Election 2014: MN State Auditor

State Auditor is an interesting and poorly understood office. They do not do audits of businesses or non-profits; rather, they audit local governments and (I think) school boards. Their office FAQ provides a decent explanation for what they do. Matt Entenza probably should have read that FAQ before he filed.

On the ballot:

PATRICK DEAN – INDEPENDENCE
RANDY GILBERT – REPUBLICAN
REBECCA OTTO – DEMOCRATIC-FARMER-LABOR
KEEGAN IVERSEN – LIBERTARIAN PARTY
JUDITH SCHWARTZBACKER – GRASSROOTS – LEGALIZE CANNABIS

Patrick Dean

He starts out by saying that he’s “the guy who’ll stop and give you a jump start when it’s 20 below.” It’s rare to run into that sort of statement on candidate web pages but being neighborly in winter weather came up in the Republican primary debate I linked to the other day. The thing about being the helpful jump-start guy is that apparently these days most newer cars can’t be jump started from another car. (At least, this is what we were told by the guy from AAA after we unsuccessfully tried to jump my minivan from Ed’s car with no luck.) The Republican candidates for Governor focused more on snow removal. Being the guy who’d stop and help push you off a snow berm is also kind of extra evocative, although looking at his picture, I think if he stopped and wanted to help push me out of a drift I’d be reluctant to let him. He’s pretty old and I wouldn’t want him to get hurt.

He then goes on to tell you that “For 19 years I worked in St. Paul, Minnesota and ran a for-profit business for the St. Paul Port Authority. During my time there I found evidence of diversion of pledge funds. I spoke up and that made some very powerful people very, very angry. And then the matter went to litigation and the Supreme Court of Minnesota said I was right. It’s all a matter in the public domain and you can take a look for yourself.” He then links to a Google search: https://www.google.com/search?q=St.+Paul+Port+Authority+876+Bonds&oq=St.+Paul+Port+Authority+876+Bonds&aqs=chrome..69i57.929j0j7&sourceid=chrome&es_sm=122&ie=UTF-8 …which, okay, but I don’t even know what he means by pledge funds and who’d be diverting them, and following the most helpful-looking result to a Star Trib article didn’t make me feel a whole lot more enlightened. I do, however, think that his “made some very powerful people very, very angry” line may possibly be him trying to make himself sound super badass for filing a lawsuit.

That said, he looks at least reasonably qualified and his plans for the job he’s running for appear to involve doing the job he’s running for. He’d probably do okay. (And if your battery goes dead while you’re in downtown St. Paul near the capitol, you’ll know who to call!)

Randy Gilbert

I will note for the record that the State Auditor job is one I’ve actually voted for a Republican for. Admittedly, the Republican in question (Judi Dutcher) changed parties a few years later.

Anyway, given that this guy’s campaign has focused on the fact that Rebecca Otto is not wholeheartedly pro-mining. He has a whole page about mining complete with a picture of himself in front of the Polymet building with two thumbs up.

Yeah, nope.

Rebecca Otto

So one thing I’ll note about Otto is that her opposition to the mines she voted against (in her position on the State Executive committee) was not even environmentally based: “Rebecca is not pro-mining or anti-mining; she is pro-taxpayer. It is part of the State Auditor’s job to watch out for the best interests of Minnesota taxpayers and make certain they are not left holding the bag after a nonferrous mine closes. The State Auditor sits on the State Executive Council, where in 2013 she voted against the approval of 31 leases to mine nonferrous minerals because of potential taxpayer exposure to cleanup costs. Rebecca is pushing for an open and transparent process when it comes to the setting of financial assurances for new copper mines, which are like damage deposits, so that taxpayers are protected.”

I totally get that people in outstate want mining because heavy industrial jobs pay a whole lot better than tourism jobs. I am not necessarily opposed to mining. But the mining companies sure as heck do not get to leave a big mess for the people of Minnesota to clean up; that’s a bad deal.

Anyway, overall I think she’s been doing a fine job and I’m planning to vote for her.

Keegan Iversen

It took me about fifteen minutes of googling to be pretty sure that this Keegan Iverson is NOT in fact the hockey player. (That Keegan Iverson is also from Minnesota! But younger.)

Edited to add: I cleverly misspelled his last name when googling. Iversen is the politician, Iverson is the hockey player.

Keegan Iversen the Libertarian politician has a picture on his web site (in the gallery of rotating photos) of somebody getting arrested, and I’m curious if it was him, but the existence of the hockey player makes it really hard to turn up news stories about an obscure political activist. (Anyway, it doesn’t look like him. I have no idea why it’s on there; he doesn’t say.) (Edited to add: correctly spelling Iversen did not help me find much more than I’d already found.)

Anyway, this guy has no particularly relevant experience (I think he most recently worked as a military contractor doing weather forecasting in Iraq) and his position statement says that he plans to “eliminat[e] positions and redundant departments,” which is pretty far outside the job description for the Auditor.

Oh, and he accepts donations in Bitcoins.

If you want to be all iconoclastic in this race and vote for a third-party candidate, go for the Independence guy. He has relevant qualifications AND he will jump start your car for you.

Judith Schwartzbacker

Judith has no link because she has no web page, Facebook group, or any useful information about her online beyond the fact that she filed for office and wants to legalize pot.

In googling her name I have also discovered that in 1988 she was a graduate student in Philosophy at the U and gave a talk called “What is Existentialism” at Normandale Community College. She left a comment on a post about philosophy in 2011 and she goes to a Nietzsche interest group meetup.

So basically, her hobbies are weed, philosophy, and filing for offices you’re not actually running for (although she seems to have only done that once, so maybe that doesn’t quite qualify as a hobby yet.)

Don’t vote for her. Legalizing pot is well outside the job description of the State Auditor anyway.

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4 thoughts on “Election 2014: MN State Auditor

  1. Well, well, we are thorough aren’t we. Judith Schwartzbacker is on the ballot for State Auditor as the candidate of the Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party. You think the fact that she has no web page or investment in “virtual” reality is a reason not to vote for her . . . we all do love our vices, don’t we? Perhaps, to your discredit, you don’t have a clear notion of the systemic damage done to our society, our communities, and our Constitution by the Nixon-Reagan “war on drugs.” The recent incidents in Ferguson, Missouri, have come and gone, vanished in the fast-pace of electronic hypnotism and digital distraction . . . yet the militarization of our police forces, like the expansion of our prison system to Gulag dimensions, is rooted in the so-called drug war. 30 years ago, the late Sydney J. Harris called it the biggest scam ever perpetrated by government on the American taxpayers. He was right then and it’s apparent now. But politicians are too scared of the Frankenstein narco-state they’ve created, to speak out against it.
    So let’s look at that state Auditor race. The Auditor could not “legalize pot” but she could audit, for instance, entities like the Metro Gang Strike Force and other similar outfits which run amok with no serious oversight, seizing property under forfeiture laws, converting contraband to their own use, violating the security and privacy of citizens. Just one suggestion of an example of how the office might serve the cause of policy reforms, and since the political arena is the appropriate place for proposals for policy reform, what’s your beef?
    And, to put it plainly, it doesn’t matter so much who the State Auditor is. Those who are good at it, or otherwise, may advance to higher office (Arne Carlson, Mark Dayton.) But in practical political terms, it’s the best place to seek a statewide protest vote for those parties or principles which the professional politicians and the corporate-dominated parties prefer to ignore. That’s why 4 years ago, both the Green Party and Grassroots Party ran candidates for the post. If a minor party collects 1% of statewide votes, it gets a certain level of statutory recognition and gets listed on the public campaign finance check-off on tax returns. It’s easier to get that dissenting vote in a less-essential office like Auditor than in a tightly-contested, expensive race like Governor or US Senator. If a party receives 5% statewide, it is a statutory major party with easier ballot access. [Minor parties and independent candidates must collect 2,000 valid signatures in 2 weeks in order to be listed on the ballot–which isn’t easy. Try it sometime! the Republicans did try it once a few years ago and in the next election went back to paying filing fees. Too much work.]
    70 years ago, there were many more statewide elective partisan offices. The number has been reduced, and terms of office lengthened, thus providing fewer chances for citizen input into state government. The office of Treasurer used to be the least significant–and thus the most appealing for recording protest votes–but that was taken off the ballot; so now the mantle falls to Auditor. Attorney General is potentially a powerful office; Secretary of State runs elections and thus now is caught in the nationwide Republican voter-suppression nexus, so Auditor is the post of last resort for those of you who think you must vote for the lesser evil in the “big” races, but who agree with the Grassroots-LegalizeCannabis, or Libertarians, or Independence parties somewhere.
    No real harm will be done, and you’ll send a signal to the professional politicians that at least some of the voters are restless. Restless is better than apathetic!

    • Hey, if you want to vote for someone who’s not invested enough in running for office to (a) set up a website explaining her views, (b) fill out some candidate surveys, (c) write a letter to the editor, (d) put anything out there beyond her name and the name of her “party,” it’s your vote. Knock yourself out.

      If the Auditor’s office is such a great place to campaign for protest votes, why the heck didn’t the Grassroots party come up with a candidate who can actually be arsed to put together a website?

    • (I actually basically agree with you that this would be a good place to throw a protest vote, since if the Republican gets elected to this office the damage he can do is pretty minimal. But your protest-vote options are seriously limited.)

      You’re clearly very committed, have some time on your hands, and an Internet connection. You could set up a website FOR her, if you can figure out any way to get hold of her and find out what her views are.

  2. I don’t ever cast throw-away votes. The vote is valuable and I use it intentionally. In asking for a protest vote, or in campaigning for a candidate that I know has no realistic chance of winning, I’m seeking to influence both those who do win the election, and the other voters, and even the non-voters in the populace. (I want the non-voters to decide to participate if they’re able to.) It’s all in the nature of an educational mission. Elections are opportunities to have voice in the public forum.
    The internet offers other opportunities for the same thing, useful to those who haven’t the money to advertise or otherwise buy their way into the mass corporate media outlets.
    So your criticism has merit. I suppose we’d make more headway in 2014 with sophisticated websites. Cannabis reform advocates in other states are more successful in this area. All I know how to do is e-mail and not much of that; and a little word-processing.
    On the other hand, advice and criticism of the “you ought to do such-and-such” variety is all too common. We have to work with the resources, people, skills, and talent that we’ve got. With the Grassroots, we do what we can with a shoestring budget and a corporal’s guard of volunteers. The fact that we got 3 petitions (including D.Vacek’s) successfully circulated in 2 weeks to qualify for the ballot speaks far more than anything as to the popularity of our platform’s basic plank. We collected about 9,000 signatures in 2 weeks–ink on paper. Try it sometime–it’s not easy. The Libertarians also petitioned–using “Legalize Marijuana” placards to attract signers; and with more volunteers and money than we had, they filled every partisan statewide slot in 2 weeks.
    As for our auditor candidate, her not having a website is a voluntary decision. Not everyone, as brother Thoreau pointed out, wishes to march to the same drummer. As far as I’m concerned, the internet is a mixed blessing. Tremendous amounts of information are accessible; modes of interpersonal communication and mass communication provide unprecedented scope and opportunity for dissemination and discussion of information; and yet there is a passivity to the process which disturbs me. Also an impersonality, or a distortion or filtering of personality, perhaps. What will be the ultimate direction–towards more democracy or towards more control and repression? Someone can pull the plug at anytime, so let’s not get too hooked on these computers!
    You seem to think we can’t be taken seriously because some of our candidates or some of our tactics and strategy are, shall we say, non-conformist. In this case, it will be very interesting to see, when the votes are counted, if a “virtually” invisible candidacy still attracts any votes. From past experience, one call almost always get scattered votes simply by being on the ballot–look at the two petition-nominated candidates in the 2008 Coleman-Franken race, who each got about 9,000 votes, I think. That was in a presidential year. Comparable results this year would be half of that. So if Ms. Schwartzbacker gets approximately that many, your viewpoint is vindicated. Substantially more than that, and our petitioning effort looks less futile. Over 1%, and her mission would be accomplished–qualifying the party for the public campaign financing. Those funds enable us to continue to reach and preach to our fellow citizens.
    I don’t have enough time on my hands–these posts are something of a distraction. I bother to compose them because I want to encourage thoughtful exchange of ideas among serious people. Ideas do matter.

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