The first couple paragraphs of the Pioneer Press’s story sum it up:
A Dakota County sheriff’s deputy allegedly caught two Minnesota lawmakers “making out” in a parked car last week, according to law enforcement reports and court records, but the lawmakers say that accusation is “completely false” and a “lie.”
State Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, and Rep. Tara Mack, R-Apple Valley, were issued citations for causing a nuisance on Aug. 25.
So the gist is a park ranger, rangers being deputies of the Dakota County sheriff, approached their car for being double-parked. He said in his report that Mack and Kelly were “making out” and Mack’s pants were “unzipped and pulled down”. Both legislators say the deputy is lying, and that they met there to exchange documents about an Owatonna-based health plan.
My first reaction was actually to think about the news stories of recent years about police fabricating their reports or covering up misbehavior, so I can’t dismiss the possibility the legislators are right. Wait, I’m handed this story about to two elected officials — of the opposing party — and representing swing districts — and my reaction is something other than cackling with glee? Well, I don’t cackle generally, but it’s more a matter of trying to apply the same skepticism I would if these were two DFLers. My next thought after treating the Mack and Kelly’s claim as plausible is to wonder where the body cam or dash cam video is. What we have however is the deputy’s word, and there’s a balance to be struck between the need for police to be trusted when they report something, and the fact some abuse that trust. So I’m not believing the legislators; just admitting the chance they’re telling the truth pending more evidence.
Of course, to be skeptical the other way, why would they meet in a park to exchange documents? I get why politicians might have grown leery of email, when every passing thought becomes public record to be searched by people who mean you ill, but still, wouldn’t handing off documents be a matter of attaching them to an email? OK, maybe they’re only in hard copy, or maybe they aren’t real, or maybe that was an alibi constructed after the fact. The most skepticism-inducing claim however is that the deputy is lying.
Yes, police lie sometimes, but usually not about a misdemeanor. Cover-ups normally happen when a suspect has some inexplicable injuries. Or when the suspect’s suspicious activity is something like walking through his own neighborhood, or driving through a white neighborhood while persistently failing to be white. Did the deputy want to endanger the political careers of the two people in the car? He probably had no idea who they were. So why would he make up something about people who attracted his attention by being double-parked allegedly? “Allegedly” because Kelly apparently is disputing that too. However, both were factually wrong when they asserted the information on their charges was released illegally. The Pioneer Press’s tipster may have had whatever motive, but those are public documents.
The implication of the allegations is that Kelly and Mack are having an affair, and we don’t know that yet. I’m guessing it’s true, but I’m actually feeling no schadenfreude over the possible repercussions to their marriages. This has to be painful on a personal level. These are Republicans, but I can think of others where I’d greet such news with the thought “glad it happened to one the legislature’s biggest a__holes” and yes, I do think in underscores instead of letters. I’ll seek help when I’m ready. Seriously, I don’t take any pleasure in it. The fact they’re ideologically hidebound on almost all policy matters doesn’t mean I wish them ill.
That’s not to say I’m unaware of the political implications, because these are both committee chairs. Both districts are purple and should have been winnable anyway, but obviously just became more winnable. Usually incumbents make the strongest candidates, but sometimes incumbents are so weakened that their parties would be better off replacing them as nominees, and that just might be the case here. Mack was the rumor mill’s pick to replace US Rep. John Kline, who just announced today that he’s not running for reelection. That seat is deep purple, and without an incumbent, becomes a top DFL pickup opportunity, so to have a MNGOPer who was being groomed for the seat screw up just now is a big deal.
Before making the “family values” hypocrisy charge, I wanted to see that this was actually the case. Pretty much, I don’t. Yes, each had an abortion bill during this year’s session. But otherwise, Kelly actually opposed the gay marriage ban amendment. Mack made mention of her faith being important to her in the introductory video before her speech at last year’s CPAC. I heard her mention there and in the video on her web site that her husband is pastor, but her speech was the basic conservative ideological pabulum — Obamacare is bad, liberal professors are indoctrinating students, etc. So in being holier-than-thou legislators, neither of them is exactly Tim Miller or Mary Kiffmeyer.
Is it fair to have their political careers ruined by a tryst? I actually don’t want to see them bounced from office for an affair (I made a deliberate choice to avoid using photos that include their family members, even though most politicians use family in campaign materials — this is probably bad enough without me piling on). I want Mack and Kelly to be bounced because they’re terrible on policy on health care and transportation respectively, though if they’re lying about the deputy lying, that would be good reason to bounce them too. And if they’re right that the deputy lied, I expect them to come around on the issue of police accountability. If they don’t start giving serious consideration to other people’s claims that the police fabricated their charges, then I’ll call them hypocrites.
Comments below fold