A sharp-eyed friend wrote this morning with a story from Ortonville's finest news venue, the Independent. In Ortonville VFW to host U.S. Constitution Class June 21, Big Stone County residents learn that endorsed Republican congressional candidate Lee Byberg is sponsoring a legal seminar:
A free U.S. Constitution Class, presented by Mark “The Freedom Poet”, will be held this Thursday, June 21 from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Ortonville VFW Post #3964. This is open to anyone age 12 and older.
This is sponsored by Lee Byberg, candidate for U.S. House of Representatives, who will be available to answer questions over the lunch hour.
Lunch will be available from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. consisting of roast beef sandwiches.
Every attendee will receive free materials, including the U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights, Decalaration of Independence and a bibliography of 30 books.
Our correspondent asked the obvious question: "I can only wonder what brand of Constitutional freedom he's offering at the VFW?!"
Looking into the event, Bluestem has established that "The Freedom Poet" is one Mark Skogerboe, who is to poetry what Collin Peterson and Byberg himself are to music. If Skogerboe has published a book of poems, we were not able to find it.
What we did find are a basic biography, a history of various events, and Skogerboe's professional relationship with Scott Hennen, who runs Byberg's major vendor, Freedom Force Communications.
And Skogerboe is going to serve as director of the donor clubs Hennen has formed to underwrite his purchase of AM 1100 The Flag. With a $1000 share, "founding fathers" get not only advertising time, but "access" to political guests. Will "access" to Byberg be one of the perks of donorship in the remote chance he defeats Blue Dog Collin Peterson?
Let's take a look at Skogerboe's education in creative writing. In 1996, the Star Tribune reported that Skogerboe was from:
East Grand Forks, a commodities broker who quit his job to take a position as a deputy national campaign manager for the [Alan] Keyes [presidential] campaign. He'll be watching Dole's vice presidential choice" (Dane Smith, "The state Republican convention; Minnesota's delegates to national convention are converts to Dole," June 1, 1996, Nexis All News, accessed 6/20/2012).
He apparently never went back to the boards. The Grand Forks Herald reported in 2004:
The 5,280-pound monument to the Ten Commandments that got Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore knocked off the bench by a federal judge was brought to East Grand Forks on Tuesday in a rally for American values, Christianity and warnings against the judiciary.
Mark Skogerboe, a lay Lutheran pastor from New Hope, Minn., who previously lived in East Grand Forks and Karlstad, Minn., is a leader of the group that is hauling the huge granite edifice around the country.
"America is in big trouble," Skogerboe preached from the back of the rented truck to a crowd of about 60 people in Sherlock Park. The truck was parked near the Ten Commandments monument that has been in the city since the Eagles club donated it in 1958, one of many the Eagles helped fund 40 years ago. America is in a moral, spiritual and political decline, Skogerboe said, illustrated by the fact that its jails and prisons today have 10 times the 200,000 prisoners they did in 1980.
"Let us repair to the standards the founders gave us, like the Ten Commandments and the Word of God," said Skogerboe. He graduated from high school in Karlstad, and lived in East Grand Forks for 12 years, working as a commodities broker at Benson Quinn before studying for the Lutheran ministry. He now works for Vision America, a Texas-based group organizing clergy to be more active in civic and political life. (Stephen J. Lee, "Ten Commandment Stone Tours EGF; Monuments Made Famous By Alabama Justice," Grand Forks Herald, August 25, 2004, Nexis All News, accessed 6/20/2012).
While Skogerboe studied for the ministry, the GFH article and later news accounts note that he is a "lay Lutheran pastor."
Following the Ten Commandments tour in 2004, the lay pastor next earns some media in the Aberdeen American News in 2006:
Nationally known speaker Alan Keyes will appear Tuesday night in Aberdeen at a rally sponsored by the South Dakota Family Policy Council.
The gathering is meant to build support for the "sanctity of traditional marriage and life," said the Rev. Mark Skogerboe of Roseville, Minn., who is serving as a field representative for the South Dakota Family Policy Council.
Keyes, a Maryland resident who ran for president in 1996 and 2000, will be one of three guest speakers at the rally, which begins at 7 p.m. at First Baptist Church, 1500 E. Melgaard Road. Admission is free.
He will be joined by three Texans -- Laurence White, a Lutheran minister; Rick Scarborough, the president of Vision America; and Christian musician Kim Noblitt. Noblitt will be joined by a local choir.
Skogerboe, who is spending about 10 days in Aberdeen, describes Keyes as an "electric orator." ("Aberdeen--Rally Tuesday Night," Aberdeen American News, October 14, 2006, Nexis All News, accessed 6/20/2012).
But it was the Tea Party movement that brought Skogerboe into his own, and brought the nickname, "The Freedom Poet," with Bemidji forming the workshop for his poetic license and trademark prosody of fake historical quotes, Inbox malarky and other Snopes-worthy prophecy. There's freedom in that poesy alright, as he takes liberties with American history.
It's classic stuff.
In 2009's Tax Day Tea Party: Bemidji event protests taxes, government spending, the Bemidji Pioneer reports:
Mark Skogerboe, author of "The Threefold Plan to Save America" and chairman of an upcoming Liberty Weekend of the Baptist Church, called Wednesday a "great day of awakening when the people said you cannot take my freedom.
"Government is not God," he added. "Bad change is not good, and the changes this new government are putting forth are almost all bad."
God never changes, and He said not to covet, don't steal and don't hate people who work night and day that have more than you have, he said. Skogerboe quoted Abraham Lincoln, who said, "You can't make the weak stronger by tearing down the strong." . . .
On the contrary, Lincoln never said it. It's part of The Right’s Library of Fake Quotes
Putting words in dead people’s mouths:
Take what has become known as the “The Ten Cannots,” a list repeatedly misattributed to Abraham Lincoln. It begins:You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot help little men by tearing down big men. You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer. You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. You cannot establish sound security on borrowed money. You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred....
And so on. These words were actually written by William J.H. Boetcker, a conservative minister who published them in a 1916 pamphlet along with some actual Lincoln quotes (Snopes.com, 8/19/09). Almost a century and many well-documented debunkings later (e.g., the 1989 Oxford Press book They Never Said It), some conservatives still insist on assigning them to Lincoln.
Later that summer, the Pioneer reports in Tea Party calls for less government, people's rights:
Mark Skogerboe, with dramatic interpretation, told the story of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, and that some were killed during the Revolutionary War, and others had their families killed and tortured.
Ah yes. The famous Fate of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, noted as a "mixture of true and false information" by Snopes, and "often published and cited concerning the fate of the Signers, but its accuracy is doubtful, and should only be taken as "traditional" rather than historical" by the Constitution Society.
That should be one heck of a class in Ortonville. But it's not surprising that Byberg is sponsoring the speaker, however bogus his understanding of American history might be. Skogerboe is a business associate of Scott Hennen, whose Freedom Force Communications received the lion's share of Byberg's spending reported to the FEC in recent quarters.
Prompted by a post in Minnesota Conservatives, Bluestem took a look at this relations in Is sauce for the gander sauce for the goose? A look at consultants & a key Hoffman endorsement and Freedom Force Communications expands lucrative arrangement with Byberg campaign. In the latter Bluestem observed:
Right before the Seventh Congressional District Republican Convention at end of March, John Hugh Gilmore's Minnesota Conservatives blog asked whether the Byberg Campaign was buy Scott Hennen's endorsement. The evidence presented in Byberg Buys Endorsements? Hennen Deceives? Past payments by the Willmar business executive's campaign to Freedom Force Communications LLC, a limited liability company that Hennen leads.
Byberg was endorsed on the first ballot that weekend for a second bid against Blue Dog Democrat Collin Peterson.
Bluestem didn't believe that the endorsement was bought, but we did wonder what sort of disclosure might be required by Hennen of the lucrative arrangement between his business and the Byberg campaign. Hennen is a radio talk show and serves as a frequent speaker at Republican and Tea Party events. A bit of transparency might help listeners evaluate Hennen's remarks.
The question remains a valid one. Gilmore noted that " Scott Hennen has been paid over $35,000 by candidate Lee Byberg over the last two years."
Lee Byberg's Q1 2012 FEC report lists new payments to Freedom Forum Communications. The campaign paid FFC $10,000 for a new website design, with $4000 monthly web services fees ($12,000 total) following the design, $7000 for fundraising and $7000 for administration/salary/overhead. That's $36,000 in three months; the campaign spent a total of $91276.64 for the quarter.
Where does the Freedom Poet come into the picture? Hennen is buying a radio station. To pay for said venue, the Forum chain's Marino Eccher reports in Scott Hennen asks fans to become ‘founding fathers’:
Scott Hennen has a new timeslot and a new plan to enlist his fans as backers – “founding fathers,” as he puts it – of AM 1100 The Flag.
The conservative talk radio host said Thursday he will announce today that he’s seeking 1,600 backers to put $1,000 each toward the purchase and operation of the station. . . .
To finance the deal, he’s asking fans to buy into one of four clubs – Faith, Family, Freedom and Free Enterprise, which he describes as his “pillars.” Each will be limited to 400 members who pay a one-time fee of $1,000 each.
Members won’t be owners of the company, but they’ll get input on the station’s weekend programming, behind-the-scenes updates, $1,000 in advertising credit to use as they see fit, and an American Flag in a case handcrafted by Iraq war veteran Rusty Ouart.
Hennen said they’ll also act as “citizen journalists,” feeding the station stories and keeping an eye on issues that matter to them.
Mark Skogerboe, a Twins Cities author and tea party activist who describes himself as “The Freedom Poet,” will serve as the director of the clubs and also contribute as an on-air personality.
Hennen and Skogerboe appear in a Youtube pitching the arrangement. At the 4:00 point, Skogerboe notes that donors will have "great access to these people who come in":
They're practically the Duke and Dauphin of the Red River Valley with that pitch. Hennen and Skogerboe rent themselves out to Byberg, and media personality and Byberg consultant Hennen buys a radio station with promises of "access" to guests for donors. No one ever said that grifters don't have to grift.
Photo: Mark Skogerboe speaking at a 2010 Tea Party Rally in Grand Forks Photo by Sarah Kolberg / Forum Communications Co. Skogerboe ran for both the state house and senate many years ago.