Off Beat

Let the Healing Begin

Seems like only yesterday perennial DFL candidate/retired U.S. Army First Sgt. Dick Franson was challenging Jesse Ventura to level with the public about his Vietnam service record. Off Beat was aghast to see the Reform Party gube nominee dub Franson a "puke" in these very pages in a September 30 Q&A. The following week, Franson fired off a letter to the editor in which he called Ventura a "vacuumhead [who lacks the] education, training, experience, and stability" to be governor. But now comes the olive branch: A recent press release from the fax-happy Franson announced that if the candidate will accept his backing, he'll endorse Ventura. "With my endorsement, I think he could even be a front runner," Franson elaborated. "I might be able to give him 10 points!" Ventura is still mulling over whether to accept the gesture: "Dick is free to endorse whoever he pleases," says campaign chair Dean Barkley. "We appreciate it, because he's well-known in the veteran community." Meanwhile, the indefatigable Franson, who placed third in this year's secretary of state primary with 75,000-plus votes, looks ever onward, predicting, "I think 1999 might be a good year for Dick Franson."

Jonesing for Jones

Off Beat scored one of the "coveted" tickets to last week's Paula Jones appeal circus only to find that the protagonist didn't show up because she couldn't find anyone to baby-sit her kids. (Where are those Rutherford Institute deep pockets when you really need them?) The proceedings were predictably dull, but two moments did stand out: First there was the pro-Clinton demonstrator being confronted by a counterprotester who asked him, "Hey, will your wife give me a blow job?" And then came the Ally McBeal-ish moment when the press horde saw two of Jones's lawyers and Clinton counsel Bob Bennett entering the U.S. District Court's fifth-floor men's room together. A deal? Sadly, no one had the gumption to step inside the loo to eavesdrop.

Hey, Ken Starr, Check This Out

An Off Beat investigation has found that the state of Minnesota has been covertly supporting two of the state's minor parties to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars. Officials confirm that for much of 1997, contributors to Progressive Minnesota and the Green Party received money from the Political Contribution Refund Program (which returns up to $50 per contributor to people who make small donations to political parties) even though neither is certified as an official minor party. Under state law, that status is conferred only upon groups that have, during the last election cycle, a) run a candidate for statewide office, b) held a convention, and c) demonstrated that they're more than someone's campaign committee--a set of hurdles only the Grassroots and Libertarian Parties managed to clear last time around. Gary Goldsmith, assistant executive director at the state's Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, says he can't explain what the mix-up was or where it started. Asked to help Off Beat understand the minor/major party regulations, he spent several minutes rustling pages, then conceded, "It's a little confusing even to me." That confusion netted Progressive Minnesota almost $20,000 in public money and the Greens $3,500. By way of perspective, consider that contributors to the state DFL Party received almost $500,000 in refunds in 1997, Republicans more than $860,000, Libertarians just over $4,000, and Grassrooters $580. By virtue of the campaigns they're running this year, Progressives and Greens will probably qualify for real next time.

Aw, Heck, Sure, I'll Do It

Speaking of those minor-party candidates, at least one admits he's running in part to qualify his organization for public-funding programs. Joseph Peschek, a poli-sci professor at Hamline University, says he ended up on the ballot for state auditor because, well, someone had to do it. "If somebody else had come forward, that would have been fine," he enthuses. "We collectively chose the auditor's race because it is a low-level contest in which we probably would not play a spoiler role." Peschek does draw inspiration from past Progressive Minnesota efforts, such as the victorious 1997 campaign for a Minneapolis city charter amendment requiring a public vote before more than $10 million of city resources can be spent on a sports facility. And if he should by any chance emerge victorious, he promises to investigate "'who's benefiting from investment decisions of local government: Are they scams or are they in the public interest?'"

Off Beat is open for business and accepting tips. Call 372-3788 or e-mail [email protected] with any poop (political or otherwise) that's fit to print.

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