Governor Dayton, Secret Agent Man


When I saw a tweet two days ago by Tom Scheck of Minnesota Public Radio stating that Governor Mark Dayton was going on a no name mission out of state on Wednesday, I tweeted this:

“On a secret trip, to a secret destination, to meet with a secret company, to offer secret $$$ goodies? #secrecy

This morning when I got up to read the PRINT papers I saw huge letters on the the Star Tribune B section which said:

“Secrecy is Job 1 on this jobs trip”

I thought of the mid 60’s theme song of Secret Agent Man as I read the story. Now Governor Dayton is no John Drake, the character played by Patrick McGoohan. But Governor Dayton likes to play with the secrecy cloak when it comes to economic development.

I do not know how often Governor Dayton and public officials make announced and unannounced trips these days. But the reason why this is of interest is because of the shenanigans of secrecy that went on with the Baxter deal, basically, a big time public subsidy for Baxter International to expand here in Minnesota. As the public knows there were sworn oaths and written declarations of secrecy on that deal. It was like a bunch of kids taken blood oaths and cross their hearts motions not to say anything. Even as the piece of legislation was being talked about at a public hearing on the subsidy proposal many legislators did not know it was for Baxter International.

Governor Dayton worked in tandem with Governor Perpich on a number of economic development proposals. But with many of those proposals there was a penchant for secrecy, more secrecy then what was necessary. The one big proposal that I still remember and Governor Dayton still does because he was the point person for it was the competition for the first Saturn car plant in the United States in the mid 1980’s. The State of Minnesota was hot in the competition.

It was the subsidy package of all subsidy packages. The package if I remember right included possible land, property tax abatement, grants and loans, fast track process to get through the local and state processes, basically promising public heaven and earth. But it was all kept secret by Commissioner Dayton at the time.

Eventually, the proposal became public because there was an outcry by the public. There were also other factors such as the Department of Administration saying basically you cannot keep all the data in the Saturn proposal secret.

Governor Dayton taking up flight and bringing secrecy into his comings and goings like yesterday, has brought the possible spin of a cloak-and-dagger farce as it did with the Baxter situation. As Bob Hume said in the Star Tribune story, there were three options. They chose to release limited information. Mr Hume, director of Q Branch, did not suggest for the Governor to go the route of baseball cap, dark sunglasses, and fake beard.

With the Governor mentioning on Tuesday he was going on a no name mission for a purpose, there was some hint of the cloak of secrecy being lifted, but not enough.

Governor Dayton is a good man as many of the people who have served as our Governor have been. Generally, people who have served as Governor see a whole wide world of possibilities and want to bring some of that to Minnesota. Many of the Governors I have known and observed have known how a piece of the world can fit in with piece’s of our state. But does it have to be done in secret? No. There can be more sunshine.

Sorry, just cannot get that song out my head:

“Secret agent man, secret agent man
They’ve given you a number and taken away your name………………….