This is the end, beautiful friend
This is the end, my only friend, the end.
I’ll never look into your eyes, again.
The End, the Doors
“Two people went into a back room in the middle of the night, behind closed doors, and made some decisions,” State Auditor Rebecca Otto told Eric Eskola and Cathy Wurzer on Almanac last friday night. “And so only those two people know why they did it. … This is about trying to strip and gut a constitutional office … that is the people’s office.”
It’s also about stripping Minnesota Senators, duly elected by their constituencies, of their legislative powers.
It’s also about stripping the power of self-government from the people — who elected those Senators to their Constitutional offices — to choose the kind of state government they want by electing people to represent their well-being and interests at the seat of government.
And it’s about a brazen corporate power-grab of the powers of a constitutional office that answers directly to the taxpayers for how money is spent and how the business of government is conducted.
This, friends, is what a corporatocracy looks like. Did you think that when it came is would look like the Hollywood dystopia of Logan’s Run, or of Blade Runner? It will never look like that.
It will look like what we’re seeing in this covert attack on the State Auditor’s office: the loss of self-government to powerful moneyed interests.
Think about that for a minute. Two individuals took it upon themselves to circumvent the processes of government, to bypass the Minnesota Senate, and to thwart the will of the people who elected them, thereby to achieve purposes that are detrimental to the residents and taxpayers of the state.
At least now we know from the Star-Tribune story posted Sunday, June 7, who the two malefactors are: House Majority Leader Kurt Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk. Strib reporter Ricardo Lopez had this to say about it:
Approved by the House, the measure — which would gut the role of the state auditor, Democrat Rebecca Otto — had never been heard in the Senate. Yet that night, Sens. Sandy Pappas and Jim Carlson, leaders of that bill’s conference committee, were being instructed by Bakk’s chief of staff, Tom Kukielka, to approve the controversial change.
“Do it,” Kukielka said, according to one senator’s recollection of the conversation. Pappas and Carlson told the Star Tribune that Daudt and Kukielka had insisted the change was a crucial part of top leadership’s final agreement. [emphasis mine]
And while Rebecca Otto, speaking in the person of State Auditor, may have been unable to ascribe motivations to the pair, former State Auditor and later Governor Arne Carlson in his blog post Raw Politics and the Office of State Auditor was less reluctant in his willingness to call a spade a spade:
Now, why would Senate Democrat leadership accept a Republican proposal to virtually eliminate the office of the State Auditor which is held by a Democrat incumbent?
The answer likely has little to do with the issue of privatizing the office by permitting local government to contract out their audits and all to do with the incumbent’s stance on mining leases and, particularly, the proposed copper mine located in the Iron Range of northern Minnesota. It should be remembered that in addition to an audit responsibility which charges the State Auditor with oversight of the more than 20 billion dollars spent by local governments, the State Auditor also serves as a constitutional officer elected by the people of Minnesota. As such, she serves on the State Executive Council, the State Board of Investment (pension investments), Land Exchange Board, and a variety of other state boards. One major issue that regularly arises is the management of state lands including the issuances of mining leases.
In politics as in life, the simplest answer is probably the right one. Arne Carlson has been around politics a long, long time. And while State Auditor Rebecca Otto is right that only the two individuals who entered that room at 3:00 a.m. in the dark of night can know what words were spoken between them, it’s clear that their motivations must have proceeded from an equally dark intent — one not meant to see the light of day. Otherwise, why did the House and Senate leaders feel the need to sequester themselves so completely, so that not even their aides and the committee chairs could know what was said? Could it be, merely, as Daudt claims, to rubber stamp a set of budgetary provisions (see esp. Sec. 3. [6.481] COUNTY AUDITS.) already approved by the House? Could it be as innocent, as Bakk claims, as allowing the remaining counties in the state to conduct their own private audits as 28 others are now doing and as requested by the League of Minnesota Counties — a claim now disputed by that organization’s spokesmen?
As former Governor of Louisiana and former US Senator Huey Long liked to say, “That dog don’t hunt.” Was that set of provisions in the budget bill really worth circumventing the entire Minnesota Senate and the voters who elected them? Was it worth forcing the budget committee leaders to include the language in a bill they knew had not been vetted by their colleagues? Is it worth gutting a constitutional office that is one of the pillars of good government in Minnesota and a defender of the taxpayers interests nationally recognized for excellence?
Could something as simple and innocent as what is being claimed by the two majority leaders really be worth all that? And is it worth the fight that Speaker Daudt is now making to keep the language in the budget bill regardless of the Governor’s demands that it be excised and ignoring the warnings of legal scholars that the provisions are not constitutional?
No, it doesn’t pass the smell test. There’s surely a hidden agenda here. It seems much more likely that there were promises and offers made that weren’t in the best interests of the people of Minnesota, but were in the interests of a few power brokers at the capitol, otherwise the thing would never have been done the way it was. We may never know what those promises and offers were, but we can be sure that they are the prime movers working behind the scenes of this debacle.
This is not what Democracy looks like. But it is what Corporatocracy looks like. Be warned.
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