here for PDF format
of Meeting with Arne Carlson
8301 Creekside Circle
#920, Bloomington, MN 55437
Monday, November 14,
Verne C. Johnson, chair;
Chuck Clay, Jim
Hetland, John Sampson (by phone), Clarence Shallbetter, Paul Gilje, and
Arne Carlson, guest
Introduction of Arne Carlson--Verne
introduced Carlson, former member of the Minneapolis City Council, former
member of the Minnesota Legislature, former State Auditor, former
Governor, and currently chairman of RiverSource Funds. In his comments
Carlson made the following points:
1. Current political environment is causing
irreparable harm, locally and nationally--It
is baffling to Carlson to see all the emphasis today on such issues as
same sex marriage and gun control, which really represent side agendas to
what is really significant. The nation and this state are producing
overpowering deficits. He acknowledged that the Minnesota Legislature is
required to adopt a balanced budget, but by shuffled resources and
borrowing, the Legislature is escaping its responsibility to be upfront on
revenues. Moreover, it is using such words as "assessment" and "fee" and
taking funds from the tobacco settlement. The money wasn't borrowed from
the tobacco fund, it was taken. Once those resources are spent, you have
a higher level of expenditures to maintain without a source of revenue.
contrasted today's environment with that of the '60s, '70s, '80s. He said
the Citizens League influence was enormous in those days. People in the
Legislature were anxious to sponsor bills supported by the Citizens League
because had done its research and people knew the ideas had support. Of
course, there was opposition, he said. He recalled the League's
leadership on metropolitan governance, which was the League's trademark.
Looking back, it is tempting to say that effort was simple, but it was a
bloody fight, with lots of controversy.
2. Focus on a narrow, can-do agenda--Carlson
has read our preliminary position paper and has read summaries of our
meetings with other thought leaders. He encouraged the Civic Caucus to
concentrate on a few issues, not too many.
3. Transfer redistricting to panel of judges--America
is supposed to be raising the flag of democracy around the world, but it
is impossible for our nation to be respected in such an effort with the
emphasis on incumbent protection today. The current system, in which the
elected officials who are affected make the redistricting decisions,
amounts to rigging elections.
4. Make laws promulgated by the legislative
body apply to that body, too--Legislative bodies pass laws that
apply to others but occasionally exempt themselves. For example, he noted
that Congress has passed laws prohibiting insider trading of securities.
Yet some people wonder if Congress itself is above the law in the way
congressional portfolios are structured. Their finances should be
example he gave concerns carrying weapons. The Legislature enacts strict
controls to monitor weapons at the state capitol but then passes other
laws that require public meetings elsewhere in the state to allow people
to carry concealed weapons. Any policy should be uniform.
and John S. noted that legislative bodies treat themselves differently on
pension plans, too. John S. noted that the Congress is exempt form Social
5. Revisit the area of metro governance--While
this subject isn't directly related to the American democracy question,
Carlson strongly believes that the Metropolitan Council represents an area
of strength for Minnesota and that the question of serving outlying
counties with metropolitan services needs to be addressed.
Discussion with Carlson--During
the discussion with Carlson the following points were made:
1. Move primaries ahead of party endorsement--When
Brian Sullivan and Tim Pawlenty were seeking GOP endorsement, both were
tripping over one another trying to get to the far right, Carlson said.
In a primary, people fly much more moderate flags. If the primary is
early, then it is likely that candidates would seek broader appeal.
Subsequently, parties could decide on endorsement.
2. Stay away from instant runoff voting--Carlson
believes the Caucus should stay away from ideas that are complicated, such
as instant runoff voting. It was pointed out that such an approach would
encourage candidates to adopt more moderate positions to broaden their
3. Federal deficit "beyond disgraceful"--The
federal budget is unconscionable, Carlson said. We're spending in the
wrong areas such as pork and failing to cover the spending with revenues.
The burden needs to be on candidates in the next election, both Republican
and Democrat, to explain why they supported the budget.
area of accounting, the Federal Government is a disaster. If corporations
or state and local government handled their books in the same fashion,
they would be hauled to court. Government finance should demonstrate
integrity. Never should fudging of numbers be tolerated.
spending to grow without facing the tax consequences forces your successor
to increase taxes.
4. Why have the parties changed?--Carlson
said the far right found that they could use television to broaden their
political base, just as Evangelical ministers have used TV for broadening
their faith base. Also the far right found excesses in the liberal agenda
that were offensive. He wishes more could be done to call people like
Pat Robertson to account for what they are saying. The media have a major
5. Find leadership in younger entrepreneurs--Carlson
said that many younger business leaders and their companies are not
visible in the political process but they would love to be players, just
as other business leaders were active in the past.
6. Have more real debates between candidates
and open primaries--It's not
the media's role to decide which issues to highlight. The media should
find a way to let the candidates express themselves. He bemoans the fact
that the media look for the 10-second sound bites, possibly peppered with
conflict. Stadium questions guarantee instant attention. He doesn't like
that the media hide behind the claim that they are giving the people what
they want. He believes the media should publish their journalistic
standards yearly and represent the finest traditions in journalism.
Carlson yearns for something akin to the Lincoln-Douglas debates. He said
an open primary would help a great deal in making it possible for issues
to surface. An open primary favors the people over the party.
7. Concern about campaign pledges--The
concern over campaign pledges is serious and it is growing. These
promises to special interest groups are normally kept from the purview of
the public. The recent focus on the pledge involving a commitment to
“oppose any and all tax increases” has received some attention. However,
the media never really focused on the implications of that pledge during
the campaign nor did they call the Governor and the legislators who signed
that pledge to task when that pledge was violated. For instance, any
support for a stadium that is publicly financed violates that pledge.
This is also true when there is a move to increase local effort in the
school aid formula or when there is support for a local government mill
rate increase. Pledges should be scrutinized by the media and the focus
should be on full public disclosure. The public has a right to know what
private promises candidates have made to special interest groups. This
would have a chilling effect on the willingness of candidates to sign away
the public good.
8. Campaign finance changes supported--Carlson
favors public funding. He also favors rules that would prohibit
legislators from collecting campaign contributions from those groups that
they regulate. Asked about requiring disclosure of the source of funds
given by 527 groups, Carlson said if an association wants to support a
candidate, he has no trouble with that. Clarence wondered whether the
public would support spending more money for such endeavors as public
funding for campaigns. Carlson believes an education process would work
to get support for public funding. The goal should be to elevate the
9. Importance of principle in political
or values are all too often misunderstood in political discussions.
Public policy has a meaningful impact on people and, all too often,
candidates see public policy as simply a device to gain votes. Politics
cannot be a chess game – it is too meaningful in terms of its effect on
10. Restoring budget integrity--He
recalls one leader proclaimed that he'd not be a "green eye-shade
governor". That is a shame, Carlson said, because we need an emphasis on
a balanced budget, not a political budget. Budgets define our goals and
expectations. The Republican Party needs leadership that will define the
desired quality of life and indicate the methods to achieve it. There is
too much focus on side issues ranging from abortion to guns to gambling,
commented that it's very difficult to find quality leadership today. John
S. encouraged Carlson to continue to share his concerns about a balanced
budget with any audiences. Chuck said maybe the Caucus needs to return to
look at the budget-related data we had discussed several months ago.
thanked Carlson for meeting with us. A summary of today's meeting will be
given to Carlson before it is submitted to our electronic list of 150
The Civic Caucus
is a non-partisan,
tax-exempt educational organization. Core participants
include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting
years of leadership in politics and business.
A working group meets face-to-face to
provide leadership. They are Verne C. Johnson, chair; Lee
Canning, Charles Clay, Bill Frenzel,
Paul Gilje, Jim Hetland,
John Mooty, Jim Olson, Wayne Popham and John Rollwagen.
Click Here to
see a biographical statement of each.