Monday, June 27, 2011

Michele Bachmann claims 'never a penny' in farm profits but federal disclosure forms say she's lying

By Karl Bremer

Michele Bachmann kicked off her presidential campaign in the farm state of Iowa by lying about the federal farm subsidies she's profited from on her family's farm.

When asked about her apparent hypocrisy in profiting from government subsidies while at the same time campaigning against them and calling them "outrageous pork," Bachmann told Chris Wallace on Fox News that she and her husband had "never gotten a penny of money from the farm."

Either Bachmann lied to a national tv audience when she said that, or she's been filing false federal financial disclosure forms with Congress since 2007.

Bachmann has claimed between $32,503 and $105,000 in income from the Bachmann Farm Family Limited Partnership since 2007, according to her congressional financial disclosure forms for 2007, 2009 and 2010. She still has not reported her 2008 income from the farm on her disclosure form from that year—an apparent violation of congressional reporting requirements. And as in years past, Bachmann hasn't bothered to file her financial disclosure form for 2011 and has been granted an extension.

The Bachmann Farm Family Partnership comprises 951 acres with at least one home on 38 parcels in Independence, WI, with a total assessed value of $664,950. Michele and Marcus Bachmann are partners in the farm partnership, which was established April 12, 2001, with an ownership share valued at between $100,001 and $250,000. Its corporate records on file with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions still list Paul Bachmann of Independence, WI, as the partnership’s general partner and registered agent, even though Paul Bachmann (Marcus Bachmann's father) has been dead since May 2009.

The Bachmann Family farm has collected a total of $154,755 in federal farm subsidies since the partnership was formed in 2001, most of it in corn and dairy subsidies. Paul Bachmann collected a total of $259,332 in federal farm subsidies from 1995-2009. However, it’s not known whether Michele and Marcus were involved in the farm prior to the establishment of the family partnership in 2001.

I broke the Bachmann farm subsidies story in 2007 here, and it's been re-reported by numerous news organizations over the years, including the Los Angeles Times last week. But it hasn't been until recently that Bachmann has outright lied about having profited from the very farm subsidies she rails against.

Will the media let Bachmann get away with lying about profiting from farm subsidies? Or will they stay focused on Chris Wallace asking Bachmann if she's a "flake?" I'll give you one guess.

Illustration by Ken Avidor.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Hot-shot Rolling Stone writer fakes trip to Stillwater and smears town

'Celebreporter' Matt Taibbi portrays Bachmann's hometown as 'no black people' and 'retro-Stepford'

By Karl Bremer

On June 20, I speculated about whether Stillwater was destined to become the next Wasilla as a result of clueless national reporters looking for the heart of Bachmann Country here in the St. Croix Valley. It only took two days for Rolling Stone celebreporter Matt Taibbi to prove my point when he posted his cut-and-paste story on Bachmann online and took the hatchet to Stillwater as well.

Taibbi has never set foot in Stillwater, but that didn’t stop him from coming up with this long-distance description of us, and how we are somehow responsible for producing Michele Bachmann:

“Moving back to Minnesota, she and Marcus settled in Stillwater, a town of 18,000 near St. Paul, where they raised their five children and took in 23 foster kids. Stillwater is a Midwestern version of a Currier & Ives set piece, complete with cozy homes, antique stores — and no black people. In short, the perfect launching pad for a political career built on Bachmann's retro-Stepford image. Stillwater's congressional district is the whitest district in Minnesota (95 percent) and one of the wealthiest in America (with a median income $16,000 above the national average).”
But that wasn’t Taibbi’s only crime. Virtually his entire article was based on Bachmann background information, stories and quotes from previously published work by local writers, including myself. Yet there was not one attribution or link given to anyone else. In fact, many of the quotes and passages like the one above leave the reader with the clear impression that it was Rolling Stone Correspondent Matt Taibbi who conducted the interview and on-the-ground research and not some unpaid blogger or alt-weekly writer.

Abe Sauer took note of the simmering controversy over Taibbi’s piece and ran with it on The Awl. He chased down Rolling Stone Executive Editor Eric Bates, who told him he cut out the attributions to Taibbi’s sources due to space constraints. Really? Space constraints in an online article? Does this guy think we just rolled off the rutabaga truck?

Bates did agree to provide some links to original sources in the online version, but those won’t appear in the print edition.

Sauer also talked to Taibbi, who ‘fessed up to never having visited Stillwater. That was obvious. But I’d still like to know how the Big City reporter came up with his racially-charged profile of Stillwater-as-Stepford.

Taibbi took some well-deserved lumps from Sauer for his theft of other writers' material. But that won’t matter to the millions of others who read his piece or saw him on Keith Olbermann’s show bragging about how he found all this stuff on the internet.

Matt Taibbi may know how to use the Google. But he seems to have forgotten how to use his ethics manual. The next time he wants to become an insty-expert on a Minnesota politician or her hometown, he should look a little beyond the Hudson River.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Is Stillwater the next Wasilla?

By Karl Bremer

With Michele Bachmann’s entry into the 2012 presidential race, is her hometown of Stillwater, Minnesota, about to suffer the fate of Sarah Palin’s Wasilla, Alaska? If media response in my inbox is any indication, the answer is yes.

Just in the days since Bachmann cleverly hijacked the first GOP debate of the 2012 campaign with the hardly surprising news that she had filed papers to be a candidate, I’ve been contacted by no less than four members of the national and international press about Bachmann’s background. Several already have visited Stillwater and more are on their way. The question on all of their minds is: What on earth kind of people elected Michele Bachmann?

In defense of my own hometown of Stillwater, I have to inform them that if they are looking for the typical Bachmann Teabagger voter, they are more likely to find them elsewhere in the 6th District, since Bachmann has failed to carry Stillwater in any of her three congressional races. In fact, it wasn’t until she moved to ultraconservative West Lakeland Township, which went for Tom Emmer over Mark Dayton by a margin of more than 2:1 in 2010, that Bachmann ever managed to even carry her own precinct.

So I steer them to Wright County on the west side of the district, home of Bachmann’s hateful anti-gay “minister” pal “Bradlee Dean” and failed gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, where Bachmann won handily in virtually every precinct. Nonetheless, the parade of media to the Birthplace of Minnesota on the St. Croix is likely to continue.

Guess which pom-pom girl is running for president.
Perhaps they would be better off going to Anoka, where Bachmann went to high school (and was a cheerleader). The Anoka-Hennepin District is fast gaining a reputation as one of the most hostile school districts in the state to gay students, so that might be a good place to start if they’re looking for what shaped Bachmann’s virulent homophobia.

Reporters also might want to look up Stillwater lobbyist and Bachmann pal Ed Cain while they’re in town. He and Michele have been tight for years, and he probably introduced her to some of her fat-cat donors, like his lobbying client “Bobby Thompson.” They might ask Ed if he’s seen his pal “Bobby” as some other folks are looking for him, too.

Bachmann can run but she cannot hide from the harsh scrutiny of the national and international media that have begun to take notice of her. She’s now having to face questions about some of the issues the local media have conveniently given her a pass on for years.

Some reporters have begun challenging Bachmann’s oft-repeated claim of having “raised” 23 foster children. Others are nosing around husband and chief political strategist Marcus Bachmann's Christian counseling clinic, long rumored to be a practitioner of “curing” gays. Still others are amazed at the paucity of legislative accomplishments Bachmann has had as a state senator or congresswoman as they search for evidence of her qualifications to be president.

We can only hope that Stillwater will fare somewhat better under the glare of the media spotlight than the backwater Alaskan town of Wasilla. Democratic operative and good ol’ boy James Carville in 2008 famously compared Palin’s Wasilla City Hall to a south Louisiana bait shop in the video below (go to 6:00).

Becoming known as the hometown of a divisive and extremist politician like Michele Bachmann isn’t likely to endear Stillwater to anyone but her theocratic, homophobic base. Fortunately, they won’t find the welcome mat rolled out for them here. Stillwater is better than that.

Maybe we should be happy that Bachmann has been trying to make over her past for political expediency. Let her proudly proclaim that she’s an Iowan and be thankful she’s kicking off her campaign in Waterloo and not Stillwater.

Otherwise, it won’t be long before we’re competing for deck space at the Dock CafĂ© with the likes of John Oliver and Samantha Bee.

Cheerleader photo from 1974 Anoka High Schook yearbook.

New Orleans Radiators: The Last River Run

Minnesota Fishheads bid a fond farewell to New Orleans' finest in a three-night run at the Cabooze

By Karl Bremer

Riverview Supper Club. Union Bar. Payne Reliever. Moby Dick’s. Mr. Nib’s. The original Wilebski’s Blues Saloon. The original Guthrie Theatre. Glam Slam. The Quest. Trocadero’s. The names come calling back like some lost radio. They’re gone now, ghosts along the Mississippi, but the Radiators played them all—and many, many more—in the 29 or so years they’ve been plying their Fishhead music in Minnesota waters.

Now, after a long-playing 33-1/3 years, the New Orleans Radiators are calling it a career. Keyboardist and prolific songwriter Ed “Zeke Fishhead” Volker announced his departure from the Rads late last year, and the band has been playing to packed and tearful houses ever since. Their last Minnesota shows are tonight, Friday and Saturday at the Cabooze, the venerable West Bank institution that is the longest-standing club in the Radiators’ storied Minnesota history.

The close-knit Radiators Fishhead family was spawned chiefly from two sources: students of Tulane University and other New Orleans schools who moved back home after graduating to spread their New Orleans groove through bootleg tape-trading circles; and the taper-friendly Deadhead community of the Grateful Dead, which immediately latched onto the jam-based Radiators vibe.

As the tapes spread, so did the fans, and when the band started to hit the road, they found a ready-made audience waiting for them in the most unlikely places.

One of those places was Minneapolis, on the other end of the Mighty Mississippi from the Crescent City. A confluence of like-minded souls eventually found each other in the mid-1980s and formed the Krewe of DADs (Druids, Alchemists & Dervishes), which became the first away-from-New-Orleans Krewe to coalesce around the Radiators. More would follow—San Francisco, Florida, Colorado, Philly, Chicago, SoCal—all loosely based on New Orleans’ notorious Krewe of MOMs (Mystic Orphans & Misfits).

Little did we know that this would be the start of a decades-long relationship with a band that would become the soundtrack of our lives as it created bonds among fans that would last a lifetime. The Radiators have seen us through fires and floods, cancer and catastrophes. We’ve seen them through hurricanes and high water, stolen equipment trucks and stolen hearts. We’ve shared pain and joy, life and death, misery and happiness, but most of all, the music.

The Krewe of DADs did whatever it took to make the music happen. We put them in cornfields, coulees, clubhouses and churches, every hotel ballroom or roadhouse that would have us—even our living rooms, barns and backyards. And when we couldn’t get enough of them at home, we traveled to see them.

The Radiators were our gateway drug to New Orleans. They not only provided us the roadmap to the musical mecca of New Orleans, they were an integral part of it. Professor Longhair, Earl King, James Booker? Name-check all of ‘em on these cats’ resumes′.

Extended weekend forays to see the Radiators in their hometown in the ‘80s led to more than two decades of Jazz Fests and countless trips to Frenchmen Street, Tipitina’s and points beyond to see the band. We rang in the Millennium with the Radiators on New Orleans’ West Bank of the Mississippi, and raged at MOMs Balls from Arabi to Algiers.

We followed them from the San Francisco Bay to the Red Rocks of Colorado, from the rolling Mississippi to the shores of Lake Pontchartrain. Twice we sailed the High Seas with the Radiators as our musical skippers, zig-zagging across the Caribbean from the Dominican Republic to Guatemala and tropic isles in between.

Along the way, we’ve made friends for life from all corners of the country. Like a sweet magnolia tree, every year, more branches were added to the trunk, and more blossoms added to the branches. That magnolia would shade St. Charles Avenue now.

So the boys wit’ da noise are gonna haul it on up Highway 61 to grease our skillet one last time, and then we’re gonna close that old speakeasy down. Fishheads from a dozen or more states will be flying in for what promises to be an epic six sets of music with no song repeated. This is a band that’s going out at the top of their game. Their sold-out four-night run at San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall last month left fans wondering how can they stop now? Their star-studded closeout of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Fest last Sunday was the talk of the Fest.

When the last dog is hung Saturday night at the Cabooze, grown men will cry and fine ladies will weep. Heads will shake, and then we’ll look at each other and ask what’s next.

This long, twisted road isn’t coming to a dead end, but rather, a fork. After all, New Orleans musicians—and their devotees—never really retire, they just shift gears, change lanes and keep moving.

Radiators bassist Reggie Scanlan’s side project the New Orleans Suspects is gearing up to hit the road after the Rads’ Last Watusi three-night run at Tipitina’s in New Orleans June 9-11 (sorry, those sold out in about 20 minutes). Keyboardist Volker plans to hang around New Orleans and get back to playing piano. Guitarist Camile Baudoin will have an acoustic CD out with friends in June, and guitarist Dave Malone may do some work with his brother Tommy. It’s possible a “Radiators 2.0” could emerge with a new keyboard player, but that’s nothing more than wishful speculation at this point.

As the page turns, we’ll be there. But in the meantime, to Camile Baudoin, Frank Bua, Dave Malone, Reggie Scanlan, Ed Volker, and krewe members Kenny Samuels, Josh Abelson and Phil Frank, thanks for the memories. Our lives would be much less richer without you. The community and music you leave behind will last forever. And while it may be time to change the record, it’s still not time to stop dancing.

Photo: The Radiators in our living room, Easter Sunday, April 2009.

I Got the Fish In the Head:
A Radiators Retrospective by Jay Mazza
If you want to hear the Radiators' story from someone who was there from the beginning, pick up my pal Jay Mazza's new book on the Rads. It's a great tale through the eyes of one of New Orleans premier music writers, with a fine cover illustration by New Orleans artist and friend Mike Williamson. Find it here.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011 author Karl Bremer wins 2nd Place 'Best Use of Public Records' award for series on fraudster 'Bobby Thompson'

The 'Ripple Effect' at Society of Professional Journalists 2011 Page One Awards author Karl Bremer won Second Place for “Best Use of Public Records” in the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists 2011 Page One Awards tonight. It was the first year for the special category, and Bremer won competing against professional journalists in all circulations and sizes of print, broadcast and online media. He was the only independent journalist to win an SPJ award this year.

The award was for Bremer’s lengthy investigative series on “Minnesota and the Man Known as Bobby Thompson” that was published on the blog and The series, which detailed the Minnesota operations of an allegedly fraudulent charitable veterans organizations run by “Thompson,” was largely ignored by the mainstream media.

However, the series so far has prompted a months-long investigation by the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Disclosure Board, which last week fined “Thompson” $21,000 for illegal campaign contributions to Minnesota Republicans and GOP-connected political committees. It’s not likely they will ever collect it, since “Thompson” is on the lam and wanted on nationwide warrants by several states for identity theft, fraud and other charges.

Ironically, Bremer’s story on “Bobby Thompson” was rejected by several major Twin Cities media outlets. It was the first post on The series continues to examine the disposition of thousands of dollars in suspected fraudulent political contributions made by “Thompson” to Minnesota Republicans.

Here is a link to all the winners in the 2011 SPJ Page One Awards.

Friday, June 3, 2011

State Campaign Finance Board fines 'Bobby Thompson' $21,000 for illegal GOP contributions

Republican recipients of Bobby Thompson's 'dirty money' are happy to keep it.

By Karl Bremer

The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board (CFB) this week fined the man representing himself as “Bobby Thompson” $21,000 for making seven campaign contributions with a false identity in an attempt to circumvent state campaign finance laws.

Now they just have to find him.

The contributions were made under the name “Bobby Thompson” and “Maria D’Annuzio” to the Minnesota House Republican Campaign Committee (HRCC), the Republican-leaning Patriot PAC run by GOP political operative Joey Gerdin, the Seifert for Governor Committee, and Citizens for David Carlson Committee, 67B, another GOP candidate committee.

The fines were the result of an investigation into a complaint filed by myself with the CFB in July 2010 that alleged illegal campaign contributions by “Thompson.” “Thompson” was the subject of my award-winning investigative series that appeared on and

The series, largely ignored by the mainstream media, began with the revelation of “Thompson’s” $10,000 donation to Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s fundraiser in April 2010. “Thompson” had donated tens of thousands of dollars more to Minnesota candidates and party units—all Republican—over several years before going on the lam in the wake of investigations by the St. Petersburg Times and attorneys general in several states.

“Thompson’s” suspected phony charity, the U.S. Navy Veterans Association (USNVA), collected over $1.5 million in Minnesota alone over a six-year period from 2003-2009. Nationwide, it’s suspected of hauling in tens of millions more. Money collected under the guise of the USNVA allegedly was funneled to Republican campaigns across the country.

The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office has shown little interest in pursuing “Thompson” and his organization, nor in joining other states’ attorneys general in tracking down the alleged fraudster. Attorney General Spokesman Ben Wogsland did not respond to a request for an update on that office’s investigation, if any, into “Thompson” and the Navy Vets group.

CFB RETRACES RIPPLE IN STILLWATER INVESTIGATIONThe CFB conducted an extensive investigation of its own and confirmed what my series already had revealed about “Bobby Thompson” and the U.S. Navy Veterans Association: that “Thompson” allegedly ran a sham organization in Minnesota that collected over $1.5 million from unsuspecting Minnesotans using nothing more than a UPS drop box and a forwarded telephone recording for an office.

The CFB subpoenaed records for the USNVA’s UPS box and phone records from Qwest Communications, and procured documents from the State of Ohio courts, Attorney General’s Office, and Minnesota campaign committees that received donations from “Thompson.”

Diane Johnson,, treasurer for the Seifert for Governor Committee, provided the CFB with a copy of a $500 money order and a handwritten note on USNVA letterhead that came with it. The note read “Marty: With my compliments, Bobby.” However, the name on the money order was “Maria D’Annuzio,” a name that the CFB determined was also fake and used by “Bobby Thompson” to circumvent campaign finance laws.

Johnson also provided the CFB with a copy of a $500 check to the Seifert for Governor Committee drawn on the personal account of “Bobby Thompson” located in Florida. There is an individual limit of $500 in aggregate donations to candidates for governor in nonelection years.

The CFB found that the two $500 donations made to the Seifert for Governor Committee under the names of “Bobby Thompson” and “Maria D’Annuzio” likely came from the same source and thus exceeded donation limits; they also violated Minnesota statutes prohibiting such donations to be delivered (bundled) together. However, it accepted Johnson’s explanation that the campaign assumed the two were spouses and thus the bundled donations legitimate, so it did not levy a penalty for the violation.

Among the items used to secure the USNVA’s St. Paul UPS box was a business card for “Bobby Thompson” bearing a photo and Social Security number. The Social Security number led to a Bobby Thompson in Bellingham, WA—the same Bobby Thompson the State of Ohio found whose identity had been stolen by the USNVA’s “Bobby Thompson.” The Ohio Attorney General’s Office has issued a nationwide arrest warrant for “Thompson” for identity fraud. “Thompson” also is wanted on a warrant for his arrest on an Ohio grand jury indictment for money laundering and aggravated theft,

The Ohio Attorney General has charged that donations to the USNVA found their way into political contributions. However, the CFB noted that “While other investigators have concluded that the individual known as Bobby Thompson misappropriated funds from the U.S. Navy Veterans Association, the scope of the Board’s investigation did not include determining the source of the funds used for the donations to Minnesota committees.”

The CFB did address the disposition of campaign contributions received from “Bobby Thompson.”

“The Board recognizes that, with the benefit of this and other investigations, some committees that accepted contributions from the individual claiming to be Bobby Thompson may find it inconsistent with their policies or philosophy to retain those contributions,” it wrote. It noted that Minnesota statutes limit campaigns’ charitable contributions to $100 per charity per year.

Campaign committees also may make unlimited donations to the state’s general fund to salve their conscience for accepting “dirty money.”

A central figure in the “Bobby Thompson” money story is Joey Gerdin, who was HRCC finance director in 2008 when “Thompson” made his initial $5,000 donation to the committee. Gerdin is also founder and chair of the GOP-leaning Patriot PAC, which received a $5,000 donation from “Thompson” last year—the largest single donation her PAC received besides her own contributions.

Gerdin met “Thompson” at the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul and told Ripple in Stillwater last year: “I would just call anyone and everyone. I honestly don’t even remember if I cold-called him or he cold-called me. He was coming in for the RNC (Republican National Convention), and I was having a fundraiser downtown with the House caucus.”

Gerdin says “Thompson” attended her fundraiser.

“He seemed like a nice guy, completely congenial, supportive of veterans. Seemed like your typical patriot to me.”

Gerdin wasn’t interested in talking about “Thompson” today, however. She hung up the telephone without responding to my request for comment on the CFB findings or the disposition of the $5,000 in allegedly fraudulent campaign contributions her PAC took from “Thompson” last year.

Minnesota Speaker of the House Kurt Zellers, chair of the HRCC, and Jenifer Loon, HRCC treasurer, did not respond to telephone and email requests for comment on the CFB findings or the disposition of the $7,000 in allegedly fraudulent campaign contributions “Thompson” made to the HRCC.

The CFB’s investigation did not include contributions to the Republican Party of Minnesota through federal political action committees. However, the state GOP received a total of $10,400 from “Bobby Thompson” through committees run by Michele Bachmann’s and Norm Coleman’s campaigns.

Deputy Minnesota GOP Chair Michael Brodkorb did not respond to telephone and email requests for comment on the CFB findings or the disposition of the $10,400 in allegedly fraudulent campaign contributions from “Thompson” to the Republican Party of Minnesota.

It’s not likely any of the duped donors to the U.S. Navy Veterans Association Minnesota Chapter will ever recover their money, particularly if the Attorney General fails to investigate them.

The CFB findings ordered the CFB Executive Director to “monitor other states’ efforts to locate the individual using the name “Bobby Thompson” to make political contributions in Minnesota.” If he’s located, the CFB Director is to work with the Attorney General to try to collect the $21,000 in penalties levied.

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office has refused repeated requests for information about its own investigation—if any—into “Bobby Thompson” and the whereabouts of the $1.5 million he collected from Minnesotans under the guise of a charitable veterans organization. And Republican recipients of “Thompson’s” largess no longer seem interested in talking about him or his money either.

Wanted poster graphic by Avidor.

Michele Bachmann isn't the only presidential candidate to take money from alleged fraudster "Bobby Thompson"

Besides Michele Bachmann, one other Republican candidate for president can be found on "Bobby Thompson's" contribution list: former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

"Bobby" kicked in $2,300 to the Romney for President campaign in 2007.