Tag Archives: Matt Entenza

Minnesotans: Today is primary day

Don’t forget to go and vote in today’s primary!

I for one will be voting for Rebecca Otto for auditor. She is nationally recognized as one of the best Auditors ever in the country. Rebecca Otto is the DFL endorsed candidate. The person running against her in the primary, Matt Entenza, has run a highly questionable and dishonest campaign. See this for more details.

Matt Entenza's Claim Rejected By Three Judge Panel

The 2000 election was probably won by Al Gore. But George Bush was put into office anyway. Imagine what this world would be like had Gore been ensconced in the white house? The Tea Party would probably have emerged sooner and madder, but less organized; global climate change would have become a widely accepted issue to do something about within a couple of years, instead of much later (cuz, you know, that hasn’t even happened yet). We probably wouldn’t have had this war in Iraq. If Gore had continued Clinton’s policy dealing with Al Qaida and Osama Bin Laden (no relation) there probably wouldn’t have been a 9/11. I’m sure we’d have other problems, but none of those problems.

As you know, national elections are actually handled by states, and states are charmingly diverse in how they do that. For instance, the technology of elections, and what you have to do to prove you are eligible to vote at the polling place, vary across states. But after the 2000 election there was some movement to make the system work better, to implement chad-free technologies, and to update the procedure for determining eligibility.

Eventually, of course, the changes got politicized. Everyone knew that Democratic voters and Republican voters are different, not just in their politics or who they vote for, but in how they vote. The Lockstep Party, Republican, is more homogeneous and generally privileged. You want to vote, you stop in at the voting place on the way home from work and vote. You know where it is because it is the church you go to, you have a car so transport and weather are not issues, you have access to information which is all in English and that is your native language, so you know things like when election day is and so on and so forth: Democrats have that too, but being a big tent Democrats also have other folks. Recent immigrants who don’t understand the system, older folks who don’t have a car and have a hard time getting across town, people who don’t happen to go to the well established local church so they don’t even know where it is. Also, among Democrats are people with overt labels as to how they are likely to vote. You can’t wear as button on your shirt declaring your support for a candidate, but you can, say, be black, and therefore visibly less likely to vote for the Republican. This last bit allows people who control the polls to harass or turn away certain voters.

At some point in recent history, Republicans got aggressive with strategies that would make it hard for that diverse subset of Democrats to vote. Some of those strategies are just downright dirty and illegal. When I was working on Get Out the Vote for some Democratic Candidates a few years ago I found recent African immigrants, likely Democratic voters, who had been told by Republican operatives that “Republicans vote Tuesday, Democrats vote Wednesday. So go vote Wednesday.” Seriously.

But there are other, no less unethical but potentially legal, methods of keeping a small percentage of Democrats from voting, such as requiring certain kinds of ID that not everyone, especially Democrats, has.

But these techniques, known these days as “Voter ID Laws,” did not come on the scene until after the 2004 election. While there may have been a few earlier efforts, one of the first state level attempt to restrict voter access occurred in Georgia in 2005, a push by Karl Rove to look into voter fraud by immigrants in 2007, and ACORN’s war on voting the same year.

Prior to that, there wasn’t much going on at the state level along these lines. In 2003, in Minnesota, there was nothing. The legislature did take up the issue of voting, and made attempts at upgrading and improving voting systems, but this was not an attempt to disenfranchise voters. That didn’t happen in Minnesota until later, peaking with the 2012 Voter ID constitutional amendment, which was pushed by Republicans and opposed by DFLers (Democrats), and which was clearly defeated.

Now fast forward to the 2014 Minnesota State Auditor’s race.

The incumbent, Rebecca Otto, widely recognized as one of the best Auditors the state has ever had, is being challenged in the primary by Perennial Candidate Matt Entenza, who is widely seen as making a run at the Auditor’s seat because it is a potential stepping stone to the Governor’s office, and he really wants to be Governor, and apparently will do anything to achieve that. Years ago, back in 2003, before “Voter ID” was a thing, before the Republican War on Voting had taken off, the Minnesota legislature messed around with some voting laws, in an effort to bring the states procedures in line with a national voting act, sincerely trying to modernize and update our system. It was a Democratic run legislature. There were votes on two separate bills and their amendments, and later one of the bills went to the Senate, was returned later, and passed. The exact details of what happened are rather complicated and perhaps I will write something up on that at another time. It is worth noting that Otto’s votes were in line with those of liberal democrats like Michael Paymar, Jim Davnie, and Paul Thissen. The point is, a) there was no Voter ID effort at the time so b) Rebecca Otto did not support one. When you look in detail at Otto’s votes on the various bills and amendments, there is not “supporting Voter ID” like pattern or anything, really, of note. The final bill, which I believe Otto voted in favor of, did not have the showing of identification in it.

Entenza and Otto, both in the house at the time, voted differently, Otto in favor, Entenza opposed.

This was before, remember, the Republican War on Voting, which we saw more recently.

Later, when “Voter ID” became a thing being pushed by the GOP in Minnesota, pretty much all Democrats, including Rebecca Otto, opposed it. Otto in particular campaigned vigorously against it. Her position today is that she opposes what we call “Voter ID,” which is a post 2004, or even, post 2007, effort, engineered by Republicans, to limit access to the voting booth mainly by a subset of Democrats.

In June, Matt Entenza filed a complaint with the Office of Administrative Hearings of the State of Minnesota, that Rebecca Otto had lied in official campaign information in saying she is an opponent of Voter ID. Entenza adduced her 2003 vote as evidence that she was in favor of it. That was a lie by Entenza, a lie designed to look like an accusation of someone telling a lie.

The three judge panel that reviewed the case not only rejected Entenza’s claim, but also, noted that even if they put the complaint in the light most favorable to his claim they could not come close to accepting it as valid. This finding was correct. There was no “Voter ID” thing to have voted for or against in 2003; After Entenza made the claim that Otto had supported “Voter ID” in such a way as to make people think she supported the recent 2012 Republican plan, someone asked Otto on her Facebook page about it, and she responded in this private forum. That was not an official campaign document. And, at the time, everyone who knew anything was shaking their head wondering what the heck Entenza was talking about when he referred to Voter ID back in 2003. It simply wasn’t a thing. The judges agreed that the complaint was unfounded for these several reasons.

In other words, they said that Entenza was wrong, and they implied that his intention was not entirely honorable.

In response, Entenza’s campaign manager got himself a shovel and is digging in. Entenza will still campaign on this absurd ruse.

Additional Sources:

DFL auditor spat generates complaint

Panel rejects Entenza’s voter ID claim in state auditor race

Entenza voter ID complaint against Otto dismissed

The Questionable Attacks On State Auditor Rebecca Otto

Is Matt Entenza really from outstate Minnesota? No, he is not.

[Updated: Letter to the Editor, Worthington Daily Globe.]

This is a followup on my earlier post (see “How do you say “Surprise” in Norwegian? The word is “Entenza.” I am not making that up” also reposted here) on Matt Entenza’s bid for the DFL (Democratic Party) Primary candidacy for Minnesota State Auditor.

Entenza claims he is from Greater Minnesota, and thus, would do a better job representing the interests of Greater Minnesotans. This implies that highly acclaimed sitting State Auditor and candidate for re-election Rebecca Otto is not doing well in this area. In fact, she is doing very well. She is recognized for her fair and non-partisan treatment of people and local governments across the state. The previous State Auditor used the position in a more political way, implying bias, and voters rejected that approach by the largest upset of an incumbent in 112 years when Otto was first elected. It is now well-understood, here and nationally, that Otto is doing it right.

This is similar to the misleading language Entenza is using on pensions and social security. "Too often these days, we hear stories about how folks who worked hard and played by the rules their whole lives have their retirement at risk by poorly managed pension funds and Wall Street middle-men that charge exorbitant fees. Privatization of pensions is unacceptable. Minnesotans’ pensions should not be privatized and that Wall-Street middle men have no business near our pension plans.” This, again, implies that Otto has somehow been involved in privatizing pensions. She has not. In fact, a review of Otto’s website shows that she has been leading the charge against the move to privatize public pensions, and that the Public Employee Retirement Association is stronger than ever on her watch.

A similar thing happened in a recent news article about Otto leading a national conference of State Auditors, bringing the State Auditors from around the country to Saint Paul. A few accounting firms that work with local governments were some of the conference sponsors. Entenza said of this, via his campaign mouthpiece, that "The people being regulated should not be paying for lavish events for those doing the regulating. Attending parties and events thrown by firms the auditor is supposed to be watchdogging is not how Matt Entenza will run the office.” Again, this is a blatant attempt to mislead voters. The State Auditor does not watchdog or regulate private CPA firms in any way, and there were no lavish events at the conference. In fact, the conference was part of required continuing education classes that help auditors keep up with the latest laws, regulations and trends. So here, Entenza would have readers believe that all State Auditors from around the country are somehow having a conflict of interest. Really? He says he wouldn’t attend such conferences if elected. How then, one wonders, would his staff be able to do their jobs?

But let’s get back to the Greater Minnesota claim. While Entenza is making a cultural and geographical claim about himself (that he grew up in Greater Minnesota), Rebecca Otto is not. Her personal growing-up history is not part of her campaign, though her education and experience as an adult is, and her background is impressive. But when I looked into it further, I found out that Rebecca Otto and Matt Entenza are roughly similar in their geographical background, and that Entenza’s claim is apparently – surprise – (or, as Wikipedia would have it, "Entenza!”) bogus.

One of my favorite tales from Lake Wobegon, Garrison Keillor’s fictional-but-realish small town in Minnesota, is the one about the family that moved to California then returned later for the wedding of their daughter. The wandering Lake Wobegonites had changed from having lived for years in the Sunshine State. They wore sunglasses, even inside. They spoke of their lovely garden, but admitted they had a gardener. The good people of Lake Wobegon said nothing in response to this, but we know they were thinking “Gardener? Who has a gardener? That would be like having someone cut your food for you.” The joke here is based on the idea that Minnesotan life and culture, especially Greater Minnesota life and culture, is as different from California culture as any two samples of American life can be. These characterizations are, of course, humorously exaggerated imitations of American life, and to humorous effect. But it gets the point across; outsiders, represented by people from California, are suspicious. Never mind that Minnesota is a place of immigration. During the time that our Euro-American culture was forming, with the Minnesota Nice and the Upper Plains sensibility thing and all that – around the beginning of the 20th century – the vast majority of Minnesotans were not born here, or one or both parents who were not born here. The explosive economic growth just before the Bush Recession included a large number of people who moved here from the coastal regions, though we seem to focus on those who moved here from other countries. The point is, there may be a real but low level xenophobia in our state, which is a little quaint but often annoying, and not justified. I’m from New York State (which I know annoys a lot of you). In New York it is not uncommon to be represented in the US Senate by people who had to move there to run for office. This annoys some, but for most it is regarded as a good thing. New York State sometimes gets to be represented by very powerful people who have to work very little to get their voices heard. Robert Kennedy and Hillary Clinton are examples of this. Minnesota has its own history of people not born here still being claimed as strong, good looking, or above average. Elmer Anderson, the most beloved of governors, was not born here. One of our two most famous Charlies, Lindbergh, was born in Detroit. There are others. My point is this: As an outsider (though I’ve lived here as long as I lived in New York) I have noticed that “Candidate X is from this community s/he bids to represent” is a standard line in politics. Just so you know: Not everybody, across this country, does that. That’s a Minnesota thing. (And a few other places.)

Putting all this aside, one could still argue that the people of Minnesota are so provincial, especially those who live in Greater Minnesota, that they would prefer to be represented by someone exactly like themselves, historically and demographically. Matt Entenza is making the claim that he is “one of them” apparently for this reason. This seems a bit paternalistic.

And, paternalistic or not, he isn’t. From here.

Matt Entenza claims he is from Worthington, a small town in Out State Minnesota. In fact, he was born in … wait for it … California. He grew up not in Minnesota at all, but in Santa Monica, and his family moved to Worthington when he was 15. He attended and completed high school there. He then moved out of state again, having lived in Greater Minnesota until he was about 18, we assume, so about three years. He did a year or so at Augustana College in South Dakota, which is not in Minnesota, an Evangelical Lutheran private college. He then transferred to a private college in Saint Paul, Macalester. After graduating from Macalaster he moved out of state again, actually out of the country, to follow Lois Quam during her Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford. The one in England. Later, he went to law school in Minneapolis. After that, he clerked for a Minneapolis-based judge. (Details from here.) He now lives in Saint Paul.

By Entenza’s standards I’m Congolese because I lived in the Congo for more time than he lived in Greater Minnesota.

I don’t think it matters that Matt Entenza is from California, but it does matter that he claims that he is from Greater Minnesota and that being from Greater Minnesota is important. Even more importantly, perhaps, is that he seems to assume that people from Greater Minnesota would buy this.

I respect Entenza’s background. Personally I think everybody who is in charge of anything in Minnesota should go live in coastal states for a couple of years. Being from New York, I am forever seeing things done here in Minnesota that I feel very strongly would be done differently if only people knew how the decisions they are making would play out with increase in population size and density. Boston, where I lived for several years, spent more money than has ever been spent ever anywhere at any time on a public works project to rebuild their main urban highway system, because the original system was put in place and evolved with insufficient forethought. We should be learning those lessons and avoiding those mistakes. Want proof of that? Spaghetti Junction, Crosstown X I35W and the KMart on Nicollet Avenue. On. Nicollet. Avenue. Say no more. Having people in important positions who have experience living elsewhere, and good educations (which you can get here but you can also get elsewhere) is a good thing. Good for you, Matt Entenza, for being a man of the world, who still respects and likes Minnesota. I’d vote for you in part for that reason if your other ducks were in the proverbial row.

But no, the ducks, they are askew. Entenza had to, essentially, alter his resume to say, or at least strongly imply, that he is is from Greater Minnesota, and thus, will relate to people from Greater Minnesota. He isn’t, he won’t, and making this claim is itself the kind of misleading, pandering that one would think is subject to audit.

Why I Will Vote For Rebecca Otto, and Not Matt Entenza

How do you say “Surprise” in Norwegian? The word is “Entenza.” I am not making that up.*

DFL activists and party leaders were both surprised and annoyed when perennial candidate Matt Entenza filed at the very last moment to run for Minnesota State Auditor against sitting Auditor Rebecca Otto in this year’s primary. He claimed he would fight corporate giveaways at the local level and scrutinize spending on education, addressing the state’s achievement gap. Also, he would be nice to out-state local governments and not favor the Metro, because he was born out-state. Entenza has a habit of running, flush with vast family resources, in DFL primaries and against the party endorsement process, and DFLers have a habit of not responding well. Nearly six million dollars of mainly family money got Entenza third place in a three way race for governor in the 2010 DFL primary.

DFL primary voters have to ask themselves three questions on August 12th. First, is Entenza bringing something to the auditor’s office that is valuable? Second, do we need to replace Otto; is she doing a poor job in her position? Third, is Entenza auditor material?

Entenza wishes to improve education in Minnesota. This is not actually the Auditor’s job. Also, Auditor Rebecca Otto has an advanced degree in education and a science B.A. and served as a teacher for five years. Otto chaired a successful $55 million levy campaign in a conservative district, and served on the Forest Lake School Board before serving in the State Legislature. She is not only pro education but a highly qualified contributor to that discussion. Entenza wants to make the Auditor more friendly to out-state Minnesota. Otto, however, has a reputation for fair dealing and respectful interaction with all of the municipalities with which she works state wide. Many, from folks on the street with whom I’ve spoken to the Governor, have questioned Entenza’s motive in running for Auditor in the way he has chosen, and a frequent conclusion often said with a wink and a nod is this: He wants to be governor, and sees the Auditor position as a stepping stone to that. The stepping stone hypothesis certainly explains his candidacy better than any of the things he’s said about why he is running.

His claim to address government handouts must be a reference to the system of Tax Increment Financing. But TIF is not a government handout. It is a development tool that has positively affected the lives of many Minnesotans. More importantly, TIF, as well as education reform, are policy matters for the legislature and Governor. It seems that Entenza wants to have the job as Auditor so he can be that … the legislature and the Governor. But that is not actually how it works, and it makes me wonder if he really understands what the State Auditor does.

We should not be replacing Rebecca Otto. When she came on board, the Auditor’s office had been used as a political tool by the GOP and State-Local Government relations were poor. Otto has been studiously non-partisan and professional in her role, and this has been recognized at a national level. She has the National Excellence in Accountability Award, was elected President of the national State Auditors Association, and was named one of the 15 most influential auditors of all auditors at all levels of government across the entire country (and that is a lot of auditors). She is also the first DFL woman in this position and only one of 7 elected female state auditors in the country. We should be proud of that, not trying to undo it. DFLers know that when they have a top person in a position like this, who chooses to run for re-election, you don’t damage their position by staging an attempt at turnover. That’s not only bad party politics but it is also a negative contribution to governance. Entenza running against a woman who is arguably the top in her field is very difficult to account for.

Aside from the questions already raised about Entenza’s qualifications for the job, one also wonders if a person with a track record of seemingly inappropriate, or at least less than competent, fiscal behavior is the right person to take on the role of making sure everyone else behaves appropriately.

Entenza has been admonished, even fined, a number of times for campaign finance problems. “Neighbors for Matt Entenza Committee accepted excessive contributions from special sources resulting in an inadvertent violation of Minn. Stat. 10A. 27, subd. 11, in calendar year 2002” – Auditors are supposed to identify and address things like that, not do them. Money from lobbyists was inappropriately taken in 2005 as well. A prohibited contribution was also addressed by the state Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board in 2009. I’m not sure how serious these three transgressions are, and I imagine things like this happen in campaigns now and then despite people’s best intentions, but he’s running for State Auditor. He should not have such a record of being, essentially, in need of audit!

A fourth complaint dealt with by the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board related to Attorney General candidate Entenza’s hiring of an investigator to dig up dirt on the DFL-endorsed candidate for governor, Mike Hatch. Perhaps he already had his eye on the Governor’s office and was willing to step beyond the usual boundaries en route. That problem went away when the funding of this apparent opposition research was properly accounted for, though the ensuing scandal seems to have forced Entenza to withdraw from the race. Properly accounted for after the fact. Auditor. I think you get the point.

Entenza’s use of negative campaigning is not restricted to that event in 2006. He is doing this now. Rebecca Otto is an intelligent, thoughtful, progressive Democrat. Many years ago, prior to the co-opting of questions about election fraud were picked up by the GOP and used as a blunt object across the country in a state-by-state attempt to limit the franchise of progressive voters, the Minnesota Legislature addressed voting regulations. Not much came of that, and the only thing that was really being discussed was shoring up the power of election judges when they had questions about voters. As I understand it, Entenza and Otto shared the same position on proposed legislation, and this legislation was entirely different from the more recent Voter ID Amendment shoved into the election cycle two years ago by our largely dysfunctional Republican leadership. Entenza is now claiming that Rebecca Otto is, or was, or would be, or could be, supportive of a Voter ID bill or amendment, yet this is not even close to the truth. It is a dirty trick. A similar claim is being made about Otto and same sex marriage. In truth, Rebecca Otto campaigned vigorously on both issues when they emerged in 2012.

One might think that both of these ploys are weak and that DFL voters will see right though them, but that is not necessarily the case. A few days ago a young, newly minted DFL activist, a political science major at the University of Minnesota, asked me what campaigns would be good to work for to gain experience and to start to make connections. I suggested three different campaigns and specified the potential benefits of volunteering for each of them. One of the campaigns I suggested was Rebecca Otto for Auditor. Later that day she contacted me with a question. She had heard the Entenza campaign apparent fabrications of Otto’s position on Voter ID and was concerned. She had spent quite a few hours interning for campaigns against both the Marriage Amendment and the Voter ID Amendment – her first real experience in political activism. Entenza’s inappropriate and inaccurate characterization of his opponent, a fellow DFLer, tainted, as it was seemingly meant to, the reputation of one of our best elected officials. I found this disgraceful. This is, in fact, the reason I decided to write this commentary.

I agree with many of Entenza’s policy positions, and I wish he was in elected office somewhere in Minnesota. But I also wish he was not running in this primary because I think Rebecca Otto is an outstanding auditor and we don’t need this fighting inside the party. In particular, I don’t appreciate the implications that Otto is not doing her job well, which includes a certain amount of apparent fear-mongering on issues like social security, and I don’t like the use of the auditor’s position as a platform for implementing policies, even if those are good policies.

I’d like to give Matt Entenza some advice, spoken originally by a DFL progressive about his own campaign for office, on the day he withdrew knowing his candidacy could hurt the party and the state. He said, “Fighting for important issues is one thing. Fighting in politics is quite another. While I’m confident that I could win the race … staying in the race could hurt the Democratic Party and the progressive issues I care about so deeply.”

Take your own advice, Matt.

*Actually, I am making that up. Matt Entenza’s Wikipedia page claims this to be so, but Google Translate begs to differ. I don’t speak Norwegian. But it may be the case that Matt’s Wiki page needs … auditing.