Sunday, February 10, 2008

More on the Tinklenberg lobbying scandal

Dump Bachmann had a post up yesterday about Larry Schumacher's report.

"A society of sheep must in time beget a government of wolves."

Wodele incorrectly claimed that the letter of inquiry by Mr. Zaetsch and Hiniker was rejected by the US Attorney's Office. It was forwarded to the proper authorities per a letter sent to Zaetsch and Hiniker.

Isn't there a saying about the cover-up always being worse than the crime?

This all started 12/13/07 at the SD 19 meeting in Buffalo Minnesota when Tinklenberg and Olson were asked questions about federal lobbying. Olson gave a short and concise answer. Tinklenberg stated "we do not lobby at the federal level." His words, not mine.

For months now, I've seen site traffic at Blueman from the Minnesota Republican Party, the National Republican Congressional Committee and a slew of other IP adresses doing some interesting searches.

"Tinklenberg, Taconite"
"Tinklenberg, Albertville"
"Tinklenberg Group, Lobbying Scandal"
"Tinklenberg Group, Ramsey Town Center"etc.

The information is out there and very easy to find.

The questions posed are completely fair.

Did Albertville, Minnesota believe they had hired a federal lobbyist?

Item E. Move to pass Resolution Number 2006-XX entitled “A Resolution Requesting Federal Transportation Funding for Interstate 94 Access and Safety Improvements at CSAH 19 and CSAH 37 in the City of Albertville. Move to authorize the Mayor and City Clerk to sign a one year contract with the Tinklenberg Group to lobby for I-94 Federal Funding in the amount not to exceed $36,000 to be paid on a monthly basis, with funds expended to the I-94 Interstate Project account.

Al Tinklenberg brought to the Council’s attention the fact that as you may know, Federal Transportation dollars are very limited and very competitive. It is difficult, in reviewing the MnDOT Report, in obtaining funding from the Feds. It may take several years to accumulate enough funds to begin construction. The majority of the $800,000 we have received will go towards acquisition of the right-of-way from Mr. Knechtl.

Mr. Tinklenberg informed the Council, that should he become elected for office, the contract for service would be terminated. Another representative would be available to continue lobbying for the City. As far as the Contract for Service goes, it would be on a month-to-month basis.

Mr. Tinklenberg also reported that the City of Albertville has determined that additional effort is warranted to secure federal support for the construction of traffic management alternatives along I-94 in the City. Work necessary to accomplish this goal has been identified in the 2005 consulting Services Proposal. The Consulting Service Agreement Amendment No. 1 maintains those tasks through the balance of 2006 with particular emphasis on tasks associated with project funding strategies and activities.

MOTION BY Mayor Peterson, seconded by Council member Klecker to approve Move to pass Resolution Number 2006-XX entitled “A Resolution requesting FederalTransportation Funding for Interstate 94 Access and Safety Improvements at CSAH 19 and CSAH 37 in the City of Albertville. Mayor Peterson, Council members Klecker, Fay and Berning voted aye. Council member Vetsch voted nay. Motion carried.

MOTION BY Mayor Peterson, seconded by Council member Berning to approve Move to Authorize the Mayor and City Clerk to sign a one year contract with the Tinklenberg Group to lobby for I-94 Federal Funding in the amount not to exceed $36,000. Mayor Peterson, Council member Berning, Fay, and Klecker voted aye. Council member Vetsch voted nay. Motion carried.
It would appear as though they believed Elwyn was a federal lobbyist.

Question: In one sentence, Tinklenberg makes it clear if he were elected, this contract would be terminated. Yet, in the very next sentence, he makes it clear that "another representative" would be available to lobby for the city. Sounds to me like Elwyn was doing the lobbying.
Elk River Minnesota seems to be in the same boat.

A search of public records in Elk River indicates that Elwyn and his group was paid over $81,000 for his work, the vast majority of checks from the Elk River Check Register state "Federal Funding Services".

Go here and do the document search yourself.

Check number 42477 dated May 16, 2005 for $9,385.28 paid for lodging, meals and airfare for one of the Tinklenberg Group "Federal Funding Services" visists in Washington, DC.

The East Bethel work seems curious as well.

Wodele claims that Tinklenberg does not meet the standard describing a federal lobbyist. In a 20 minute google search, we can clearly, beyond a shadow of a doubt.

It's been proven that they are being compensated $5,000 or more per six-month period, or makes expenditures of $20,000 or more per six-month period, for lobbying.

It's also been proven that Tinklenberg makes more than one lobbying contact. Minutes from Albertville, Elk River, Ramsey, Dayton, East Bethel and others indicate he is talking to multiple members of Congress.

From a Ramsey City Council Work Session, 1/8/2008

Communication with key staff in Senators Coleman and Klobuchars offices to ensure visibility for the project and garner support for receiving funds.

Coordinate events meetings and other opportunities for congressional leaders to learn about the project and ultimately support funding.

They'll do that and more for $3,000 a month.

The third piece to the puzzle is that the lobbyist or group must:

Spend 20 percent or more of his or her time over a six-month period on lobbying activities for an organization or a particular client.

The EastBethel meeting is interesting, because it is the only document thus far that discusses Tinklenberg's time committment to his work.

Voss asked in terms of what is it going to take. Tinklenberg said we estimatedthe City’s cost at about $3,000 a month on average; it will sometimes be higherand sometimes lower. He said to keep this moving you have to keep it in front of people, including in Washington, you have to follow up, talk to them, find out what else they need in order for them not to put it to the side and forget about it. He said this will be the biggest expense and time consuming. (Emphasis added)
Would you label an important aspect of your job, something that took less than 20% of one's time as time consuming? Keeping these issues before the decision makers is time consuming. Federal lobbyist threshhold time consuming? 19.9% time consuming? Only a complete disclosure of all Tinklenberg Group contracts and payroll records would determine that.

We were able to find some interesting information looking at the Town of Hassan Town Board minutes as well.

The June 14, 2007 minutes had an interesting statement.
Ivey stated concern over the Dayton TIF bill language change that was made during the 2007 legislative session and for that reason would not consider extending the Joint Powers Agreement. He noted concern by Representative Peppin regarding the same language change. He said he believes that the Beard Group and Tinklenberg Group have not been entirely honest with the Township and changed the wording to be able to use the money for other purposes. Gump replied that is not true and is not sure why he would say that.

Ende recommended a meeting be set with Representative Peppin, the Board and the Beard Group to discuss any controversy or miscommunication arising out of said language change.
In a search of public records after this was brought up, I was unable to find in minutes after this incident, any resolution. It could be nothing. It could be a lot.

What caught my eye here was not the fact that the Tinklenberg Group may or may not have participated in some "shady" dealings.

It was the mention of Joyce Peppin, House member from that area. Her husband, Greg, is deeply connected in Minnesota Republican politics. He was the former executive assistant to the Speaker of the House, Director of the House GOP caucus, and the director of the Minnesota House Republican Campaign Committee.

Anyone wanna bet Congresswoman Bachmann's card is in his Rolodex?

Elk River, Ramsey. Dayton, East Bethel, and Albertville are merely the tip of the iceberg. The deeper you dig into the lobbying work of the Tinklenberg Group and Elwyn Tinklenberg, the more tentacles this thing gets.

Consider this, we've only looked at his road projects. Start digging into the Minneapolis-Duluth Line, Northstar, and the Rush Line. You'll start to find a lot more...

Wodele claims this is not an issue with the delegates. He tells us it's "easily explainable".

Delegates I speak to want to win, they want Bachmann beat. Delegates I speak to are deeply concerned about both Elwyn's work in consulting and his past at MnDOT.

"This old anvil laughs at many broken hammers. There are men that cannot be bought."
Accountability is more than a campaign catch-phrase. Running a campaign where you intend on holding your opponent accountable when you're in a state of denial and openly decieve spells a recipe for disaster. I'm not drinking that kool-aid...and neither should you.

Not until we get full disclosure.

1 comment:

eric zaetsch said...

It is not just what officials at these several jurisdictions believed. It is, as your evidence shows, what they were told.

The minutes have been publicly posted for some time. If El Tinklenberg had not kept informed of what they said as posted, he was negligent in his affairs and that is hardly a good qualification to convince voters to send you to Congress.

If he read things in a timely fashion, and was nonnegligent that way, and chose to not dispute a thing - then he ratified the truth of things - and that is the most likely scenario, that the various minutes online, in total from the differing jurisdictions all in concert with one another and in contradiction to the claim of no federal lobbying.

That can only mean one thing. Tinklenberg was knowingly stretching the truth when he mischaracterized his status.

Perhaps, it is the "it depends on how you define lobbying" defense he will trot out next.

Voters, if informed, will have to decide whether hair-splitting over self-serving definitional debate is the kind of thing they like, and would want to send to Congress.

Olson appears to have no such baggage while Tinklenber has a cart load, including saying it's not baggage when standing right next to it.

Is this a good choice for Congress?

I don't think so. That is why I made the effort to have the question considered by federal authorities. I do not want a weak flawed candidate to oppose Michele Bachmann in the November 2008 general election. I want her backed into a corner and defeated, and it is counterproductive to run a challenger who probably could be more easily backed into a corner by Bachmann and the NRCC than vice versa. The DFL goal should be to have the strongest candidate to challenge and unseat Bachmann. Anything less is playing into the opposition's hands.