Welcome to a special Saturday edition to the Digest. A lot happened yesterday so I felt it was important to put out an update.
Four Republicans in the Minnesota Senate announced on Friday that they confronted Sen. Amy Koch on Wednesday about concerns of an alleged inappropriate relationship with a male staffer. When Koch announced on Thursday that she was stepping down as Majority Leader, she said she felt it was time. What she didn’t say is that five senators may have indicated to her that her time was up.
Interim Senate Majority Leader Geoff Michel, Sen. David Hann, Sen. Dave Senjem and Sen. Chris Gerlach explained why they confronted Koch on Friday afternoon. You can listen to that newser here.
The four senators said Sen. Claire Robing is the other senator to confront Koch about the matter. Citing legal reasons, senators and staff declined to identify the staffer allegedly involved with Koch except to say he was a male and reported directly to her.
Koch didn’t return calls to MPR News on Friday but on Thursday I asked her whether a scandal was the reason was stepping down, Here’s what she said:
Koch: This is about my decision to step down. I’m not going to address anything like that.
Scheck: Is that a firm “No” then?
Koch: I’m not even going to comment on that.
In another loss to the GOP Senate, Secretary of the Senate Cal Ludeman confirmed to MPR News that Koch’s top communications aide Michael Brodkorb was no longer working for the Senate. He declined to say whether Brodkorb left on his own or was dismissed. Brodkorb did not return a phone call for comment in time for this report.
The GOP Senate Caucus has until Dec. 29 to elect a new majority leader.
Under the Dome
Minnesota education officials are celebrating that the federal government has awarded the state $45 million in federal Race to the Top money.
The Star Tribune reports that many contractors are reporting a loss of millions of dollars as a result of the state government shutdown in July.
Grand Marais is in shock after a courthouse shooting.
The Pi Press says gambling is becoming a key option in stadium talks.
The Senate is expected to vote on a spending bill today.
The House passed the spending bill on Friday.
Most of Minnesota’s House delegation voted for the spending bill.
Senate leaders also reached agreement on extending the payroll tax for two months.
The deal also includes a requirement that they speed up a decision on the Keystone pipeline.
The White House says the tax cut deal meets President Obama’s approval.
The Securities and Exchange Commission charged the ex CEOs of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with fraud.
The New York Times says the Obama Administration will allow states to tailor benefits under the federal health care law.
The EPA finalized tough new rules regarding emissions from power plants.
Race for MNGOP Chair
Starkey Technologies executive Brandon Sawalich announced on Friday that he was dropping his bid to be MNGOP Chair.
The news came after MSP Airport police arrested Sawalich on Thursday for having expired license plate tabs on his truck. Sawalich told MPR News that he was “dumbfounded” about being arrested for expired tabs. He may have had good reason to be since a spokesman for the airport later backed off the initial arrest. The spokesman said a clerical error led police to believe Sawalich’s truck didn’t have license tabs for a year and a half instead of six months.
AP was also reporting seeking comment from Sawalich on a lawsuit he and a subordinate settled in 2003 claiming sexual harassment.
GOP consultant Pat Shortridge is now thinking about getting in the race. He said he’s getting strong encouragement to run.
Former GOP state Rep. Mike Osskopp announced on Twitter late Thursday night that he was running.
Todd McIntyre also announced he’s running.
Delegates elect a new chair two weeks from today.
Race for U.S. Senate
AP says GOP Senate candidate Joe Arwood was once convicted for having a loaded handgun at the MSP Airport.
Race for President
GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann started her Iowa bus tour.
MPR did a fact check on Bachmann’s comments in the final debate before the Iowa Caucuses.
Tea Party leaders in South Carolina took a swipe at Bachmann.
Newt Gingrich is holding a conference call with reporters on Saturday after taking criticism for not campaigning in Iowa on Saturday or Sunday.
AP says Ron Paul’s aggressive ad campaign may alter the race in Iowa.
The Washington Post says Mitt Romney’s rhetoric on immigrants are making some Republicans wary.
Romney is hoping that South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s endorsement will help him win South Carolina.
Romney also clarified comments he made about Medicaid.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry defended his decision to retire early to claim his pension in addition to collecting his $150,000 a year salary.