A West Coast organization with friendly ties to bathroom Lothario Larry Craig (R-Third Stall) is placing the blame for Craig's fall from grace squarely where it belongs: the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport.
The American Land Rights Association—a property-rights advocacy group based in Washington state—has called for a boycott of the Twin Cities airport for "ambushing" Craig and "declar[ing] war on the west."
ALRA director Chuck Cushman released a five-page ballyhoo last week claiming that the airport, along with Northwest Airlines "are primarily responsible for greatly weakening private property rights and Federal land use advocates in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and in Congress."
A spokesman for the airport claims no plans are currently in place for a westward expansion.
"We haven't declared war on anybody," says public affairs director Pat Hogan. "We're just sworn to uphold Minnesota laws."
In defending Craig's behavior, Cushman writes: "Frankly, I've been in that Minnesota airport many times. Virtually everything Senator Craig did, I have done. I have a medical problem that means I must find a usable stall quickly. I've looked in stalls. I always take my roller bag in the stall with me. I've actually made noise outside a stall to encourage the person inside to move along as fast as possible."
This provides ample evidence that toilets aren't the only things full of shit. —Matt Snyders
The Fifth Ward St. Paul City Council race is starting to get ugly. Challenger David Haas recently accused supporters of incumbent Lee Helgen of breaking the law by referring to him as a Republican in phone calls to potential voters. The GOP tag is the equivalent of an epithet in the DFL-dominated city.
Attorney Mark Gehan laid out the accusation in a letter sent to Take Action Minnesota, which is supporting Helgen. "If you do not immediately retract and cease using the scripts that contain this false information, the Haas campaign will take appropriate legal action against those violating the law," reads the letter.
Take Action Minnesota says the allegation is nonsense. "We have not ever called David Haas a Republican," says executive director Dan McGrath, "As far as we're concerned, that's just electioneering through their lawyer."
McGrath does, however, question the challenger's DFL bona fides. "Has he ever supported a Democrat publicly?" he asks. "What does he actually stand for?"
Dave Titus, president of the St. Paul Police Federation, which is supporting Haas, says the candidate is a lifelong Democrat. "Whoever decided to do this was misinformed completely," Titus says of the alleged phone calls. "It's simply a tactic used by a scared campaign." —Paul Demko
The U.S. Senate begins debate on the 2007 Farm Bill this month, which should be of interest not just to lobbyists, farmers, and food-industry types, but also to small urban grocers working food-stamp scams.
The Farm Bill re-authorizes the USDA's Food Stamp Program. Advocates hoping to bolster the vital $29 billion-a-year social service are hoping to build in extra money to fight fraudsters like Twins Market and Meats of St. Paul.
The owner and three employees of Twins were indicted this summer for conspiracy to defraud the USDA by swapping food-stamp credit for pastries, cigarettes, and cash. On one occasion, for example, a Twins employee swiped a food-stamp debit card for $323.58. In exchange, the cardholder received $150 cash, a bottle of pop, a pack of doughnuts, and three packs of smokes. What the government sees is the $323.58, and, when the scam works, a check for that amount comes back to the grocer, who is now skimming more than 50 cents on the dollar from the USDA.
According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, small stores redeemed less than 15 percent of food-stamp benefits in 2005 but were responsible for $190 million of the roughly $241 million in stolen benefits. The indictment against Twins Market and Meats doesn't say exactly how much was made off the smokes-and-doughnuts scam, but recent nationwide convictions quantify the potential. Last year, a Michigan man admitted to scamming $380,000 in just 20 months. That's a whole lot of smokes and doughnuts. —Jeff Severns Guntzel
The website Relocate-America recently crowned Eagan one of the "Top 25 Places to Live to Go to School in 2007."
According to Tom Gould, a company spokesman, the website petitioned visitors for nominations, then the editorial staff crunched the numbers in categories such as student performance, graduation rates, and student-teacher ratios.
Also included: the degree of school spirit. No mention of whether the frequency of pep rallies or snazziness of band uniforms was factored in.
"Local schools are known as being some of the most 'connected' in the state," the website says of Eagan. (Apparently, accessing MySpace at 8 megabits per second is vastly improving education in the area).
Lest you think us unnecessarily cynical, please feel free to visit the website yourself. But we'll save you the time: Relocate-America is owned by HomeRoute, a Michigan-based real estate broker that funnels traffic toward "featured realtors" in each area. Tim L. Ramey, relocation specialist and "preferred Relocate-America realtor," would be happy to help your family move to Eagan—and take the commission. —Ward Rubrecht