"It is difficult to get a man to understand a thing when his salary depends on his not understanding it." — Upton Sinclair, on numerous occasions.
Some of you may have heard about AP writer Patrick Condon’s recent piece about the role of Minnesota conservative blogger (and former Research Director for the Minnesota Republican Party) Michael "Minnesota Democrats Exposed" Brodkorb in attacking Al Franken.
Condon’s article read as a classic puff piece. If it wasn’t for Condon’s writing skills being several notches above Brodkorb’s (that is to say that Condon actually writes as if he made it alive out of his seventh-grade English class), one could suspect the man known in local blogging circles as "STB" (Spawn of Turd Blossom) of having written it himself.
Other local bloggers and independent journalists such as MN Blue and Minnesota Monitor‘s Paul Schmelzer have already teed off on the piece, but since it was aimed at a national audience, I felt that a response in a nationally-read (and in fact internationally-read) blog was in order.
First of all, there’s this:
Brodkorb shrugs off Democrats’ claims that he’s a Republican operative by saying he’s never been paid to blog. He said he earns a living through corporate, non-political consulting work, and would disclose on his blog if he does any paid campaign work this year.
And then there’s this:
The blog started as a labor of love, he said.
"I do think it has some influence right now, but that’s never what I sat down to do. This was always about a political junkie looking for an outlet," Brodkorb said.
Condon, in his effort to imply that Brodkorb was just some guy who just happens to write a blog (or rather, blogs; more on that later) attacking Minnesota Democratic candidates for office, left off big swaths of Brodkorb’s résumé.
Condon didn’t mention Brodkorb’s extensive work for Weber Johnson, a political consulting firm run by Joe Weber, the brother of Vin Weber, former Minnesota GOP congressman and one of the top movers and shakers in the national conservative Republican scene. He also chose not to mention Brodkorb’s being paid over $4500 per month by the 2006 Senatorial campaign of Republican Mark Kennedy as a "part-time press consultant"; that amount, per Minnesota Monitor, made him the fifth-highest-paid member of Kennedy’s campaign, garnering more even than Kennedy’s own press secretary; it was also more than what was paid to all but the top three persons in Democratic opponent (and eventual winner) Amy Klobuchar’s campaign. He also was paid by Michele Bachmann’s congressional campaign, something else Condon chose not to discuss. Condon didn’t even bother to ask who’s currently paying Brodkorb’s freight, which is an odd omission considering Brodkorb’s long history as a paid political operative.
Second of all, we have this:
Brodkorb started Minnesota Democrats Exposed anonymously in 2004, when he was still a paid employee of the state Republican Party. He outed himself in 2006 only after a Democratic public relations consultant sued him for defamation for an item Brodkorb posted. A judge dismissed the lawsuit last year, saying Brodkorb deserved the same legal protections as newspapers and traditional broadcasters against lawsuits by public figures.
Um, no. The truth is that he mistakenly outed himself months earlier when he posted via email and the process left his name on the post. Eva Young at Lloydletta’s Nooz and Comments first speculated about Brodkorb in September 2005 in "Is Michael Brodkorb the Elusive MDE". Young’s net-educated guess was confirmed in October 2005 when the DFLBlog (kept by two DFLers but not an official party blog) posted that Brodkorb’s name, email address, and cell phone number appeared at the end of a post pimping the improved Pawlenty for Governor site. "Reluctantly Exposing Minnesota Democrats Exposed" includes a screen shot of the incriminating MDE post, a smaller version of which graces the top of my post here. Young picked up on this in two subsequent posts, here and here. Curiously, despite the clear evidence offered by the bloggers, Minnesota’s press corps continued the polite fiction that the identity of MDE was a mystery, right up to the time Brodkorb actually admitted to being MDE. (His track record on disclosure is still pretty shaky, as Shakesville’s Jeff Fecke shows at his own blog here and local blogger Flash at Centristy shows here, here, and here. As Flash says in a recent comment at The Cucking Stool, another local blog: "As someone who admits his career is in politics and specifically oppo research and press consulting, where, pray tell, has he received a penny from since November 2006, ’cause he hasn’t disclosed it.")
Third of all concerns Brodkorb’s stating that he has "never been paid to blog". Let’s pretend that we are not rational adults and cannot draw the correct conclusion from the tens of thousands of dollars (that we know of) paid to Brodkorb by various Republican candidates (not to mention his paychecks from Weber Johnson) during the time he’s been writing MDE. In other words, just because it quacks, eats, and flies like a duck, it just might be a Volvo, okay?
This might work if MDE was his only blog. But he has at least two other blogs out there that we know of, Blogs for Norm! (which is of course all about propping up Senator Blo-And-Go) and http://www.stpaulfuture.org. This is the blog of the group "Campaign for St. Paul’s Future", which was started by Joe Weber of Weber Johnson. Joe Weber hired his own Weber Johnson employee Brodkorb to be the group’s head, for which he paid $4000 to Brodkorb. The purpose of the group and the blog? To protect Democrat-turned-Republican Norm Coleman’s good buddy Randy Kelly, a Bush-loving conservative Democrat who was strongly rumored to be preparing to emulate his friend Norm in switching parties while he was mayor, from the campaign of actual Democrat Chris Coleman (no relation to Norm, thankfully).
The effort didn’t work; Kelly went down in defeat. Not only did it not work, but the group’s sole listed supporter (not connected to Weber Johnson, anyway), Bruce Larson, actually denounced it. From page B3 of the September 22, 2005 St. Paul Pioneer Press:
"For my five grand, I wanted something solid, to put Kelly’s vision into 50 words or less," said St. Paul health care entrepreneur Bruce Larson. "We don’t need to read things in the paper about this rule or that rule. This is petty. … I’m embarrassed to have my name associated with such mediocrity."
What embarrassed Larson? Ironically enough, wild claims that Chris Coleman’s allies hadn’t filed the right disclosure paperwork — claims being made even as Brodkorb’s own disclosure issues were about to burst wide open. (Can you say "projection", boys and girls? I knew you could.) Larson, though a Kelly supporter, still believed in fair play, and the bizarre claims made by Brodkorb’s group angered him: "But this thing, quite frankly, if all it’s going to be is ‘nyah, nyah, nyah nyah’… I should have given my money to the church, to St. Bernard’s," Larson said, referring to the North End parish and school. "I could have sent a kid to parochial school for a year for that." Interestingly enough, the author of the Pioneer Press piece, Tim Nelson, had no trouble in September of 2005 referring to Brodkorb as a "Republican operative", something which seems beyond the grasp of Patrick Condon.
When Condon was researching this story, according to the local bloggers I know, it was obvious to them that he already knew quite a bit about Brodkorb’s extensive work for the GOP — in fact, he was playing off of their evident frustration at the mainstream press’ treating Brodkorb as a legitimate and allegedly independent source when in fact he was a paid political operative. Local lefty bloggers like Flash were hoping — and Condon knew they were hoping — to see Condon debunk the whole independent pose of Broddie’s. Instead, with his "labor of love" glurge, he enhances it.
As local blogger The Mississippifarian points out, it does look like we’ve got "a media that is working to make MDE’s Mikey into Minnesota’s #1 Drudge style pundit and arbiter of what gets covered this fall." Just like Brodkorb, Drudge pushes the "independent" pose too. Like Drudge, Brodkorb couldn’t sell his elixir if he didn’t have eager press buyers, no matter how many times the elixir turns out to be snake oil.