Politics with Jennifer Brooks

Ellison focusing on hate crimes

Good morning.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is leading a new campaign by state officials against hate crimes, including talks to assemble a working group with the aim of enhancing law enforcement’s ability to better record and head off acts of domestic terrorism before they happen. The initiative, which brought together some of Minnesota’s top state and federal officials in a recent closed-door meeting, represents a new chapter in the new attorney general’s focus on strengthening partnerships to counter rising levels of religious, ethnic, racially motivated or anti-gay crime. Ellison and other officials say they are reviewing longstanding inconsistencies in police agencies’ collection of data on hate crimes and Minnesota’s statutes dealing with crimes fueled by bias. I’ve got the story here, and will be on the road following Ellison later this week as he takes the conversation to outstate Minnesota.

Colleagues J. Patrick Coolican and Torey Van Oot scoured public records and found that the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board, known as the IRRRB, has given more money per capita in the past five years for projects in influential state Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk’s district than any other — by about one-third. The pattern has opened the agency to new allegations of political favoritism, three years after a state audit questioned its governance structure and oversight of grants and loans. Recall that earlier this year, IRRRB Commissioner Mark Phillips came under fire after the fast-track hiring and subsequent resignation of former state Rep. Joe Radinovich — a DFL political operative — to a civil service job that paid $100,000. And the Star Tribune reported last week that the agency gave a buyout worth $166,000 to a senior employee for early retirement and then hired him back.

Days after reneging on promises to release his daily schedule to the public, Gov. Tim Walz is doing just that, at least for today. Late last night, the governor’s press secretary shared an agenda that includes closed-to-the-press meetings with House Speaker Melissa Hortman, Hennepin County Sheriff Dave Hutchinson and Attorney General Keith Ellison. This is much more detail than has been given thus far during Walz’s tenure. (h/t Coolican)

At 2 p.m. today in Medicine Lake, Rep. Dean Phillips will participate in a roundtable talk about aquatic invasive species with local wildlife experts and officials. The discussion comes after a tour of Phillips’ Third District prompted comments that zebra mussels, goldfish and other invasive species were causing problems throughout the region.

Related: Don’t miss our occasional series, by Jennifer Bjorhus and Greg Stanley, on the ways in which climate change is altering Minnesota and its landscape. Part Two dropped Sunday, and examines how invasive grasses are choking off key bird habitats in the state.

Is state Sen. Karin Housley eyeing a U.S. Senate rematch with Tina Smith? Coolican notes that she’s at least gearing up for a fight on Twitter, where much intelligent discourse about the future and soul of our nation can be found these days. On Friday, Housley took to Twitter to ask Smith if she sided with Klobuchar’s support for beginning impeachment proceedings against the president. No word from Smith on this. "Here’s a novel idea: what if the left dropped this stale, divisive rhetoric & actually worked with the president?" Housley tweeted.

Housley last went at Minnesota’s junior senator, who won their first meeting 53-42 last November, in a May 24 tweet claiming that Smith "hasn't gotten anything done" in Washington. Nothing official yet on who will be challenging Smith in 2020.

Speaking of the president and of Twitter: Donald Trump lashed out this weekend at the New York Times for reporting a story that said the U.S. was ramping up its cyber-intrusions into Russia's power grid. The president said that the Times engaged in a “virtual act of treason,” that the Times journalists “are true cowards and without doubt, THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!" The Times meanwhile noted that the paper described the article to government officials before publication and that Trump’s “own national security officials said there were no concerns."

Over at the Business desk, Neal St. Anthony reports on how ex-offenders in Minnesota are becoming a slow-but-growing pipeline for employers under the Walz administration's long-term strategy to reduce incarceration for low-level, nonviolent offenders and curtail technical parole violations that can send former inmates back to prison.

Last week, Rep. Ilhan Omar tweeted support for several House gun control measures, noting that “Every day on average 500 people die from gun violence.” PolitiFact checks the numbers: it’s closer to 100. (h/t Coolican)

Back on Twitter again: Minnesota DFL Deputy Communications Director William Davis caused a stir over the weekend when he wrote “I think it’s gross they’re using the name of our fine cities for a murder boat” in reference to the newly launched USS Minneapolis-St. Paul. Davis removed the tweets after an offline talk with one of his respondents, a retired Iraq war veteran from Owatonna. The vet went on to tweet that he was satisfied with Davis’ apology: “Opposing US foreign policy while still supporting the troops is a complex position and not well suited to Twitter.” (h/t Coolican)

Jennifer Brooks column: When Minnesotans can't afford insulin — but can't live without it.

As length of immigration detentions grows in Minnesota, so do petitions for relief (story by Brandon Stahl)

ICYMI: Have Minnesota's members of Congress read the Mueller report? The Star Tribune asked the 10 members of Minnesota's congressional delegation if they have read the special counsel's Russia report and what they think about it. Here's what they said. (Welcome back to the Strib, Katie Galioto!)

Vigilante injustice killed 3 in Duluth nearly 100 years ago, by Curt Brown:

$7 million bill from Trump's inauguration remains unpaid; D.C. tapped into security fund to cover the costs. And a Center for Public Integrity investigation found that at least 10 city governments are still waiting for Trump to pay public safety-related invoices sent to his presidential campaign in connection with his political rallies. Documents shared by the nonprofit investigative news shop show that Rochester’s Mayo Civic Center received the $111,787 it was owed for hosting Trump’s October 2018 rally. Trump’s visit to Duluth in June 2018 cost the police department $54,771.  

Happy Monday, all.

Tips, feedback: smontemayor@startribune.com. Or, of course, on Twitter: @smontemayor.

-- Stephen Montemayor

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