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Wayne Stenehjem's Tangled Web
Written by Chet   
Friday, 22 October 2010 05:21

Stenehjem's WebFollow along.

(1)  We have laws in North Dakota that say who can represent the State of North Dakota in lawsuits.  Here's what one of those laws says:

The attorney general and the attorney general's assistants are authorized to institute and prosecute all cases in which the state is a party, whenever in their judgment it would be for the best interests of the state so to do.

NDCC § 54-12-02

(2) The Attorney General can appoint other attorneys to represent the state, when it appears to be in the state's best interest so to do.

[N]o person may act as legal counsel in any matter, action, or proceeding in which the state [ ] is a party, except upon written appointment by the attorney general...

[ ]

The appointment may be made with or without compensation, and when comensation is allowed by the attorney general for services performed, the compensation must be paid out of the funds appropriated therefor...

[ ] 

General fund moneys may not be utilized for the payment of legal services provided by the attorney employed by the attorney general...

NDCC § 54-12-08

Still with me?  Wayne Stenehjem has authority to hire other, private-firm lawyers, on a case-by-case basis, to represent North Dakota's interests in court.

You'll recall North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem chose to pander to the teabagging wing of the Republican Party by throwing North Dakota's lot in with the folks prosecuting the case in Florida, challening the recently enacted healthcare reform legislation.   He told us he's doing it "on the cheap."

Because North Dakota is joining with several other states, with Florida taking the lead in the lawsuit, the out of pocket cost of this litigation to the state of North Dakota will be minimal.

A.G.'s Website

That lawsuit is called State of Florida, et al. v. United States Department of Health and Human Services, et al.  The lawsuit was filed in the Northern District of Florida (Pensacola), U.S. District Court.   It's being heard by Senior Judge Roger Vinson, a Ronald Reagan appointee.  Judge Vinson became a federal judge in October of 1983.  

Here's a recent print-out of the docket sheet for the case.

Florida Docket

If you scroll down to the bottom of page 6 and top of page 7 of this document, you'll see that the State of North Dakota is being represented in the Florida lawsuit NOT by Florida's attorney general (as is hinted-to in Stenehjem's press release, above), but by three big-city lawyers from New York:

David R. Rivkin, Jr.

Lee Alfred Casey

Blaine H. Winship.

If you look up at the top of page 6, you'll see these same three lawyers work for "Baker & Hostetler, LLP, a 600+ lawyer, New York City law firm whose first client in the Florida case is the "National Federation of Independent Business" (NFIB). 

I'll come back to the NFIB in just a minute, but to complete the circle here, earlier this week I asked the A.G.'s office to provide me with a list of all the attorneys who've been appointed as "Special Assistant Attorneys General;" lawyers who have been properly authorized by Wayne Stenehjem to represent the State of North Dakota.  Here's that list as of earlier this week.

Current SAAG List

Okay, now here's the fun part:  I'll give a free NorthDecoder.com shirt to anybody that can find any of North Dakota's lawyers (in the Florida lawsuit) on the current list of Special Assistant Attorneys General.  

Hopefully I don't get in trouble with the North Dakota Attorney General's office for having a fraudulent contest.  Why is it fraudulent?  Because none of North Dakota's lawyers are authorized to represent North Dakota.  

Weird, huh?  And illegal.

But you know what's worse?

North Dakota's lawyers aren't representing North Dakota's best interests.  They represent the NFIB.  That's who's picking up the tab.  That's why Stenehjem is able to do this "on the cheap."

Here's a little bit about the NFIB:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the NFIB, together with their state-level affiliates, are among the country's most powerful lobbying forces. While they claim to speak for small business, a look at their lobbying record suggests their primary allegiance lies elsewhere. The U.S. Chamber has fought to preserve offshore tax havens that only multinationals can use, leaving small businesses at a disadvantage. Both the NFIB and affiliates of the Chamber have lobbied in various states to maintain loopholes like Pennsylvania's. And neither group has contested the multi-million-dollar tax breaks cities routinely bestow on big-box retailers to the detriment of their independent rivals.

Although the Chamber says it represents 3 million small businesses, that's misleading. The figure includes members of local and state chambers, which have no say over the national group's activities. The U.S. Chamber's direct membership includes some 300,000 small businesses, or about 1 percent of the total nationwide. While small businesses are prominent in its press releases, they're scarce in its boardroom; the vast majority of the Chamber's 125 board members represent large corporations. "Our policy priorities are closely aligned with our small-business members," and the Chamber has a committee that focuses on them, says Giovanni Coratolo, the Chamber's vice-president for small-business policy.

All 300,000-plus members of the NFIB are small businesses. Yet their politics are out of sync with the broader small-business community. While an American Express poll shows that 32 percent of small-business owners are registered as Democrats and 33 percent are Republicans, 85 percent of the NFIB's campaign contributions went to Republicans in 2008, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. "Our job is to represent our members," says NFIB spokeswoman Stephanie Cathcart. "Do they skew right? Yes, they do. But they are thinking as business owners."

The NFIB's close ties to Republicans may explain its effort to downplay the effect of the credit crisis on small businesses.


You can think of the NFIB as being yet another arm of big, corporate America; the folks who -- because of the recent Citizens United case -- are buying the 2010 election with all their secret corporate political campaign money.  You can think of NFIB as being yet another piece of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce coven.  They're bought and paid for by foreign corporations, dead-set on offshoring every American job and polluting every American river.

And their lawyers are "representing" us. 


And I know this is getting long and tangled, but another interesting morsel about NFIB is that one of NFIB's other lawyers is Mark Behrens, a lawyer who illegally lobbied at the North Dakota legislature during the last legislative session.

What a tangled mess, huh?

We deserve better than this from the North Dakota Attorney General's Office.

Juan Williams
Written by Chet   
Friday, 22 October 2010 04:47

FishMy one thought for today on this whole ridiculous Juan Williams story:  I'd like to know what people would be saying if Williams had said something like this:

I'm not an anti-Catholic bigot or anything, but whenever I see a vehicle with one of those little fish symbol things on the back, and it pulls up and parks in front of a post office, I get really nervous.  I'm all for protecting the constitution and everything, but you know that Timothy McVeigh was a Catholic, and he blew up the post office in Oklahoma City.  And some of the people with those fish things are Catholic, too, you know.  You never know what could happen.  But I'm not a bigot. 

Three questions:  (1) Would he still be working for NPR if he'd said this instead?; (2) Isn't the real offense by Williams that every time he goes on the O'Reilly Factor, etc., he lends NPR's credibility to the Fox Propaganda channel?  

And, lastly, isn't it true that the 9/11 bombers were all dressed "American"?  

...Whatever that means.

UPDATE: Benson County Disenfranchisement of Native American Voters
Written by Chet   
Thursday, 21 October 2010 11:04


I'm getting a report that U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Erickson has granted the temporary injunction sought by the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe.  If my info is correct (and I'm pretty sure it is), then Benson County will be required to open reservation voting sites at Fort Totten and Warwick. 

When I get more on this, I'll update.

Spirit Lake Order

Interesting outcome.  "... a complete paucity of evidence of overt discrimination in this case..."  For you Sarah Palin lovers out there who don't own dictionaries, "paucity" is an intellectual, liberal elitist word meaning "smallness in number."  So a "complete paucity" would suggest there was "no evidence" of overt discrimination.  

The essence of the decision, thus, seems to be that with elections coming up in just a couple weeks (REMEMBER: Democrats vote on Tuesday, November 2nd; Republicans vote on Wednesday, November 3rd) [ Wink kidding], there isn't enough time to have an evidentary trial on the issue of "overt discrimination," but the repercussions of not having polling places on the reservation if there is a disparate impact on Native American folks would be irreparable. 

Whatever that means.

What You Should Think About Rasmussen Polling
Written by Chet   
Thursday, 21 October 2010 10:57

RassmussenI'm copying this, verbatim, from the Rasmussen website:

1* If the 2010 election for United States Senate were held today would you vote for Republican John Hoeven or Democrat Tracy Potter? (Please note that we split the survey to rotate the order of the candidate names, so while half will hear the Republican candidate first, the other half hears the Democrat mentioned first.)

52% Rick Berg (R)

42% Earl Pomeroy (D)

1% Some other candidate

5% Not Sure


So.... they asked a question about the Potter / Hoeven race, and they got answers about the Pomeroy / Berg race?!? 

Either the folks at Rasmussen Polling are mind-reading geniuses, or they are complete idiots.

Maybe what they're trying to tell us is that the Potter / Hoeven race has tightened up.

Stenehjem Breaks Piggy Bank To Defend Whistleblower Retaliation
Written by Chet   
Thursday, 21 October 2010 10:12

PigHere's a rundown on what's been spent so far (through the end of last month) by North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and/or WSI to defend what appears to have been whistleblower retaliation against Dr. James Long, who blew the whistle when he realized his boss at Workforce Safety & Insurance was doing illegal stuff. 

2008-09-18        $  4,329

2008-10-17        $  1,884

2008-11-18        $    785

2008-12-18        $  2,003

2009-01-19        $  3,597

2009-02-18        $  1,560

2009-03-18        $  1,193

2009-04-20        $  5,234

2009-05-19        $  1,761

2009-06-17        $    795

2009-07-30        $12,618

2009-08-27        $  5,848

2009-09-30        $  6,266  (Note:  Check out the bill for reading NorthDecoder.com.)

2009-11-02        $  5,967  

2009-12-01        $  2,138   

2009-12-29        $  1,260   

2010-01-29        $  6,048

2010-03-01        $13,549

2010-04-01        $15,221

2010-04-30        $     102

2010-06-01        $     121

2010-07-01        $     104

2010-09-01        $     964

2010-10-01        $  5,139


TOTAL                 $98,485  

You'll recall Long's boss at WSI -- Charles "Sandy" Blunt -- was subsequently convicted of a felony for "misapplication of entrusted funds" for his mismanagment of the state workers' compensation agency.   Blunt has appealed that conviction, twice, and is appealing the outcome of one of those appeals to the United States Supreme Court.  The other appeal -- to the North Dakota Supreme Court -- is pending.

You can bet Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem has spent another $5,000 to $10,000 in the first 20 days of October.  (The docket sheet shows there have been a few motions filed in an effort to keep damning evidence and information away from the jury.)  Probably more.

Stenehjem's Special Assistant Attorneys General are ramping up for a huge, three-and-a-half week trial.  Most lawyers will tell you that for every hour of trial time, you should expect to pay for at least three or four hours of preparation time.  Some of that prep time might be in the $100,000 already billed, but there's going to be a lot more paid out by the state before the 24 day trial is done.  I imagine the state will pay $270 per hour  (two lawyers) for every hour during those 24 days.  Let's assume they'll be in the courtroom six hours each day, plus another four hours of witness prep, stategy sessions, meetings with risk management, mid-trial research, debriefing, etc.   Let's call it an even 10 hours per day for 24 days at $270 per hour.  That's $270 X 10 hours per day X 24 days.  That's about $65,000 to have a three and a half week trial.  Plus paralegal time (billed at $85 per hour, or $700+ per day), plus any time they work on weekends. 


I wonder whether this case could have been settled for less money than Stenehjem is going to spend on a private law firm.   I honestly don't know, but you really gotta wonder.  

And what if the State loses?  They'll spend $175,000 to $200,000 fighting for the right of state agency heads to terminate employees who try to stop their bosses from committing crimes.  Then they also get tagged with a substantial jury verdict?  My recollection is that WSI was paying Long a six-figure salary.  What if the jury awards Dr. Long a couple two or three years pay?  Or more?  And then another $10,000 to $20,000 for an appeal?  We could be a half million into this before all is said and done. 

Or maybe they'll keep it down to $200,000.  

Thank goodness John Hoeven put all that oil in the ground, or the state might not be able to afford to be held accountable for all of the wrongdoing at WSI.

Remember the TARP Program The Teabaggers Are Outraged About?
Written by Chet   
Wednesday, 20 October 2010 06:13

While the Teabaggers are protesting the Troubled Asset Relief Program, complaining without offering any solutions for America's problems, the TARP program has been earning 8.2%, beating U.S. Treasury Bonds.

The U.S. government’s bailout of financial firms through the Troubled Asset Relief Program provided taxpayers with higher returns than yields paid on 30- year Treasury bonds -- enough money to fund the Securities and Exchange Commission for the next two decades.

The government has earned $25.2 billion on its investment of $309 billion in banks and insurance companies, an 8.2 percent return over two years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That beat U.S. Treasuries, high-yield savings accounts, money- market funds and certificates of deposit. Investing in the stock market or gold would have paid off better.

When the government first announced its intention to plow funds into the nation’s banks in October 2008 to resuscitate the financial system, many expected it to lose hundreds of billions of dollars. Two years later TARP’s bank and insurance investments have made money, and about two-thirds of the funds have been paid back. Yet Democrats are struggling to turn those gains into political capital, and the indirect costs of propping up banks could have longer-term consequences for the economy.


 So you teabaggers just keep on complaining about the TARP program.  You keep blaming things on President Obama that either (a) happened before he became president, or (b) turn out to be helping reduce our national debt and fixing the economy.  

It's like a Democratic construction crew shows up for work every day, trying to build a house.  Every evening they go home and every night the neighborhood vandals and other criminals come on the job sight and steal all the tools and building materials and wreck stuff.  Every morning Democrats show up again, send someone off to buy new tools and a better way to lock them up, and start fixing the stuff the Republicans broke overnight.  And we fix it all and continue building.  And they sit in their houses, next door, complaining about what we're doing.  And then we leave at night and the Republicans and teabaggers show up with their cans of spray paint and pry bars and sledge hammers to destroy and steal everything we've been working on.  

Imagine what Democrats could have gotten done in the last two years if the Republicans hadn't been throwing up roadblocks every step of the way.

Thanks Republicans.  Keep protesting.  We wouldn't want you to offer up any solutions, of course.  Oh wait; I know what your solutions are: "tax breaks for the rich, no health insurance for the poor, outsourcing jobs to China, no minimum wage, no unions, unfair advantage for big business, lots of polution, child labor, no accountability for harm done by big corporations, blah, blah, blah.  We've heard it all before.  Save it.)

And when you North Dakota Republicans vote for John Hoeven and Rick Berg, remember you're voting to put more people on the side of the vandals.

More on Benson County's Disenfranchisement of Native American Voters
Written by Chet   
Wednesday, 20 October 2010 05:51

A hearing was held yesterday on the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe's request for a preliminary injunction against Benson County, North Dakota, to stop the county from closing all of its polling places on the reservation.  Here's a snippet from the Grand Forks Herald on the hearing:

U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson likely will decide this week whether to issue a temporary injunction to stop Benson County from closing polling places on the Spirit Lake Reservation for the Nov. 2 election.

Erickson, who heard arguments Tuesday in federal court in Grand Forks, said the case should be decided on whether the Benson County decision restricts anybody’s right to vote.

“This is not a case of overt racism,” Erickson said. “This is a disparate impact case. Is there a possibility that this action could deprive people the right to vote? … Ultimately, that’s what this case is all about.”\

Grand Forks Herald

On Monday I posted a story that included Spirit Lake's memorandum in support of its request for injunctive relief.  (Click here for that.)  I figure today I can post Benson County's response:

Benson County's Response to Motion for Preliminary Injunction

Because I always try to be fair and balanced -- and because I worry you guys don't have enough to do without me assigning more reading to you -- I'll also post the amicus brief filed by the ACLU:

Amicus Curiae Brief of the ACLU

I think this is a really interesting case.  I think it's fairly clear that the closing of the polling places on the reservation will have a disparate impact on Native American voters in Benson County.  As is noted in the GF Herald story, a decision should be coming out from the judge very soon.  We'll try to keep you posted.

Here's another assignment for y'all:  Can someone show me where the story is in the Bismarck Tribune about this important case?  I'm not finding it online.  Was it in the print version?

WSI's Former Director Sandy Blunt: Another day, another appeal
Written by Chet   
Tuesday, 19 October 2010 05:04

Remember when you were a punk kid and nobody knew what they were talking about?  Remember all the stupid stuff kids would say?  "I'm telling on your mom!" was one of my favorites.  "My dad could beat up your dad," always got a lot of traction.  Then there was "I'll take you all the way to the United States Supreme Court!!!" 

Yeah.  Sure you will, Charlie.

That was before we knew about all the idiosyncrasies of getting our fathers to fight.   And that was before we knew how hard it was to get the U.S. Supreme Court to take a case. 

The United States Supreme Court gets 7,000 requests to hear cases each year.  They accept between 100 and 150, roughly.  In other words, they accept roughly 2% of all the cases that come before them.  It takes four justices to accept the case, or it is rejected.   Eighty-sixed.  Round-filed.

The odds of them accepting your case, pal, just ain't what you'd like them to be.

Last week, Charles "Sandy" Blunt petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the Court to hear an appeal of the most recent decision of the North Dakota Supreme Court rejecting Blunt's challenge to his conviction.  It is an interesting appeal tactic, considering he's also, simultaneously, appealing (to the North Dakota Supreme Court, again) a trial court's ruling denying his request for a new trial.  It gets kind of confusing. 

Suffice it to say that he's trying to have the conviction reversed in two different courts at the same time.  That's kind of interesting/unusual.  One reason it's interesting is that a party is usually supposed to only have a case being heard in front of one court at a time.  Blunt apparently thinks his case deserves consideration by two different courts at the same time.  Again, that's interesting.  We'll have to see how it plays out.

As perhaps alluded to yesterday, Blunt -- who, as of today's writing, is a convicted felon with his case on appeal (twice) -- is also a likely scheduled to be a trial witness in the jury trial scheduled for November 1st, in the case of  Dr. James Long vs. The State of North Dakota, WSI, Charles Blunt, et al.

And the North Dakota Supreme Court hears arguments in the RECALLND vs. Al Jaeger original jurisdiction case.  

It's a busy week for Court news at NorthDecoder.com. 

Too bad you won't find any of this stuff in your local newspaper.

North Dakota's Disenfranchised Native American Voters
Written by Chet   
Monday, 18 October 2010 08:37

Some follow-up on the federal lawsuit filed by the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe against Benson County, North Dakota.  If you're interested in some light reading, here are copies of the "Complaint"...

Spirit Lake Complaint

 ... and the "Memorandum in Support of Motion for Preliminary Injunction." 

Spirit Lake's Memorandum in Support of Motion for Preliminary Injunction

I'm told there will be a hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Erickson in Fargo tomorrow (Tuesday) morning on the Tribe's request for a preliminary injunction.  The ACLU requested permission to file an amicus curiae brief, Benson County resisted that request, but Judge Erickson is apparently letting the ACLU participate.  

It's interesting that this isn't Benson County's first Native American disenfranchisement rodeo.   Benson County was pursued by the Justice Department in 2000 over the county's establishment of a single, at-large county commission, and the Justice Department won.  (See "Native Vote" at pp. 63 and 80.)

Stay tuned.


In other North Dakota Court news, the lawsuit brought by former North Dakota Workforce Safety & Insurance executive Dr. James Long against WSI for wrongfully terminating him is scheduled to go to trial in Bismarck starting on November 1st.  It is scheduled to take about three-and-a-half weeks.  (I'll be amazed if it takes that long.)

You'll recall Long was terminated for blowing the whistle for what he perceived to be illegal conduct in a state government agency, Workforce Safety & Insurance.  You'll also recall his boss was ultimately convicted of a felony for engaging in illegal conduct (though that case is on its way to the North Dakota Supreme Court for the third time). 

Governor John Hoeven could have stepped in and fixed this case a year ago, but never had the stones to do so.  Typical John Hoeven move.

Stay tuned.

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