When good policy matches up with good politics, you might want to follow that path, even if it rewards a person with whom you disagree.
First, the new Senate DFL majority would like to punish the Senate GOP Caucus for the draconian cuts they made in the DFL Senate staff in January, 2011. It would be good if the DFL could taste revenge, while claiming a good reason for slashing the researchers and media staffers who assist the Republicans.
Second, the new Senate DFL majority would like to slow down the GOP minority’s stall tactics by cutting the GOP staffers who come up with obnoxious amendments, procedural motions, and nasty press releases. This would allow the new DFL Legislature to move ahead more smoothly in its work with Governor Dayton. But it needs cover for such a move.
Third, the Senate DFL would like to gain relative strength over the GOP minority and weaken the Republican resources for 2014 while seeming aboveboard.
Fourth, the new DFL majority would like to settle some hash with the obnoxious GOP leaders from the past two years, and make a potential problem go away. They want the focus on the deficit-solving and pragmatic leadership of the DF Legislature that is focused like a laser on job development, fiscal balance, education, health, roads, and public safety.
Fifth, they would also like to further embarrass the GOP’s new Senate Minority Leader, the ethically-challenged David Hann. Hann was the Brutus in the gang of Senators who covered up their investigation last fall of the affair between Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch and her top aide, Michael Brodkorb. Hann and others who wanted to replace Koch as the Senate Republican Leader then summoned Koch to a secret meeting at a fancy Minneapolis club to plunge their knives into her back.
So, what could meet those five goals of revenge for 2011, weakening the GOP for 2014, tilting the battlefield for the coming session, directing the focus next year to the DFL legislative agenda and accomplishments, and embarrassing David Hann and dividing the GOP caucus?
Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk should announce that the Senate will be cutting its losses, including payments to the GOP’s lawyer who was hired to defend the lawsuit by Michael Brodkorb. The settlement would be covered by reducing the budget for Senate minority staff by $800,000 for the next biennium.
That would leave the Senate Republicans with enough money to hire some Legislative Assistants to answer the phones, reply to the mail, and make appointments. But it would force the GOP to do without partisan researchers and mouthpieces. Steve Sviggum would probably have to go back to the farm.
Senator Bakk could say that the Senate Republicans created this mess with their shady ethics, cover-ups, and poor management of a personnel issue, so they should be the ones to pay for it. The taxpayers should not have to pay one penny more for the legal defense of sex scandals and Republican conspiracies to seize power within their own caucus.
The $800,000 cut to the GOP staff budget could pay Brodkorb for his $500,000 demand, plus $200,000 for the GOP’s lawyer, and $100,000 for deficit reduction. Empty out the basement of the State Office Building and its warren of GOP miscreants.
Make the Republicans pay for their own mess, and move along to the future.