Though Mike Parry, the Emo Senator, may be in a pout after conservative darling Michele Bachmann announced that Allen Quist is her endorsed BFF, he still can take consolation in the receipt of state political action committee (PAC) money from several Dayton-endorsing and funding unions just prior to the start of the legislative session on January 24, 2012.
According to Line 11C (PAC donations) on Parry's Q1 2012 report, the Belle of Waseca County received $300 from the Committee of Nine PAC (which also gave to Dayton in 2011) on January 10, 2012; the Committee of Nine "is an affiliated organization that lobbies on behalf of St. Paul educators on pension matters," according to a newsletter published by the St. Paul Teachers’ Retirement Fund Association in 2007.
Parry received contributions from unions' state PACs in Q1 2012: $100 from the MN Professional Fire Fighters PAC on January 12, 2012; $100 from the Minnesota State Patrol Troopers Association on January 11, 2012; and a total of $350.00 from the Police Officers Assocation of Minneapolis in two checks. The first, for $100, was received on January 9, 2012; the second, for $250.00, on January 12, 2012.
The dollar amounts seem small for PAC contributions to a federal campaign, but then, they have to be. None of the political action committees is registered as a federal-level PAC with the Federal Election Commission, and thus can only give federal candidates $999 or less (aggregate) for the cycle.
None of the PACs have given contributions in this cycle to MNGOP rival Allen Quist or DFL Congressman Tim Walz.
So what's the issue?
There are two. Since the loopholes in the contributions are legal on the federal level--and there's a loophole in state regulations that allows such donations--as well as contributions from lobbyists who might, like the organizations behind the PACs, it's possible that these groups might have anticipated having business taken up by the committee Mike Parry chairs, State Government Innovation and Veterans.
Last year when Mike Parry and Gretchen Hoffman introduced a bill asking government employees provide more percent more and government employers three percent less towards pensions, not all government employees were equal under the law. The Monte News reported in Senator Mike Parry and Senator Gretchen Hoffman introduce pension shift bill:
All state and local government employees are included in the shift except public safety employees like firefighters and police. Legislators and their staff, like all other government employees, are participating in this shift.
It's neither surprising nor subtle, then, that these union PACs express a bit of gratitude to Parry. Perhaps the retired educators in St. Paul merely want to keep Parry on the campaign trail and out of their pension funds.
Parry is also the senate sponsor of a bill that that prevents raises and benefits from being exended in public employee union contracts beyond the point at which they expire. Bob Collins reported last week in Minnesota lawmakers preparing for next contract showdown with state workers:
The Minnesota Senate today passed a bill that prevents public employees and governments from extending a union contract beyond the point at which it expires. Before doing so, however, it added an amendment that eliminates police, fire, corrections, military and veterans services workers from its impact.
Under the legislation, the contract terms could not be extended if it would provide a wage increase to an employee, or an increase in the state's insurance contributions.
According to the Journal of the Senate for April 16th, Senator Howe (R-Red Wing) sponsored the amendment, which Parry supported, to Parry's bill. Once again, the same category of employees are exempt--but this time, union contracts are at the core of the change, and the MNGOP majority picked winners and losers among the organized.
While Pary tells reporters he's seeking a level playing file for public and private workers, his bill actually might get a day in federal court instead. Last month, a federal judge threw out pick-and-choose language adopted in Wisconsin "reform":
Most of the controversial law however, was maintained. The key part in the decision, was rejecting that the state had the right to arbitrarily pick which unions were exempted from the law. The decision stated it noticed “apparent, if not actual, favoritism and entanglement in partisan politics by discriminating in favor of fundraising efforts on behalf of public safety unions over general employee unions.”
“So long as the State of Wisconsin continues to afford ordinary certification and dues deductions to mandatory public safety unions with sweeping bargaining rights, there is no rational basis to deny those rights to voluntary general unions with severely restricted bargaining rights,” the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin concluded.
The lawsuit which led to the decision was due to a coordinated effort by a coalition of unions last year almost immediately after the law was passed amid furious protests in Madison. Among those groups are the Wisconsin Education Association Council, Wisconsin State AFL-CIO and SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin.
It's unlikely that the Parry bill will get past Dayton's veto pen--and there's certainly not disincentive for him to favor more conservative public safety unions over more left tilting public sector unions. After all, both varieties supported him.
But the contributions to Parry underscore the need to close the "federal candidate/state official" loophole so that the appearance of influencing state legislation is taken away. It's not a partisan complaint; DFLer Steve Novak, seeking a primary victory in CD4's open seat in 2000, took money from lobbyists and CEO with bills before his Jobs and Energy Committee. He lost any way--and Common Cause whacked his pee-pee for it.
HYPOCRISY BY THE GONDOLA CARLOAD
Likewise, Parry's second problem involves no law breaking, although there's a gondola car of hypocrisy heading down the track. (Coupled perhaps with the boxcar carrying the contribution from Governor Dayton's father?)
As part of his stump speech to Republican BPOU conventions throughout the First, Parry tells delegates that he's their man, because he stood up against Governor Dayton and his union thugs friends when he introduced the pension bill.
Except, of course, when he stood with Dayton's union friends that he exempted from the legislation.
A work project has delayed Bluestem from called the state patrol at Capitol Security to see if his claim of having an armed trooper guard his office door is indeed factual. Gretchen Hoffman's supporters have also claimed that she was victimized by unions (and BSP has since heard her claim the same in radio interviews), and yet the State Patrol had no record of specific threats to her safety.
A call will settle that question about Senator Parry's veracity. The hypocrisy may prove an issue with Republican delegates if they connect the dots between the PAC contributions and unions--any union.
Mike Parry's stump speech about standing up to unions. (Complete video footage here)
Image: Mike Parry, the Emo Senator, by Tild.