Bluestem's Twitter feed is flooded with messages from labor folks assembling at the state capitol for the senate judiciary hearing on the bill the Freedom Club--funded mostly by rich men who live in the western suburbs--likes to call "employment freedom."
The other euphemism? "Right to work."
Last week, two stories underscored the tactics that supporters of the constitutional amendment are deploying to get this stinker on the ballot: bypassing the Senate Jobs and Economic Growth Committee and Senator Chris Gerlach's contract for Freedom Club attack mailings to members of his own caucus.
In Mailers pressing GOP senators on right-to-work came from GOP Sen. Chris Gerlach’s mail shop, PIM's Steve Perry reports:
The mailings, conceived by Freedom Club State PAC (one of whose founders, Primera Technology CEO Bob Cummins, is a leading donor to Republican party units and causes), have been a source of anxiety and consternation to some Republican senators, who anticipate a hard-fought battle over whether the right-to-work amendment advances in both chambers. Known recipients to date include Sens. Julianne Ortman, Carla Nelson, Claire Robling, and Julie Rosen.
Gerlach had apparently not informed Senate colleagues of his business’s relationship with the pro-right-to-work push. Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem told PIM around noon on Friday that he only learned of the role of Gerlach’s company in the mailings on Thursday evening. Asked whether he believed the arrangement could pose a problem of perception or an ethical conflict for Gerlach, who voted with all but one of his GOP colleagues to reassign the amendment bill to a friendlier committee on Thursday, Senjem said, “I haven’t even had a chance to think it through yet.”
In Gerlach aims for fellow Republicans and shoots himself Eric Ferguson does a competent job taking down Gerlach over at the Minnesota Progressive Project, but overlooks an obvious question: Why is the Freedom Club picking on women in the Senate Majority Caucus?
Bluestem suspects because Ortman, Nelson, Robling and Rosen aren't Bob and Joan Cummins' sort of women. Though conservative, all have had the cheek to suggest raising revenue through both tobacco taxes (Nelson and Rosen) or racino (Ortman, Robling and Rosen).
To see the scope of the Cummins' investment in conservative politicians' futures, check out the Minnesota Campaign Finance individual contributor database. Mr. Cummins' contributions from 1998-2010 are listed under names from committee reports: Bob Cummins ($151,500.00); Bob P. Cummins ($250.00); Robert Cummins ($1,750,449.00); Robert P Cummins ($774,855.00) and Robert P. Cummins ($750.00). Joan Cummins' contributions are more modest, and are listed under "Jean Cummins ($1000.00) and Joan Cummins ($138,425.00). These are, of course, the state-level contributions.
Cummins and his wife Joan do fund a certain sort of Republican woman: the hard-right, Tea Party sort supported by VOICES of Conservative Women State PAC. Just over half of the $83,723.70 funding for VOICES Pac in 2010 came from Joan Cummins, who contributed $45,000 to the PAC. Missing from the VOICES of Conservative Women recipients? Ortman, Robling, Nelson and Rosen.
In addition to the Republican Party of Minnesota, Freedom Club and VOICES, the Cummins contributed to the Taxayers League, which opposes "expansion of gambling" because it expands revenue. Given the Cummins' massive funding of the drive to get the marriage amendment on the ballot and pass it, it's possible that they share CAGE's anti-gambling stance.
One of Bluestem's well-informed Republican sources reports that the Freedom Club mailer also went to Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen's district. Whether this was caused by rumored leaks from internal caucus discussions to the rich man's PAC or not, it's a curious choice. Redistricting paired Ingebrigtsen with VOICES PAC charter member and unethical tweet star, Gretchen Hoffman.
While Kvetchin' Gretchen decided to seek the GOP endorsement in CD7 to run against Blue Dog Collin Peterson, there's no guarantee that she'll get that endorsement, in that Lee Byberg is running again and doing relatively well in his fundraising.
Could the threat of a Hoffman return to primary Sheriff Bill be the Freedom Club's club to pressure Ingebrigtsen to vote for the bill?
Given the biting attack on Julie Rosen last week at True North, it looks as if the Cummins will have plenty of help attacking Republican women who just aren't conservative enough. Whether their districts--or the rest of the state or sane people in general--think this new GOP war on women is a good idea may reveal itself fairly quickly if the anti-union bill actually manages to make an appearance on the senate floor.
Bluestem hears that the bill doesn't have the votes to pass in the House, nor in the Senate, and that these tactics aren't helping the proposal. Gerlach isn't looking too good, either. One wonders whether those among the attacked senators who were Gerlach's clients in the past will seek the services of Capitol Direct for this coming election.
Photo: Chris Gerlach, member of the ALEC Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force and general putz.