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"Innocent mistake" or pay-to-play by MN legislator?
From the Strib, readers learn that the "freshman legislator" and his legislative assistant made an "innocent mistake" that Bluestem first posted about yesterday afternoon in UPDATED: Email to MNA: Sen. Scott Newman won't meet with groups that endorsed Hal Kimball.
From the original Bluestem Prairie blog post:
A tipster called today to say that the legislative assistant for my state senator, Scott Newman, sent an email to the Minnesota Nurses Association, saying that he would not be meeting with representatives of any group that had endorsed his opponent, Hal Kimball.
I'm active in one such group, so this is a concern to me, and it's certainly not what anyone in the district experienced with former Senator Steve Dille, who was always gracious to me as a constituent, regardless of where we stood on issues.
I contacted Andrea Ledger, the political organizer for the MNA, who forwarded the message sent from Newman's office:
Newman, who is from Hutchinson and sits on the influential Senate Health and Human Services Committee, said he had first heard of the email early Tuesday morning. "It's just an error, that's all," he said. "I've tried to limit the lobbyists that are coming in to see me involving committees I'm on and issues that are important to me," he said. "I literally feel besieged" by lobbyists. "I don't have time to talk to constituents. I don't have time to get any work done," said Newman.
In reviewing another email forwarded to me by the MNA yesterday, I noticed that it appears that the group was trying to schedule a meeting with a union member who is one of Newman's constituents in the 18B side of my senate district. UPDATE I read it right--and the MNA forwarded a copy of the first contact that it had made with Senator Newman's office for the Nurses Day on the Hill. Since the MNA's first heads-up went out on December 17, perhaps it might be useful for the "real media" to ask how long Newman and his aide had to think this one through. The email:
From: Eileen Gavin
Sent: Friday, December 17, 2010 5:47 PM
Subject: Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) Nurses Day on the Hill Tuesday, March 1 2011
Please mark your calendars for this year's MN Nurses Day on the Hill, Tuesday, March 1, 2011. I will be in touch with your Legislative Assistants after session begins to schedule appointments to meet with nurses from your districts.[emphasis added by BSP] We look forward to meeting with you in the upcoming session.
Will Newman meet with district residents who are members of groups that organize "days on the hill"? Or, if their association opposed him, are they out in the cold? Moreover, the Strib's phrasing -- "freshman legislator" --is somewhat misleading. Scott Newman served in the Minnesota House from 2004 through 2006, and thus isn't a first-term legislator. He is a first-term senator, and the Strib should use the more precise language. Certainly, the Minnesota House has ethics rules as well. But perhaps Newman's blaming his secretary will be a sticky excuse. As for Newman first hearing about the email Tuesday morning--I'm surprised that the Republican Party of Minnesota(whose IP address showed up on my site traffic software in a hit on the post late yesterday afternoon) didn't contact the Senator about the news. Perhaps Deputy Chair Michael Brodkorb, who also serves as the Senate majority communications director, needs to get new party interns. Meanwhile, a conservative local paper repeats the Strib's report. Damage control? Of course. The twitterati swallow the "rookie mistake" excuse for Newman, who in 2010 campaigned on his prior experience in legislature.How lovely for the watchdogs in the media to allow him to have it both ways.