third term.
“Our party is gaining momentum every day and reinvigorating the American dream,” Fenton said. “As I step down, I take pride in leaving the party in a better position than I found it and the part I played in restoring transparency and renewing trust.”
The people have spoken, and Popcorn is America's turkey.
President Obama officially pardoned the Minnesota-born bird Wednesday afternoon. Popcorn edged out flockmate Caramel in a popularity contest, after the White House turned the job of choosing the official National Thanksgiving Turkey over to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
"The office of the presidency -- the most powerful position in the world -- brings with it many awesome and solemn responsibilities. This is not one of them," joked the president, who was joined by daughters Sasha and Malia for the annual rite. "Generally speaking, Thanksgiving is a bad day to be a turkey. Especially at a house with two dogs. So I salute our two guests of honor -- Caramel and Popcorn -- for their bravery."
The people had spoken -- for #TeamCaramel or #TeamPopcorn -- and Popcorn, a splendid white puffball, carried the day.
"The competition was stiff, but we can officially declare that Popcorn is the winner -- proving that even a turkey with a funny name can find a place in politics," Obama said. "As for Caramel, he’s sticking around, and he’s already busy raising money for his next campaign."
Caramel may have lost the popularity contest, but he won a pardon anyway. The big birds will spend the rest of the holidays at George Washington's home, on display as part of the annual Christmas at Mount Vernon celebration. Then they'll retire to Morven Park’s Turkey Hill Farm in Leesburg, Va.
John Burkel of Badger, Minn., chairman of thee National Turkey Federation, raised Caramel, Popcorn and Minnesota's official Thanksgiving turkey (who ended up in a St. Paul Salvation Army kitchen.) The birds' names were chose by Roseau County schoolchildren and a group of Badger High School students joined Burkel at the White House Wednesday.
As Obama pardoned the birds, he announced that two replacement turkeys, already dressed, would be donated to a nearby Washington, D.C., food shelf.
"Popcorn, you have a full reprieve from cranberry sauce and stuffing. We wish you well," he said. "And we’re going to give Carmel a break as well."
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