Pawlenty's "PlateGate" has DFLers in an uproar


When it was revealed recently that Gov. Tim Pawlenty had siphoned $30,000 from the "Support Our Troops" license plate fund to pay the salary of one of his staff, state DFLers were in an uproar.

"The money helped pay for someone's salary in the governor's office who coordinates faith-based initiatives," DFL Sen. Don Betzold complained to City Pages. "When I bought my license plate, I was thinking I was helping veterans and servicemen. I certainly didn't think it was going to that."

State statute dictates that the money be split between the departments of Veterans and Military Affairs, and this, it seemed, was a clear violation of that law. And so they quickly hashed out some legislation to right this alleged wrong and score a few political points in the process.

Funny story.... Turns out, the chunk of money made its way to the appropriate, legally decreed destination. Shortly after the controversy broke, Michael Pugliese, deputy commissioner of the Department of Veterans Affairs, adamantly made this case to City Pages. He said his department had indeed benefited from the cash as per state statute before accusing DFLers of making "political football" out of what he characterized as a non-issue.

What DFLers might have brushed aside as a specious explain-away was granted more credibility when a senator, after having cross-checked the budget, confirmed Pugliese's explanation.

Speaking to his colleagues during a finance committee hearing last week, Sen. Steve Murphy (DFL-Red Wing) offered a mea culpa.

"I'm the one that squawked the loudest about this when it first came out," he said. "And I'll tell you what. If I could grab those words and shove them back down my throat I most certainly would...any time the governor's office has been involved in negotiations I've been involved with, it hasn't come out very good.  And that's why I questioned this program. I was wrong." —Matt Snyders

Pimp my wife, please

The Cook County, Illinois, sheriff is shedding more light on the sordid case of Clinton Danner, a 32-year-old Minneapolis man who faces a felony pandering charge after being arrested in Chicago for pimping his wife on the internet.

Danner was arrested at a Holiday Inn on Sunday night after police followed him from Florida. He intended to meet his wife at the hotel after a phone call in which he said he was disappointed in the amount of money she had taken in during the prior weekend.

Sheriff Tom Dart said Danner coerced his wife into prostitution by threatening to take away the couple's three-year-old child, and that he never left the girl alone with her mother. He would post ads for his wife's services on Craigslist, and she worked in at least eight states over the course of four years.

Dart said Danner's wife secretly contacted the Polaris Project's national trafficking hotline for help. The organization then got in touch with the Cook County Sheriff's Department of Women's Justice Services, and its members then reached out to her.

She was reluctant at first to cooperate with the department, he said, but she changed her mind and helped lead police to her scheduled 10 p.m. rendezvous with Danner.

The woman's parents told the Chicago Sun-Times that Danner met their daughter through a church. He was a 27-year-old counselor and known as a shady character trying to move forward with his life. She was 17. He got her pregnant. A wedding was planned but never happened.

Danner's parents told WCCO they are shocked by the news and refused to believe the accusations and charges against him. Neighbors told the station they never suspected anything was wrong. —Hart Van Denburg

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