Friday, September 24, 2004

Call Her Ms. Demeanor

The swift hand of justice descended on the top of DFL Rep. Phyllis Kahn's wrist yesterday, with her misdemeanor conviction for theft. The 32 year MN House incumbent from the Minneapolis district encompassing the University of Minnesota campus was fined $200 dollars and promised a dismissal of her conviction if she does not re-offend within the next year.

Because of that sweetheart deal, the clock is ticking on the time we can accurately refer to her as "convicted thief Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Minneapolis)". That is, assuming she isn't a habitual thief. Sure, this is her first conviction, but how do we know she hasn't done this before and won't do it again? According to reports, she is sorry for her heinous thievery (this time):

... I know it was wrong and I am sorry.

Which is all well and fine. But can we really trust her on this matter? She is, after all, a convicted thief.

Even I must admit, theft probably isn't a fair charge to throw at Rep. Kahn. The object of her larcenous desires was valued at nothing more than a few cents. But that's all the prosecutors were left with, since stealing your opponent's campaign literature isn't in itself illegal in Minnesota. Yes, recall, that's what old Phyllis was up to in New Hope. Helping out her DFL comrade Sandy Peterson, who is attempting to unseat the Republican incumbent from District 45A (squeaky clean Lynn Osterman). Helping her out by stealing the Republican literature from residents' doors and replacing it with that of the DFL opponent.

An act, to repeat, which is not on its own explicitly illegal in Minnesota. A fact which even law enforcement officials weren't aware of immediately following Kahn's apprehension. The chain of prosecution, according to the community newspaper in Kahn's neighborhood:

New Hope City Attorney Steve Sondrall referred the case to the Hennepin County Attorney, where he said he expected charges to be filed under the state's Fair Campaign Practices Act. Citing a conflict of interest, Hennepin County referred the case to the Anoka County Attorney's Office, which saw no campaign law violation and referred the case back to the New Hope City Attorney. Sondrall charged Kahn with misdemeanor theft in Hennepin County District Court.

Suspecting the Anoka County Attorney might be up to some partisan prosecutin' by ignoring her offense, I reviewed the Minnesota Fair Campaign Practices Act, but I'll be damned if I can find any statutes relevant to stealing campaign literature. Sure, there is a law mandating the right of politicians to appear in parades without being gouged on cost by the sponsors. And there is a law protecting politicians from getting gratuitously savaged by citizens writing letters to the editor. But stealing campaign literature apparently is of no concern (I wonder if Phyllis Kahn had anything to do with drafting this legislation?).

Regarding the letter to the editor provision, here is the relevant text:

A person is guilty of a misdemeanor who intentionally participates in the drafting of a letter to the editor with respect to the personal or political character or acts of a candidate, or with respect to the effect of a ballot question, that is designed or tends to elect, injure, promote, or defeat any candidate for nomination or election to a public office or to promote or defeat a ballot question, that is false, and that the person knows is false or communicates to others with reckless disregard of whether it is false.

My interpretation of that gives me the notion to send the Hennepin County Attorney a listing of the letters they print in the Star Tribune. There are dozens of violations of this statute every single week from the left leaning correspondents. Her conviction rate will skyrocket!

But, reading the notes and decisions amendment to this statute (211B.06) reveals the justice strangling loophole:

Extreme and illogical inferences drawn from accurate fact statement was not "false information." Kennedy v. Voss, 304 N.W.2d 299 ( Minn. 1981).

Now there's a plausible defense, Star Tribune letter-to-the-editor writers are not guilty on the grounds they are extreme and illogical.

Getting back to Ms. Kahn, I suppose a 16 term incumbent still wields influence in this town, among the political elite (which includes county and city attorneys). Enough influence to get an absolute minimum charge and sentence, without a broader investigation. How do we know this is the only time she's done this? Given her leadership position within the DFL party, is it plausible that they may be involved in other such activities, in other districts? Is it possible that similar malevolent interference is taking place elsewhere, with the purpose of denying the sacred franchise to the good citizens of Minnesota? (OK, this is starting to sound like a letter to the editor to the Star Tribune. I'll stop now, before I get arrested).

The broader lesson learned is that it may be time for we, the people, to step in and right the wrongs brought on by entrenched power and privilege. First, we need to pressure the legislature to make stealing campaign literature, or defacing/destroying signs, by candidates for office, a felony. We can call it Phyllis's Law.

Next, good people of Minnesota district 59B. Yes, you people, who gave Phyllis Kahn 94.5% of the vote in 2002. For the good of the children, it's time to forget your petty partisan concerns and dispatch her for good. On November 2, Vote Amanda Hutchings! (Isn't she cute.)

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