Minneapolis: Intrigue with major party/third party elected officials

The city of Minneapolis will have elections for Mayor in November 2009. One of the candidates will be RT Ryback, the incumbent Mayor, who is a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and an officer in the National Conference of Democratic Mayors. In the last election cycle, Mayor Ryback’s campaign published a piece of literature stating that the Green Party City Council member had endorsed Ryback for that election.

The article below is about how a present Green Party member, David Bicking, filed a lawsuit to hold the Mayor accountable. The story is written by a former Green Party member, Michael Cavlan, who concludes that the Mayor was very wrong, but that the elected Green Party City Council Member may have been less than independent and forthright. The story sheds interesting light on the interactions among a major party elected official, a third party elected official, and the respective third party constituents.

The information is based largely on testimony of the Mayor, speaking under oath.

The full political commentary piece by former Green Party member Michael Cavlan, sent via e-mail on July 21, 2009:

Mayor Rybak Takes The Stand
by Michael Cavlan

You may have missed it but something interesting happened last week.

July 7th, 9:30 a.m. Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak held his hand up, swore an oath to a panel of three judges and swore to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

This was at the State of Minnesota, Office of Administrative Hearings, 600 Robert St, St Paul, Minnesota. Mayor Rybak was at an administrative hearing to ascertain if he would face criminal charges. The charges were violating Minnesota Statute 211B.02, where it is illegal to put an individuals name for endorsement on a candidates campaign literature, without the persons written, expressed permission. The complaint was brought forward by Minneapolis resident and Green Party City Council candidate, Dave Bicking.

Bicking has brought the complaint forward because Mayor Rybak’s campaign listed Cam Gordon’s name on literature passed out and on his campaign website, claiming to have all 13 members of the Minneapolis City Council as supporters and endorsing Mayor Rybak. This violation of the law is a misdemeanor, punishable by a possible maximum $5,000 fine and/or 90 days in jail.

However, for those of us assembled there, there was more to be exposed under oath than was expected.

Opening statements began, first by David Bicking who made the case that the violation of law was clear and that the implications were serious. That many voters had been mislead, the political process had been corrupted and had created an unfair advantage to the Rybak campaign.

Next came Mayor Rybak’s attorney, Gregory Merz, who started off by, in fact,  acknowledging that mistakes were made and that the law was indeed violated. But according to Merz,  the violations were not serious but a simple technical violation with no attempt to mislead. That no one was in fact mislead and that there was no harm done to the political process. Mr Merz implied that Dave Bicking had an ulterior motive for bringing the charges forward, that it was a “political gotcha” simply to get at the Rybak campaign.

Interestingly, he said that they would show that there was an agreement between Councilman Gordon and Mayor Rybak to support one another as early as mid-2008. That the support was mutual and that Mayor Rybak was instrumental in passing a Resolution of support at the DFL Ward Two convention. Cam Gordon faced no Democrat endorsed opposition in Ward Two, which is virtually unheard of in Minneapolis history. However, we were to find out later that there more to this than originally presented.

After the opening statements, Mayor Rybak took the stand, taking an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

On the violation itself, while being cross examined by Dave Bicking, it was my opinion that RT Rybak looked like a deer caught in the headlights. His defense was filled with “I don’t know about that” and “I don’t remember”, reminiscent of president Reagan testifying at the Iran/Contra hearings.

On being questioned about his agreement with Councilman Gordon, he was much more clear and certain. He testified that “I’ll support you in the next race and that I will do whatever I can to help you and get the support of the Democrats as well. I recognize that you are in the Green Party, and I won’t ask you to not be in that, but that I want to also make the case that you should be endorsed as well. And I asked for endorsement as well, and I believe he had similar feelings towards me.” Mayor Rybak also mentioned that Councilman Gordon was a public presence at the Mayors New Year’s Eve fundraiser, as well as the official campaign kick off in February.

Next to testify was local DFL activist, Gayle Bonneville who testified to both the sense of advantage to the Mayor’s campaign as well as the potential damage to the reputation and public image it created for the Green Party. Gayle testified to the sense that this implied for the Ryback campaign that the election all wrapped up by March, with no real opposition or dissent. That it helped create a very unfair advantage and discouraged others from opposing the Mayoral campaign of Rybak.

Next to testify was Farheen Hakeem, a well known Green Party activist and former Green Party Mayoral candidate. She testified to the potential damage to the reputation to the Green Party as well as the unfair perception this would create for the Rybak campaign. Farheen also testified that of course each and every campaign she was involved in followed the law of having written permission for an individuals or groups endorsement.

Next Dave Bicking testified, again making the case that the violation of the law was clear and the implications of said violation of the law was clear. This was the central premise of his case.

Bicking also addressed the motivation for bringing the charges forward were simple and direct. His campaign was very aware of the law and they had followed it, so he wanted to ensure that the law was enforced in the future. Further, he wanted to find out the truth because Mayor Rybak had been saying one thing about Cam’s endorsement while Cam Gordon had been saying something else. Bicking was also trying to protect the reputation of the Green Party and the reputation of Cam Gordon. Not to mention protecting the political process by countering the “historic claim” of the Rybak campaign of having all 13 members of the Minneapolis City Council. This created the impression that Mayor Rybak had the election all wrapped up and created an unfair advantage, discouraging others from running. This idea of no opposition and no dissent in City Hall is obviously harmful to a true democratic process. Bicking made his case in a very clear, concise and measured manner.

Last to testify was Peter Wagenius, policy aide to Mayor Rybak and senior member of the Ryback campaign. It was at this point that things became even more interesting and much was revealed that perhaps intended by those in City Hall.

Mr Wagenius reinforced that Mayor Rybak and Councilman Gordon had agreed to endorse each other in early 2008. However, his defense was quite telling. In essence, he stated that sure we did it, but “everybody else does it too.” He mentioned campaigns in the past that he had been involved in that had done so, including his own mother’s campaign. He said this to a group of three judges which, quite frankly was not a very bright move. Try that the next time you get a speeding ticket. Yes Your Honor, I was speeding but so does everybody else is not a very effective defense, especially to a Judge.

As a side bar to this story, there is another which was exposed by this hearing. First, Mayor Rybak and Peter Wagenius testified, under oath that Mayor Rybak and Councilman Gordon had made a deal in mid 2008 to help each other and the they would indeed endorse each other. This should be most important to the membership of the Green Party as well as to Councilman Gordon’s constituents in Ward Two. You see, Cam Gordon had been asked at the 5th District Green Party endorsing convention on May 9th, 2009 very directly if he in fact supported or endorsed Mayor Rybak. Cam had responded with an emphatic no, that he did not.

Does this mean mean that the facts exposed by Mayor Rybak and Peter Wagenius under oath showed that Councilman Gordon knowingly and deliberately lied to the membership of the Green Party?

However, the more damning information was about to be revealed. Peter Wagenius testified, under oath that Mayor Rybak and Councilman Gordon had made a deal, where Cam would try and dissuade the Green Party from running a Mayoral candidate at all. Can we infer that Cam Gordon was willing to put his own campaign and possibly his own job ahead of what was best for the Green Party and could in fact damage the Green Party?

After 3 hours and 15 minutes, the hearing was over. Both sides agreed to make their final statements to the panel of three judges in a week.

City Hall politics was ripped wide open and exposed for what it was. Under oath.

25 thoughts on “Minneapolis: Intrigue with major party/third party elected officials

  1. Robert Milnes

    Sorry Kimberly. Update on my ATT/computer problem. Everything seems ok now. I don’t get it. Anybody have any idea what that was all about?

  2. Mik Robertson

    This just shows how bad Minneapolis politics are. That kind of thing would never happen in St. Paul, where all the neighbors get along, nobody litters, and everyone drives at a reasonable speed for any given set of road conditions.

  3. Catholic Trotskyist

    I’m glad to hear that Robert. It’s good that you’re back in time for the tragic news of the Prohibition Party leader’s death.
    The best politician in Minnesota is Keith Ellison, a former Catholic and a Muslim Trotskyist. I have met him once and helped defend him from some marauding LaRouche followers. I did not tell him about Catholic Trotskyism.

  4. Dave Schwab

    Given the credibility of the author and his agenda against the Green Party, I’m not surprised to read this; but I have this to say to any Green who would turn on a long-time party member and elected Green based on rumors started by a Democratic party hack: wise up.

  5. Kimberly Wilder

    Oh, Dave,

    So you are the enforcer for the clique now?

    Interesting debate style you have…personal attacks and vague threats.

    Please let me know if I am “any green”. Because, if I am, I would like to engage you more deliberately.

    Thanks,
    Kimberly Wilder

  6. Michael Cavlan

    Mr Schwab

    You have one little problem with your defense, which is simply attempting to smear the author. Which is what Democrats do, ask that evil old Ralph Nader.

    This story is verifiable, with court tapes. I have the f***ing tapes, all three hours of them.

    The person who brought Mayor Rybak to court annd so enabled this story to be exposed is my dear friend, Dave Bicking. Who is a Green running for City Council. As an aside, his daughter, Monica is one of the RNC 8.

  7. Dave Schwab

    I didn’t make any personal attacks or threats. I merely pointed out what any regular reader of IPR already knows – Michael Cavlan has a tendency to get facts wrong, and to take any news about the Green Party as an opportunity to smear the party and its members.

    As an example of a fact he got wrong, there was a DFL challenger to Cam Gordon. Whoops, there goes that conspiracy theory. However, that candidate dropped out of the race due to embarrassing personal revelations of some sort. This echoes Cavlan’s smearing of Phil Huckelberry as a “Demo-green” for running in a two-way race against a Republican. I just want IPR readers to be aware of this.

    I’m glad that there are stand-up guys like Dave Bicking, who clearly brought this to court to defend Cam Gordon and the Greens, not attack them.

  8. Kimberly Wilder Post author

    Interesting.

    To you, Dave, everything is black and white. Michael Cavlan is bad and is attacking Cam Gordon and the Green Party. Dave Bicking is a “stand-up guy” who is all for Cam Gordon.

    Though, why is it that Dave Bicking and Mike Cavlan are friends? And, why hasn’t Dave Bicking come out to disparage Cavlan and his observations in the way that you have?

    Maybe there are some gray areas that you are not seeing.

    Also, it is interesting that in the last election, there was a DFL candidate that dropped out. Thanks for the info.

    But, this time around, Cam Gordon is facing NO Democratic challenger. So, maybe there are some things to think about, even if…like any other person or reporter…Mike Cavlan has sometimes gotten some facts mixed up. (Did you ever read a newspaper that got everything perfect?)

    Hope there are other people from various political stripes who see the story as interesting, and a unique example of a political puzzle, rather than just facts that need jeering and cheering from the same old partisans.

    I did note that the revelations came largely from the side of the Democrat/incumbent Mayor. Cam Gordon did not speak, so part of the story is admittedly untold.

    (Thanks to Mike Cavlan for doing the interesting, difficult work of going to court; supporting his colleague David Bicking in his effort to get to the bottom of things; and doing journalism about Green Party efforts – meaning the efforts of David Bicking and the efforts of Cam Gordon.)

  9. Michael Cavlan

    Thanks Kim.

    It is called good old fashioned muck racking journalism.

    Something that the corporate media has forgot. all the facts are in fact verifiable, on tape and under oath.

    As an interesting side observation, Dave Schwab insinuates that I am a Democratic Party operative. Which is a libellous statement BTW.

    For exposing allegations of Greens who make secret deals, with Democrats.

  10. Steven R Linnabary

    As an interesting side observation, Dave Schwab insinuates that I am a Democratic Party operative. Which is a libellous statement BTW.

    I thought of it more as an epithet.

    8)

    PEACE

  11. Dave Schwab

    Michael, you wrote:

    “As an interesting side observation, Dave Schwab insinuates that I am a Democratic Party operative. Which is a libellous statement BTW.”

    And this is from your article:

    “Peter Wagenius testified, under oath that Mayor Rybak and Councilman Gordon had made a deal, where Cam would try and dissuade the Green Party from running a Mayoral candidate at all.”

    And I wrote:

    “I have this to say to any Green who would turn on a long-time party member and elected Green based on rumors started by a Democratic party hack: wise up.”

  12. Dave Schwab

    Kimberly-

    It was THIS election where the DFL challenger to Cam Gordon dropped out.

    3/2/2009: “Charles Carlson, a candidate for the Ward 2 seat on the Minneapolis City Council, dropped out of the race on Sunday, telling supporters that he has “an opportunity to officiate professional tennis at various tournaments around the world.” But as the Minnesota Daily reports, Carlson dropped out after the paper uncovered that he fabricated a substantial part of his biography.”

    http://minnesotaindependent.com/27896/gay-city-council-candidate-drops-out-admits-falsifying-much-of-his-life-story

    I’ve seen others explain this to Michael Cavlan, but he continues to omit this inconvenient fact. Could that be because it doesn’t fit into the conspiracy theory that Cam Gordon made a deal with RT Rybak to ensure that he wouldn’t have a DFL challenger in 2009?

    If someone wants to lie in the comments, that’s one thing, but I expect IPR posts to be factually inaccurate, especially on matters where the story as posted constitutes libel against an elected official.

  13. Kimberly Wilder

    Dave,

    I did not know the story of the Dem person this time around. Thank you for clarifying. I am not sure that entirely contradicts any piece of MC’s article. And, I will review at a later time. (I have a peace meeting tonight.)

    But, I will note that I did not post MC’s story here as fact. I posted it as his political commentary, noting that he was a former Green.

    I am very careful on IPR that what I post is factual OR noted as opinion or commentary.

    And, in addition, I verified the basics of Michael Cavlan’s story by calling a Minnesota Green.

    Thank you,
    Kimberly Wilder

  14. Mik Robertson

    @7 That’s funny.

    Do you know how you can tell the toothbrush was invented in West Virginia? Anywhere else and it would have been called a teethbrush.

  15. Dave Schwab

    Kimberly,

    you wrote:
    “I did not know the story of the Dem person this time around. Thank you for clarifying. I am not sure that entirely contradicts any piece of MC’s article.”

    Michael Cavlan wrote:
    “Interestingly, he said that they would show that there was an agreement between Councilman Gordon and Mayor Rybak to support one another as early as mid-2008. That the support was mutual and that Mayor Rybak was instrumental in passing a Resolution of support at the DFL Ward Two convention. Cam Gordon faced no Democrat endorsed opposition in Ward Two, which is virtually unheard of in Minneapolis history. However, we were to find out later that there more to this than originally presented.”

    We are led to believe that Gordon and Rybak agreed to endorse each other, so that Gordon would face no DFL opposition and Rybak would be able to claim Green support. The inconvenient truth, as I have documented, is that there WAS a DFL challenger to Gordon, who dropped out of the race in March after it was revealed that he had falsified much of his life story.

    you wrote:
    “But, I will note that I did not post MC’s story here as fact. I posted it as his political commentary, noting that he was a former Green.”

    Whether you’re posting news, commentary, editorials, opinion pieces, the rule still applies – you’re entitled to your own opinions, but not to your own facts. Look, altho we have disagreed before, I generally consider you a good blogger. However, a good blogger doesn’t post stories like this without fact-checking them.

    It bothers me that you’ve allowed yourself and IPR to be used to libel a Green stalwart – someone who is in the halls of government, working to advance the very same values you claim to share. Before you reply, please take some time to think about what’s more important for you – building something positive, or tearing down others who have accomplished something positive.

  16. Kimberly Wilder

    David S. wrote:

    …please take some time to think about what’s more important for you – building something positive, or tearing down others who have accomplished something positive…

    Kimberly replies:

    Ummm…let’s see….since I build and do positive work constantly for the greens (even though I left them) and for the peace movement and for the immigrant-support movement, the question is really a no-brainer.

    But, I see it was not really a question, it was more of a way for you to drop an accusation to me in a patriarchal, condescending way….

    So…

    As I said, I did fact-check my story. I called someone other than the author–I called a Green Party member in Minnesota. And, I did a review on line, including checking election dates. I daresay that is more checking than many bloggers do.

    And, while what you said above gives some more wiggle room to show that Cam Gordon MAY NOT have worked hand-in-hand with the Mayor in 2008, or in this cycle, Michael Cavlan’s story only suggested that Gordon MIGHT HAVE, not that he did.

    In addition (and if I am repetitious, it is because your accusations are), I published the story as something to consider and chew on. I noted where it was coming from–a former Green. And, that it was “commentary” as opposed to a news story.

    So, thanks again.

    Sorry that you do not know my reputation or work enough yet to see how positive it is. I would say that years of poetry for peace, blogging and you-tubing to support the Green Party, rescuing a peace organization when its leader died suddenly, etc., is pretty darned positive. And, I am guessing that you have heard less of that good work and more gossip from the clique at the national Green Party (and NY State Green Party–especially the Albany/Spitzer branch).

    Thanks,
    Kimberly Wilder

  17. Dave Schwab

    So is patriarchy to blame for you publishing lies and libel on a third-party/independent news site?

    What does the owner of the site have to say about the matter?

  18. paulie

    What does the owner of the site have to say about the matter?

    I’ve never seen him comment here, and I have no idea if he reads the site at all. Sean Haugh threatened to sue us for libel once and demanded to talk to the owner. Trent refused to put him in touch, laughed at him, and nothing happened.

    To balance things out though, I would like to see you or someone else who is still a member of the GP become a writer here. We no longer have one since Gregg quit IPR after a falling out with Trent.

  19. Kimberly Wilder

    Dave,

    I would be careful. Elected officials are public personalities, and also have accountability requirements. So, I think the courts are very reticent to enforce “libel” against an elected official. (And, anyway, there were no “lies” about him, only questions.)

    But…you and I are not elected officials.

    So, if you are saying I lied and libeled, when I did not, I might have a good libel suit against you.

    😉
    Kimberly

  20. Kimberly Wilder

    Paulie,

    I, too, wish that we had some actual Green Party members writing Green stories here. I try to do stuff here and there. But, I know I come to Green Party issues with some healthy distrust and old baggage.

    Wish that there was someone still inside who wanted to write here. (Though, maybe we would want one insider with “the clique” and one insider who was “independent/dissenting”?)

    It’s never easy in politics.

  21. paulie

    @9

    via facebook:

    Subject: One Year Later, Keep up the Pressure: Call-in today and demand for the charges to be dropped!

    One Year Later, Keep up the Pressure: Call-in Sept. 1 campaign

    One Year Later – Call-in to Susan Gaertner September 1st
    651-266-3222 | Fax: 651-266-3010 | RCA@co.http://www.facebook.com/l/;ramsey.mn.us

    On September 1, 2008, thousands took to the streets of St. Paul to challenge the Republican National Convention. One year later, the RNC 8 are still facing serious legal repercussions because of their organizing. Authorities typically charge a few activists who take to the streets – this time, they went after the people who fed and housed protesters in the days before.
    We are asking people across the country to take a few minutes on Tuesday, September 1 – the one-year anniversary of the RNC resistance – to contact Ramsey County Attorney (and aspiring Democratic candidate for Governor) Susan Gaertner and tell her to DROP THE CHARGES! It’s been a full year of dragging community members through the mud, wasted taxpayer dollars, and embarrassment for Susan’s campaign. Enough is enough!

    Tuesday Sept. 1 2009
    Contact Susan Gaertner:
    County Attorney’s Office: 651-266-3222 | Fax: 651-266-3010 | RCA@co.http://www.facebook.com/l/;ramsey.mn.us
    Campaign Office: 651-645-2010 | info@susangaertner.com
    Let us know if you made a call or email by contacting us at info@http://www.facebook.com/l/;rnc8.org

    online:
    website: http://www.facebook.com/l/;rnc8.org
    Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=15561103028 | http://www.facebook.com/susangaertner
    Flickr: http://www.facebook.com/l/;www.flickr.com/photos/susangaertner2010
    Twitter: http://www.facebook.com/l/;www.twitter.com/SusanGaertner

    Thank you for taking a few minutes out of your day to make this call in day a success!

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