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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Olson Goes Negative, Calls Parsley (Gasp!) a Lobbyist

Republican candidate for District 8 State Senate Russell Olson must be feeling the heat. At last night's candidates forum in Madison, Olson and his opponent, Democrat Scott Parsley, were asked "What differentiates you from your opponent?" Parsley addressed two policy issues, saying he will support more funding than Olson has for education and renewable energy incentives. Olson chose the personal over policy, touting his two years of experience as a legislator. He then characterized Parsley's experience in Pierre and in Washington "as a lobbyist and special interest." Olson said that lobbyists tell people how to vote while legislators listen and serve.

Now I feel a little silly calling that charge political hardball, but in the relatively gentle world of District 8 politics, that's about as close to throwing a punch as we get.

I don't mind hardball—that's politics. That's how the game is played, especially if you think you're behind. It's just too bad that Olson plays it so poorly. All too often, Olson uses keywords and catchphrases in limp attempts to appeal to casual listeners without apparently thinking about what he's actually saying.

Sure, Scott Parsley is a registered lobbyist in Pierre. He goes to Pierre to represent East River Electric... which means if you get electricity from East River, he's representing your interests. He does the same thing for East River and its customers that Russell Olson's employer, Heartland Consumer Power District, hires Dennis and Drew Duncan* to do. Heartland's March 2005 newsletter (PDF!) proudly touts its lobbying efforts "to promote and protect the interests of our Customers" (wow, you even get a capital C). That newsletter directs folks to contact Tim Muellenberg and Russell Olson himself with any questions about specific legislation Heartland may be lobbying for or against.

Olson's previous employer, the Lake Area Improvement Corporation, also had a lobbyist in Pierre, representing, I'm sure, the interests of anyone who supports economic development in Lake County.

Given Olson's comment last night, I guess we should be shocked—shocked!—that he would even associate with such organizations.

Olson's jab evidently means we shouldn't vote for his fellow Republican Jerry Johnson: he's a registered lobbyist for the City of Madison. Other nefarious lobbyist types in our midst:
  • Kristofer Beck (Student Federation)
  • Bryan Crocker (Prostrollo Auto Mall)
  • Charlie Johnson (Dakota Rural Action)
  • Jerome Lammers (Pork Producers Council, 1998)
  • Don Marker (Sioux Valley Energy)
  • Dr. David Rossing (State Medical Association)
  • Bob Sahr (East River)
  • Pete Stemper (Prostrollo Auto Mall)
Well, I guess we have it straight from Russ: Prostrollo Auto Mall "tells people how to vote." I knew it!

Olson's lobbying jab against Parsley is just silly. It's another example of the Olson campaign acting like some other Republicans we know: just saying stuff, avoiding policy, campaigning by connotation, and in the end, dragging itself and its fellow Republicans down.

But don't worry: if Olson loses on November 4, he'll probably still get to go to Pierre. Heartland will send him out to lobby—I mean, "promote and protect the interests of our Customers."

*Russ's boss, Heartland GM Mike McDowell, further touts Denny Duncan's paid lobbying in Heartland's March 2006 newsletter: "His work for Heartland has been outstanding. The protection and advancement of our Customer's [sic] public power system requires constant attention and Denny Duncan provides that service at the highest level." Coincidence! Dennis Duncan's law firm had somebody had someone giving the Madville Times constant attention last spring as they trolled my blog to lobby for TransCanada.

Update 2008.10.24: Dennis and Drew Duncan have also each donated $250 to Olson's Senate campaign. (Marie Duncan, who shares Dennis'S P.O. box, also chipped in $200). Olson takes money from lobbyists? Again, gasp! I wonder who's telling whom how to vote now.

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