Thursday, May 24, 2012

Buy a wolf license to save a wolf

By Karl Bremer

Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? Evidently, the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association and a majority of the Minnesota Legislature—the parties responsible for ramming a wolf hunting season through the Capitol five years ahead of schedule.

When the federal government removed gray wolves from the endangered and threatened species lists in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan in January, the wolf haters ramped up their bloodthirsty lobbying efforts for a 2012 season to start shooting them legally for the first time in Minnesota since the 1970s.

The DNR states that “Minnesotans clearly value wolves. Public opinion surveys and attitudes demonstrated during development of the state's wolf management plan show people view the animal as ecologically important, scientifically fascinating, aesthetically attractive, recreationally appealing and significant for future generations. Only a small minority fear and dislike wolves or believe Minnesota would be a more desirable place without this apex predator.”

Yet it was that “small minority” that drove the legislature to start killing wolves this year rather than wait five years to see how the population stabilized after federal delisting, as the original plan called for. That same "small minority" has been shooting wolves illegally for decades and is now just looking for cover for their cowardly deeds. It's one of the few federal crimes that I hear people--including one state lawmaker--openly admit to committing.

DNR Fish & Wildlife Director Ed Boggess told a legislative panel earlier this year: “There’s been a pent-up enthusiasm, a pent-up demand to hunt wolves.” It’s not likely that “enthusiasm” is driven by a sudden popularity of wolf fur among hunters.  And it’s certainly not for their meat.

The wolf season has little to do with protecting farmers from wolf depredation of livestock, either; they already are compensated for those losses. It has equally little to do with population management of wolves. According to the DNR, Minnesota’s wolf population—the largest in the lower 48 states—has remained “relatively stable” at around 3,000 for the past decade without a hunting season.

A total of 6,000 wolf licenses will be made available via lottery (5,400 hunting and 600 trapping/snaring); 95 percent will be sold to residents and 5 percent to nonresidents. A quota of 400 wolves will be allowed to be killed during the season.

So the legal killing of wolves has been signed, sealed and delivered by the State of Minnesota, and the season is set. Nothing more that can be done about it, right?

Well, perhaps.

If you’re willing to invest $34, you can buy a chance on saving one wolf’s life. Simply enter the lottery for one of the 6,000 licenses—a $30 wolf license must be purchased to enter the lottery, which costs another $4—and if you win the right to kill a wolf, don’t exercise it.

There’s nothing that requires you to use a wolf license just because you buy one. Since there’s a cap on the number of licenses sold, every license that is won in the lottery but not used reduces the chances that the wolf kill quota set by the DNR will be reached.

Ordinarily, this might be seen as unwise meddling in a scientifically-based hunting season. But there is nothing scientific about this wolf hunting season. It’s a purely political response to satisfy the bloodlust of a vocal minority of wolf haters. A season on wolves is not necessary to maintain a desirable wolf population. In fact, the DNR hasn’t even determined what Minnesota’s maximum wolf population should be, only that it shouldn’t fall below a winter population of 1,600.

So if you think a season on wolves is one of the most idiotic things to come down the pike since a mourning dove season, step right up and invest $34 on a chance to buy a wolf a reprieve from the executioner. It may not stop the jackpine savages from shooting wolves altogether, but at least you’ll get the satisfaction of making them work a little harder to "get their wolf."

As a deer hunter who knows the value that wolves provide in culling deer herds of their unhealthy numbers, among other benefits for the soul, I plan to do just that.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Ripple in Stillwater picks up two 2012 Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists awards

By Karl Bremer
Convicted money launderer Frank Vennes Jr.

I’ve been notified by the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists that I have won two of the organization’s 2012 Page One Awards: one for “Best Use of Public Records” and one for “Best News Portrait.”

The “Best Use of Public Records” award--the second year in a row Ripple in Stillwater has won in this category--was for my series “Lawyers, Guns & Money: An Inside Look at the Political Pardon of Frank Vennes Jr.” The “Best News Portrait” award was for my photo of convicted money launderer and GOP donor Frank Vennes Jr. on the run through the streets of St. Paul trying to flee from my lens after a federal court appearance in September 2011.

In less than two years online, Ripple in Stillwater has racked up three professional journalism awards and another alt-media “best of” citation. In addition to the two 2012 SPJ Page One Awards, I won a second place Page One Award last year for “Best Use of Public Records” for my series on recently-captured fraudster and GOP donor "Bobby Thompson." And this spring, City Pages voted Ripple in Stillwater “Best Local Blog” in its Best of the Twin Cities 2012 competition.

Not bad for a cancer-ridden, unpaid blogger, if I do say so myself.

The specific 2012 Page One Awards will be announced and given out at the annual Minnesota SPJ Awards Banquet June 19 in St. Paul.

Photo © Copyright 2011 by Karl Bremer

Friday, May 4, 2012

Will Bachmann and Romney post bail money for their fraudster donor pal 'Bobby Thompson?'

Bachmann and Romney donor "Bobby Thompson"
By Karl Bremer

The same week the fugitive and big-spending Republican Party contributor-on-the-lam known as “Bobby Thompson” was captured in Portland, OR, by federal marshals after a nationwide manhunt, one of the recipients of “Thompson’s” largesse, Michele Bachmann, endorsed another—Mitt Romney—for president.

Coincidence—or an attempt by the now-amorous politicians to divert attention from their connection to what may be one of the largest charity scams in U.S. history?

“Thompson” donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican candidates and Republican Party entities, all of it suspected to be skimmed from his fraudulent charity, the U.S. Navy Veterans Association.  He donated $10,000 to Michele Bachmann’s congressional campaign in 2010 and $2,300 to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in 2007. In an attempt to wash her hands of the dirty money in the glare of unwelcome publicity over the donation, Bachmann donated her campaign's share of the donation to two legitimate veterans’ organizations. The Republican Party of Minnesota kept their share of the donation from "Thompson."

Federal authorities believe "Thompson" may have raised close to $100 million through his fraudulent scheme, which operated in up to 40 states, including Minnesota. Little of the money raised was ever spent on veterans as it was claimed.

After “Thompson” was captured April 30, authorities found $1 million in cash in two suitcases in an Oregon storage locker rented by “Thompson.” Numerous birth certificates and other forms of ID also were stashed in the locker.

Federal and state authorities still do not know the true identity of “Bobby Thompson,” who was carrying several persons’ identification on him when he was arrested,

The Minnesota chapter of the U.S. Navy Veterans Association raised more than $1.5 million from 2003-2009. The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office has declined to investigate the charity. However the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board fined “Thompson” $21,000 for fraudulent campaign contributions made to Minnesota candidates.

“Thompson” is the subject of a chapter in the book “The Madness of Michele Bachmann: A Broad-Minded Survey of a Small-Minded Candidate,” co-authored by myself and Ken Avidor and Eva Young of

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Bachmann $10K donor and fraudster-on-the-lam "Bobby Thompson" captured by feds

By Karl Bremer

The fraudster-on-the-lam known as “Bobby Thompson,” one of Michele Bachmann’s largest political donors in 2010 and the target of a nationwide manhunt, was captured at an undisclosed West Coast location around 11 p.m. April 30 and now is in federal custody. He was wanted on fraud, identity theft, money laundering and other charges.

The Tampa Bay Times, which sparked the federal investigation into “Thompson” and his fraudulent charity the U.S. Navy Veterans Association, reported his capture. “Thompson” had been on the run since 2009.

“Thompson” allegedly ran a chapter of his sham charity in Minnesota from 2003-2009 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.

I won Second Place for “Best Use of Public Records” in the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists 2011 Page One Awards for my lengthy investigative series on “Minnesota and the Man Known as Bobby Thompson” that was published on the blog and The series detailed the Minnesota operations of “Thompson” and was prompted by my discovery of his $10,000 donation to Michele Bachmann’s2010 congressional campaign at an event featuring former half-term Alaskan governor Sarah Palin.

Last year, the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Disclosure Board fined “Thompson” $21,000 for illegal campaign contributions made to other Minnesota Republicans. The contributions were made under the names “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.” The state attorney general’s office has declined to investigate “Thompson” and his Minnesota charity, despite overshelming evidence that it was a scam.

“Thompson” is the subject of a chapter in the book “The Madness of MicheleBachmann: A Broad-Minded Survey of a Small-Minded Candidate,” co-authored by myself and Ken Avidor and Eva Young of 

Milk carton graphic by Ken Avidor