Papa John and the AG’s office

I just talked to the Green Party’s candidate for Attorney General John Kolstad, better known as Papa John Kolstad. He and his campaign are concerned that MPR isn’t mentioning him along with the other candidates for AG in our newscasts.

We have a general policy of covering the major party candidates, and the Green Party lost that designation in the last election. Kolstad makes the case that he is well known outside of the political realm because of his career as a musician, and that he is making a serious run at the office even though he is not a lawyer (the Ag isn’t required to be).

Kolstad was a longtime active DFLer, but he says he broke with the party and accepted what he called a Green Party draft over the stadium issue. He says he’s disillusioned with the Democrats’ support of public money for the new Twins ballpark.

“Somebody’s got to stand up to this,” he said. “These people are so totally out of touch with reality.”

Kolstad has already won the first showdown of his campaign. He got Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer to back down from her opposition to allowing him to appear as “Papa” John Kolstad on the ballot.

  • Funny I was just listening to MPR’s story about Brian Smith (58B-I) candidate who is trying to get on the ballot due to a filing error involving Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer directly. The funny thing about the news story was the ending that stated Kiffmeyer actually sided with Papa John. How could MPR get the facts so wrong on Papa John? The last 5 paragraphs of the story give a clue…Why is MPR on a quest to make Kiffmeyer look like she’s working across the isle? It sounds like MPR is out of touch with reality on this one.

    Read below or click on the link:

    [Smith has picked up an unlikely political ally in his fight to get on the ballot. The DFL-endorsed candidate for Secretary of State, Mark Ritchie, says the situation is another example of Kiffmeyer playing politics with her office.

    “In this case, misinformation gets mixed in with incompetence, gets mixed in with partisan behavior and I think that that’s a deadly combination for Minnesota’s democracy,” Ritchie said.

    Brian Smith says he’s talked to people on the north side of Minneapolis who believe if he was a Republican, this wouldn’t have happened. Kiffmeyer says Smith’s political party has nothing to do with this, and she takes issue with Ritchie’s accusations.

    “We do our best by every single customer, no matter their political party,” she says. “And just because they happen to be one or the other, and to politicize it by making those kinds of comments are probably the more political.”

    Kiffmeyer points out that she worked with DFL Senate candidate David Francis to fax in his filing materials because he was out of state looking for his missing son, and she sided with the Green Party’s attorney general candidate who wants to be listed by his nickname, Papa John Kolstad, on the ballot.]

  • Mike Mulcahy

    I agree the story mischaracterized what occured between Kolstad and Kiffmeyer. I disagree that the reporter or MPR was on some kind of crusade. We’ll correct it on the Web.

  • Out of curiosity, why does MPR “have a general policy of covering the major party candidates”?

    It isn’t as if these candidates are hurting for campaign coverage or as if they deserve to have advantages in exercising their first amendement freedom of speech. I can understand the necessity to filter coverage before the filing period, when anyone who wants to claim they are a candidate can, but once the filing period has closed, MPR and other news outlets should cover the nominated candidates equally. It isn’t as if the Major party candidates love the country better or even had to do as much work.

    There is a lot of institutionalized bias in our campaign laws that works in favor of ‘major parties’ – Why does your news service re-inforce this bias?

    Obviously, MPR and other press outlets have the right to produce whatever coverage they like under that first amendment. But unlike many news outlets, MPR doesn’t seem to have a compelling financial reason to refuse coverage to upstart candidates.

    Finally, doesn’t the MPR policy seem to betray a lack of objectivity or, more clearly, a bias towards the status quo?

  • eb

    Thank you to Laura McCallum for updating the story to be a bit more representative and for Mike Mulcahy who posted here that the story would be updated.

    The updated content reads:

    Kiffmeyer points out that she worked with DFL Senate candidate David Francis to fax in his filing materials because he was out of state

    looking for his missing son. After initially arguing that the Green Party’s attorney general candidate could not use his nickname on the ballot, Kiffmeyer agreed that Papa John Kolstad had made a reasonable case to allow his name to appear that way.

  • Mike Mulcahy

    Well, you’ve obviously hit on a major debate we have a lot in the newsroom–which is why it’s a “general” policy and not an absolute one.

    If you talk to a lot of the major party candidates they would probably disagree with you that they’re “not hurting for coverage.” In fact I probably hear daily from at least one of the major party campaigns about how they’re being covered, how much they’re being covered, how little they’re being covered, how much their opponents are being covered, etc.

    We don’t have unlimited resources. We try to make news decisions based on how to best serve our audience with the resources we do have.

    The 5 percent limit to become a major party in Minnesota is a pretty low requirement

  • All candidates argue that they should have more earned media exposure, and your point is well taken about limited resources. I think that your newsroom, by and large, does a good job. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be a MPR member and I wouldn’t listen to 99.5 from 7:30-4 daily.

    But along those same lines, all candidates also have limited resources. Some moreso than others. You are right that 5 percent is a fairly low threshold for Major party status compared to other states. Frankly, Minnesotans have it better than the residents of almost any state in the union when it comes to electoral fairness and ballot access issues. Richard Winger at BAN made the same point.

    With him, I argued that fairness cannot be relative. I used a grotesque example in his case, the fate of jewish people at two Nazi camps, one of which gassed more. This argument didn’t get me far there.

    Consider the inequity of potential resources between Major party candidates and minor party/independent candidates.

    First, financial inequities. Public subsidies beyond the political contribution refund program are not available to minor or independent candidates. Minor/independent candidates, in many cases, have no permanant party apparatus to rely upon to furnish targeting data for fundraising. Minor/independent candidates have less access to political action committee and other special interst funds, as these groups are generally interested in picking winners. Minor/independent candidates have no national figures to do high profile fundraising events.

    These financial advantages alone translate to electoral dominance. If the news media paid no attention whatsoever to major party candidates, they could sucessfully deliver their message through paid media.

    Then consider other access advantages. If you followed the US House 1 race today, you discovered that our Secretary of State believes that major party candidates have no date limitations on nominating petition signatures, unlike the 14 days granted to minor and third party candidates. Try retaining an attorney who is an election law specialist in our state, and you will find that conflicts of interst preclude their offering council to third party/independent candidates. I mentioned targeting data above for fundraising, but this advantage is even more important in terms of reaching potential voters. The registered voters list from the SoS simply doesn’t compare to the enhansed contact information and issue targeting that the parties do. Nomination itself is conferred though a gathering of like minded individuals, a severe advantage over the more difficult task of convincing total strangers who may or may not share your core ideological convictions at their doorstep.

    In my opinion, the news has a responsiblity to foster an informed electorate who can make rational, self-interested decisions. When MP candidates can and do afford massive paid public relations campaigns, the media has a responsibility to offer earned media with some reluctance to these candidates. To, as a matter of general policy, only feature candidates who have large (or at least larger) campaign coffers, is to undermine the central principal of our republic – the principal of one man, one vote. The media should aim to level the playing field, not to excentuate the already tipped scale.

    The goal of electoral politics is to elect the candidates who, in Jefferson’s words, “seem most likely to effect our safety and happiness”. It seems altogether reasonable to assert that these are not always the most financially viable candidates. When the electorate cannot learn about opposing points of views and their other choices, how can they make a rational decision? And if not to help the voters make a rational decision, why have we protected the freedom of the press?

  • Mike Mulcahy

    I do want to clarify. We will be doing more with minor party candidates for governor and U.S. Senate after the primary.

  • Gail S

    You said:

    We have a general policy of covering the major party candidates, and the Green Party lost that designation in the last election. Kolstad makes the case that he is well known outside of the political realm because of his career as a musician, and that he is making a serious run at the office even though he is not a lawyer (the Ag isn’t required to be).

    Why not cover all the candidates, or at least give them a mention or two, whether they are of “major parties” or not? Most candidates are very serious about their ideas. I’m willing to put up with those whose pronouncements scare me if I know that those I support(not members of major parties) will be heard.

  • Nancy Catlin

    To prostitute:

    To willingly uses ability (i.e. Democracy) in a base and unworthy way.

    I believe NPR is prostituting the Name of Democracy in this current election, to block out certain candidates who are valid, registered candidates.

    One of the premises of the National Public Radio is to INFORM THE PUBLIC. Public Tax Money is paid to NPR & MPR to help inform. This is not happening.

    I refer to the shutting out of the Green Party’s candidates(and perhaps others) not only in news stories, but in public debates.

    HOW can the public be informed, responsible voters if they are excluded from information of EACH candidate? Is this not the definition of Democracy, to be an informed responsible citizen???

    To use outdated criteria of what is a major party candidate is a perversion of freedom of information.

    How can I as a voter become informed if you REFUSE to inform me???

    I have been a recipient of several polls which ask me to select answers pertaining to ONLY two political parties. By telephone and mail. I refused to participate in those polls because of their bias.

    MPR is also supposed to be unbiased, but I cannot see it.

    The way politics are headed, I seriously question whether I will ever again enter my vote under either the Democrat OR the Republican party columns, just on general principals. i.e. My perception of their total lack of general principals.

    For publicly subsidised media to allow political dirty pool to dictate what is considered ‘fit for the public’ smacks of dictatorship, not democracy.