LIKE NEARLY EVERYONE this side of Dan Rather, former state Sen. Joe Bertram has spent much of this summer soaking up the latest twists in our national obsession, the saga of the missing intern Chandra Levy and her lover, California Congressman Gary Condit. Bertram, however, has a better reason than the rest of us to be transfixed: For six months in 1997, he worked for Condit as a legislative aide. At the time, Bertram says, he regarded Condit as "a pretty decent guy, very charismatic. But he was like most of these Congressmen--he seemed to think he was a little bit better than everyone else," Bertram recalls, adding that he didn't have a clue about the Modesto Democrat's philandering ways. As a boss, Bertram says, Condit was hands-off: "He wasn't in the office much, and when he did come in, the staff took care of everything." As it happened, Bertram landed his job with Condit with the help of a mutual friend, Minnesota Congressman Collin Peterson. At the time, Bertram was looking to right himself following a much-publicized scandal that derailed his own once-promising political career: In 1996 he resigned from the state senate seat he'd held for 15 years, after he was convicted of shoplifting a $90 leather vest--a transgression he now attributes to severe, untreated depression. Bertram isn't without sympathy for his former boss. "I don't wish pain on anyone. I went through my own hell, and it wasn't fun." But Bertram, who now works in real estate in his hometown of Paynesville, figures Condit has no one but himself to blame for his current predicament. "If he'd been honest at the outset, that would have made a difference," Bertram opines. "You don't hire an attorney if you've got nothing to hide."
This Space for Rent
OFF BEAT'S PALMS get sweaty every time we see our inbox light up with the latest press release from the McClatchy Co., the Star Tribune's parent company. But lately the tidbits of corporate propaganda have left us feeling a wee bit melancholy. It seems the Strib has become something of a financial drag on the mother ship, which owns 11 daily and 13 non-daily newspapers across the United States. McClatchy's most recent earnings report, released last week, shows that advertising revenue for the company was down 4.7 percent overall in the second quarter of this year, in line with a nationwide trend that has seen newspaper ad dollars dry up as the economy has tanked. The Strib dutifully trotted out the financial statistics in its Friday business section. The paper did not, however, delve into the fact that the situation is a bit more dire right here in the River Cities. At the Newspaper of the Twin Cities, advertising revenue was a paltry $22.2 million for the month of June--down 11.2 percent from 2000. During the first six months of this year, ad dollars are off 7.4 percent at the Minneapolis daily, compared with 2.9 percent companywide.
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