BEST VILLAIN - 2004
The Pawlenty era has seen the rise of a most unlikely public watchdog, the Minnesota Taxpayers League. The conservative group, which basically views all taxes as the end of Western civilization, has managed to chart the course for the governor's agenda and all of his neo-con followers at the Capitol. And its mouthpiece is David Strom, a former Carleton College professor, who, once upon a time, was a rational purveyor of decent public policy. But something happened with the Republican takeover of the 2002 elections--call it hubris if you must--and suddenly Strom was starting culture wars at every turn. First, Strom was boasting that he had managed to get Pawlenty and a number of legislators to sign a "no new taxes" pledge. Then he was calling for the dismantling of any number of the state's social services. More recently, Strom weighed in on the Metro Transit bus strike, saying that buses weren't really needed after all. Strom's transformation is the hallmark of any good villain, but what makes him Public Enemy Number One is his continuing honeymoon with local reporters, who seem more than happy to grant him a bully pulpit. And Strom is strikingly adept at playing bad cop to Gov. Tim Pawlenty's good cop, ensuring that the governor's image remains coated in Teflon.