The Department of Revenue and the OAH share a building (
by Steve Timmer
Apr 5, 2013, 8:00 PM

Angela Berger actually wrote

While the sirens of the Speech Police wailed in the background

Back in September of last year (2012), a lit piece against Republican candidate in HD49A Bill Glahn was published by a couple of fellows from Edina, John Cashmore and Dick Novack; I didn’t really know them at the time (although I’ve gotten to know them better), and I didn’t know who was behind the piece when it was first distributed. I did find it intriguing and I put up a post about it that includes the mailing. It’s no secret that I took a dim view of Bill Glahn as a political candidate.

As you will see in the post, candidate Glahn wrote a post on his blog titled Hypocrisy is Good (the latter link is a link to a downloaded copy of the Glahn post itself) with the subtitle Wanted: More Hypocrisy in Politics. Glahn quotes the bromide that Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue in the post. The last line of the post was “If a little hypocrisy is needed to reverse these disturbing trends [referring to the screed in the post quoting Mitch Pearlstein about societal rot], sign me up.” Shortly after receiving the endorsement to run as the Republican candidate, Bill Glahn took his blogs private, so that people who might be searching for information about him for the first time — which means a lot of voters — could not find his writings, including this one. It went back up the day after he lost the election.

I wrote in my own post that Glahn’s Hypocrisy is Good reminded me of Plato’s Noble Lie. He was saying in his post that it was okay to lie to cover up inconvenient facts in order to get what you wanted in politics. Cashmore and Novack’s piece was a direct and tough but perfectly accurate summary of Glahn’s remarks in his blog post.

Republicans, of course, or at least some of them, didn’t like the lit piece at all. In fact, one of them, Angela Berger, a local activist and SD49 Republican functionary (actually the vice chair of the BPOU), filed a complaint with the Office of Administrative Hearings in October. She claimed that Cashmore and Novack had lied when they said that “Bill Glahn actually said that he would lie to achieve political goals.” The complaint was brought under Minn. Stat. § 211B.06. The case was defended on First Amendment grounds. According to Berger, Glahn’s blog post was long winded but just sarcasm, and that he was trying to make the opposite point: he was defending truth. [snort]

It took a longer than usual amount of time to get before a panel of ALJs at the OAH, but the complaint was finally heard on Friday, March 8, 2013. Midway through the hearing, a motion to dismiss the complaint was made, and the panel ruled from the bench in favor of the motion; the complaint was dismissed.

The final written order in the case has not yet been published by the Office of Administrative Hearings. I’ve been waiting for it to publish this story, but it has been four weeks since the hearing, which is long enough to wait. I’ve uploaded a copy of the final order to Scribd; you can read it here.

For those of you who are not lawyers, for a defense lawyer to have a motion to dismiss granted from the bench in the middle of the proceeding is like the Rapture. It is about as common, too. You do have to keep your clothes on, though.

As a result of the early dismissal, the respondents didn’t even need to put on their case and evidence that Bill Glahn was a political liar. Included in that evidence was a public television interview with candidate Glahn by Mary Lahammer. She asked him about his Tea Party affiliations, which he denied (it’s at the very end of the interview segment). Anybody who knows anything about politics in Edina and the Tea Party organization knows that Glahn is thick with them. He’s one of the more popular guests (with the hosts, anyway; I don’t know about the listeners) on the Late Debate, which used to bill itself as the “Tea Party Network.” He’s spoken as several Tea Party events.

I bother to write about this for a couple of reasons. First, Ms. Berger made public remarks, including, I am informed, on Mitch Berg’s radio show (I wouldn’t know personally; I’ve never listened to the show), about how much trouble the respondents, including John Cashmore, whom I represented, were in. So, we’re setting the record straight.

Second, Ms. Berger “actually wrote” this sentence in the conclusion of the hearing brief she filed:

I believe only a strong penalty will dissuade them [the respondents] from similar behaviors against future Edina candidates with whom they don’t agree politically.

In other words, the respondents ought to be punished for disagreeing with her.

Yes, Angie, Edina used to be such a nice place to live.

This is a remarkable statement of the real motive behind the complaint: it was a Speech Police action to silence political opponents, and it offers a glimpse at the way the statute chills free speech. It is regrettable that Minnesota “administers” the First Amendment and affords a forum for the Speech Police — not even limited to a candidate or campaign against whom the alleged false statements were made — to harass political speech.

Minn. Stat. § 211B.06 has become just a weapon of political war. Republican Senators tried to use it to silence Secretary of State Mark Ritchie from speaking on the photo voter ID amendment last fall.

At least Secretary Ritchie got a couple of lawyers provided by the state. No such luck for the many private litigants who find themselves in the same situation.

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