Monday, May 23, 2005

A Clear Message? It's anything but...

In yesterday's St. Cloud Times Opinion section, a letter, supposedly written by Minnesota Chamber of Commerce president David Olson, ran as follows:

Letter: Kleis' vote on taxes sends clear message
By David Olson, Minnesota Chamber of Commerce,

On May 6, Sen. Dave Kleis voted for, and the Senate passed, a bill that will raise taxes by $1.2 billion during the next two years.

Kleis supported one of the largest tax increases in recent history at a time when the economy is fragile and Minnesotans are facing higher costs for consumer goods and rising interest rates.

Wouldn't it be nice if Kleis and the 34 other senators would have paused for a second and thought about the message they are sending to successful entrepreneurs, business owners and other folks who decide where their companies are located and where they expand their operations?

Kleis is now on record for higher business property taxes, higher corporate income taxes and the highest marginal rate for personal income taxes in the nation, which affects many small-business owners.

Businesses in Kleis' district, and throughout the entire state, will not forget this vote.

Many senators will posture this vote as the first step in negotiating a budget settlement with Gov. Tim Pawlenty and House Republicans.

Negotiations or not, the message has been sent: If you want to do your part to create jobs in Minnesota, you're going to pay more to state government for that privilege.
There are problems on so many levels with this letter, which of course ran on the day of the week with the Times' highest readership levels. First,Dave Kleis voted against the bill, not for it. He was one of the most vocal adversaries of the bill, and has throughout his term been a champion against higher taxes in Minnesota. Which brings us to another two pronged issue. First, that the letter would have come out of the Minnesota Chamber office in the first place, and second, that the Times would print such a falsehood. At 6:15 this morning, on Dan Ochsner's show, the original story was that David Olson denied sending the letter. Later, around 7:50 am, David Olson called the show, and while not admitting that he wrote the letter, said that the letter probably came from his office. What happened, apparently, is that form letters (i.e., insert legislator's name here) went out to state newspapers, and somehow, Dave Kleis got on the list of those who voted "yes" to the tax increase. Shame on the Minnesota Chamber!. The second part of this bad soap opera is the fact that the Times, having full access to Senator Kleis' voting record, and having often reported Kleis' opposition to tax increases, didn't bother to check their facts before printing the op-ed. Shame on the St. Cloud Times! To their partial credit, the Times now has the following disclaimer next to the story on their website:
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Information containted in this letter has been found to be incorrect. Sen. Dave Kleis did not vote for the tax bill.)
But the problem with something being published in the Sunday paper, is that many folks don't read the paper again til the next Sunday. If they don't listen to the local news, or check the web site, they will be left with the erroneous impression that Kleis is turning into a tax-and-spend liberal. Both the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and the St. Cloud Times owe Senator Kleis a BIG apology, and a very public one at that. How 'bout a full page ad in next Sunday's Times for starters?

King Banaian from SCSU Scholars has this to say:
What is remarkable to me is that our university is still campaigning about anonymous comments on the Times site, yet in this case not only did they expose the error and get it corrected, but that not one but three local legislators -- including the two area DFL legislators -- came up to Sen. Kleis' defense rather early in the day. But in the middle of the chat there's our Mayor Ellenbecker trying to score a political point on Pogomonster's soak-the-rich tax increase. Ellenbecker would do well to get off those boards -- he keeps adding fuel to the fire. Which, as long as he is going to stand in the middle of it, is just fine by me.

BTW--I don't venture predictions too often, but I think this one's a sure bet. Should Senator Kleis decide to run again, either for his current Senate seat, or for another office, some kinniving democrat will state that Kleis voted to raise taxes, citing this article. Prediction made 5/23/2005, 10:31pm.


The Minnesota State Chamber of Commerce has issued this apology:
Our sincere apologies to Sen. Dave Kleis for our letter Sunday, which misstated his vote on the Senate tax bill ("Kleis' vote on taxes sends clear message.")

He did not vote for the tax increase, and we know better. The mistake was ours, regardless how it happened.

Kleis has been a longtime proponent of protecting the interests of the business community and has been a staunch advocate of holding down taxes.

We know he'd never support the bill passed by the Senate on May 6 which would raise taxes by $1.2 billion in the next two years. We regret our error.
Well, that takes care of the Minnesota C of C; now what about the Times. While the Times took the step to retract the story, an apology is lacking. Kleis' voting record is readily available. The Times has oft reported regarding Kleis' stand on raising taxes. Their not checking the sources was negligence that could very well have resulted in damage to Kleis' reputation and character. I think an out-and-out apology by the Times is in order. But I'm not holding my breath.