“Pay-To-Play” is ethical in the Senate according to Senators Michelle Fischbach, Bill Ingebrigtsen, Linda Scheid and Kathy Sheran who are the members of the so called “ethics committee”.
Senator Scott Newman had Ethics charges filed on him by four democratic Senators after an e-mail left his office stating clearly that Senator Newman would not meet with anyone who supported his opponent in the last election. The ethics violation was that Senator brought shame on the Senate by these actions.
Newman’s lawyer Fritz Knaak (a former Senator) stated that supporters should get preferential treatment and everybody did it; there is no law against it and its how things are done.
Newman stated under oath he didn’t know the e-mail was sent out, that his Legislative Assistant (“LA”) did it on her own with no direction from him; that he suspects that others may have directed her but won’t say who and that even if he did approve it there was no rule against this anyway.
To sum up the defense: a 20 something LA whose previous job experience was asking if you wanted cream with your coffee on her 2nd week as an LA decided to set a policy that only Newman supporters could visit her boss and there is no ethical violation for doing this.
Senator Ron Latz presented the case for the accusers. In three hours of some of the most riveting television I have ever seen, Senator Latz destroyed Senator Newman leaving little doubt that Senator Newman was lying about what he knew and when he knew it. Senators Dibble and Kelash made a great case about why this senator brought shame to this once great institution.
Senator Newman stated that he hired a Legislative Assistant, no that’s not quite right, someone – but he’s not sure who – hired his assistant. It may have been the Senate GOP caucus, it may have been the senate, Hell it may have been the LA Fairy for all he knew. He didn’t know who paid her or who her supervisor was. He didn’t know that Michel Brodkorb was the deputy director for the senate GOP caucus.
He thought but didn’t quite know that this LA’s previous job experience was working part time at a coffee shop. He may have met her once at a parade in Dassel but wasn’t sure. He is sure he has never had a conversation with her about this either before or after. The least Newman could have said about her was that she made a good cup of coffee but he didn’t even admit that. Ollie North and Nixon would have been proud.
He is also sure that he never had a conversation with her about any criteria for whom he would meet and how to schedule meetings for him. And why would he with all the experience she brought to the job?
He is sure that he never received the multiple messages that the StarTribune, Pioneer Press and most of his home town newspapers left for 5 days with his LA.
He claimed the first he heard about this was when he read it on a blog 5 days later. He was sure that his LA didn’t take any notes about anyone who ever called him and left messages that they wanted to meet with him. A little later on he said that she handed him telephone message slips about people who called him but he didn’t remember seeing any notes about calls from reporters or the MNA.
To sum it up: a 20 something LA who just a few weeks earlier was pouring coffee in Dassel was called repeatedly by major newspapers for a interview with her boss and she decided not to tell him for at least 5 days or that she may have left him a note but being called by reporters is such a common experience for Newman that it totally slipped his mind. He’s just not sure.
Now most of us would expect this if Newman’s previous job was as a mafia boss or drug runner or someone who frowned on leaving a paper trail. But Newman is a Lawyer and was a Judge. These people are meticulous paper pushers. What Newman was claiming was that he ran the greenest senate office in history as no tree was ever killed to make a note for Newman.
It was uncomfortable to watch. The lies were blatant. Time and time again Newman blamed his inexperienced LA while his lawyer claimed that everyone did this type of thing and Newman was just stupid to put it in writing. In the end the ethics committee agreed: this was the way the Senate normally operates.
One would think that the ethics committee would be angry at being lied to. It would be easy to determine if Newman was lying; bring the LA in to testify. Bringing in the LA was blocked by Fishbach. The ethics committee was not concerned with lying. Lying under oath in the senate is not unethical with this bunch.
We could expect Senators Fischbach and Ingebrigtsen to vote the way they did. They were after all just trying to protect one of their own. To them this had nothing to do with ethics and everything to do with politics and the coverup.
But Senators Linda Scheid and Kathy Sheran repeatedly stated that they were shocked and appalled that a Senator would do such a thing. Senator Sheran said she had never heard of such behavior. Then they went behind closed doors and cut a deal and went back on everything they said when the cameras were on. They stated that Newman’s testimony was credible. I have a bridge I want to sell them.
The results of this decision are profound. Senators are now free to meet only with lobbyist and interest groups that supported them.
Senators can now inflict a loyalty test on anyone who requests a meeting. “Senators Newman’s office, did you vote Republican? Press one.”
At least two Democratic senators agree with this way of running the Senate and their names are Scheid and Sheran.
Those who contribute to campaigns will now need to consider what happens if their candidate loses. All contributions over $100 are reported on a CFB report that the Senators are now free to use in a decision as to whether to help you or not. From now on supporters will need to consider the “Newman Rule” when giving to campaigns. The fence around incumbents just got a lot taller.
Once again, at least two Democratic senators agree with this way of running the Senate – and their names are Scheid and Sheran.
Fishbach, Ingebrightsen, Scheid and Sheran proved today that the ethics committee is the first place the Government should look if they want to cut back on the size of Government. It truly is a department that does nothing.