janus-vatican.JPGThere was a column in the Manchester, New Hampshire Union-Leader the other day about the decline of merit-based standards in America. That column was written by none other than Jonah Goldberg, whose paychecks exist solely because he’s the son of right-wing harpy Lucianne "Clinton finger-f***ed his own daughter" Goldberg, and thus has been cosseted in conservative-financed sheltered workshops his whole, ahem, working career. (By the way, Jonah: "A Nation At Risk" was debunked ages ago, most notably by the Sandia Labs report that George H. W. Bush suppressed, much as his son and Dick Cheney spent the last year trying to suppress the NIE that debunks their "Iran’s gonna kill us all with nukes!" rhetoric.)

This same week just past, Senator Norm Coleman, who was "philosophically opposed" to the filibuster back when Republicans ran Congress, now has no problem with it when his fellow Republicans used it to block meaningful reforms (this time of the Alternative Minimum Tax, or AMT), as they have been doing ever since they lost both Houses to the Democrats last year.

And now, my own personal favorite:

Last week, I discussed the not-really-liberal StarTribune‘s strapping on the kneepads for the GOP. The work of Strib reporter Mark Brunswick was featured, particularly his recycling of Minnesota Republican Party talking points and press releases under his own byline.

Brunswick’s also been giving ink to Republican-authored hit jobs against Minnesota’s Democratic secretary of state, Mark Ritchie. Ritchie’s actual crime was defeating the corrupt, vote suppressing, and just plain crazy Republican incumbent Mary Kiffmeyer in 2006, and Republicans have been looking for revenge ever since. Richie’s been the target of overheated attacks and calls for his resignation generated by Minnesota state GOP chair Ron Carey and his right-hand man Michael Brodkorb. These attacks concern Ritchie’s using public records for a political e-mail list — which may skirt ethical lines, but which is a common practice and is, so far as anyone has yet to determine, not illegal.

The irony: In preparing a follow-up story, Brunswick asked the Minnesota State Sesquicentennial Commission for their contact list, which they promptly gave to him. He then used the list to send out an unsolicited mass e-mailing, asking the people on the list if they’d received any stuff from Mark Ritchie as a result of their names being on the Commission’s e-mail list:

I am a reporter with The Star Tribune and am working on a story that may involve the Sesquicentennial Commission. Specifically, I’m wondering if you have received an electronic newsletter or other correspondence from the Mark Ritchie campaign or any other political campaign as a result of your name being on the mailing list for the Commission.

If you have received such a correspondence I’d be interested in talking with you about whether you think it was proper to be put on such a list.

Thanks in advance,

Mark Brunswick
Staff Writer
Capitol Bureau
Star Tribune
651-222-1636
FAX: 651-222-0101
mbrunswick@startribune.com

This irritated enough people that the Commission was forced last week to apologize to the people on it (emphases mine):

December 4th, 2007
Dear Sesquicentennial email list members,

Yesterday, many of you who signed up for the Minnesota State Sesquicentennial e-newsletter received an unsolicited email from Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter Mark Brunswick.

The Sesquicentennial Commission does not, as a rule, share contact lists with anyone. We respect your privacy and want to ensure you only receive information about the Sesquicentennial.

Mr. Brunswick contacted the Sesquicentennial Commission offices last Friday to ask for our contact list. He did not tell us why he was requesting it, but in accordance with the Minnesota Data Practices Act, we complied with this request. The Commission is a state agency and therefore all of our data, including contact lists, is public data.

To be clear, we have never shared our mailing list with anyone (until Mr. Brunswick’s request).

We have expressed our concerns to the Star Tribune for the way in which the list was used. If you have questions or comments about the Star Tribune email you can direct them to Politics/Government Team Leader Doug (D.J.) Tice at the Star Tribune. His email is dtice@startribune.com and his phone number is 612-673-4456.

Sincerely,

Jane Leonard, Executive Director, Minnesota Sesquicentennial Commission

Tane S. Danger, Communications Director, Minnesota Sesquicentennial Commission

A few things stand out here:

– Yes, Brunswick’s doing a variant on what he’s condemned Ritchie for doing.

— Yes, in both cases it looks to be perfectly legal, while still being irritating to the recipients, as the lists are public records.

— Isn’t it interesting that the Commission, a state-run office, can move with lightning speed to approve a Data Practices Act request when the requestor is looking to dig up dirt on a Democratic official, but when another state office — namely, the Minnesota Department of Transportation — is asked to provide information under the Act pertaining to the I-35W bridge collapse, they have to be sued by the lawyers for the victims’ families before they even begin to comply?

On the same day, however, James Schwebel, an attorney who represents roughly 25 victims of the collapse, filed a court motion that accused MnDOT of granting access to the bridge site to a consulting firm hired by the agency "while lawyers representing collapse victims and their families have had to go to court to receive only limited access."It is unconscionable that this vital information accumulated at taxpayers’ expense should be kept secret," Schwebel said of the consultant, Wiss, Janney, Elstner & Associates, which is being paid nearly $2 million by MnDOT to conduct a separate investigation from the NTSB probe.

(Of course, the victims’ attorneys aren’t the only ones being stonewalled by Pawlenty and Molnau’s MnDOT: Back in October, the agency throttled back big-time on any sort of access to their employees.)

I guess the message here is that, as always, it’s different for Republicans or their fellow travelers.

(Image edited from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Janus-Vatican.JPG, which is in the public domain.)