Saturday, January 10, 2009

Norm Coleman: Follow the Money - or lack thereof

Dovetailing on Coleman's eyebrow-raising links with wealthy financier Nasser Kazeminny (the guy who buys Norm suits), the Star Tribune highlights another odd piece of financial info on Minnesota's most recent Ex-Senator.  

Appears that Norm and his wife have over-mortgaged their condo in St. Paul, which has risen almost a half million in value over the last 10 years.  
Ramsey County property tax records indicate the Colemans have assumed greater and greater debt, increasing from a 30-year $172,900 mortgage in 1994 to a 30-year $775,000 mortgage the couple took out in March 2007.

Their house on St. Paul's Osceola Avenue has a 2009 estimated market value of $615,000, according to property tax records, suggesting they may owe substantially more than the property is worth.
I understand we've all got money issues, but a debt-to-value ratio raises some big questions: 
  • Who was granting these loans to the Colemans?  
  • Why was a public official/US Senator so cash poor as to need to overmortgage his property?
  • How did the Coleman's property value increase by 500k in 15 years - was it due to permanent improvements on the property?  
  • How did the comparable worth of neighboring properties increase (or not) during the same time period?
  • What connection or signal does this send that adds to the legitimacy of the lawsuits filed by an investor against Nasser Kazeminny for allegedly, and inexplicably, diverting $75,000 of his company's cash to Laurie Coleman for dubious "services rendered"?  
The press seem to be just scratching the surface on the Coleman's personal finances.  But this info suggests that were Norm Coleman treated like an average person, he would undoubtedly be seen as a sub-prime borrower.  That said, it certainly raises legitimate questions about preferential lending practices on the basis of his status as a US Senator.  

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Chart Pr0n

In advance of the MN economic forecast, here is a chart of the state's annual expenditures since 1960.

The blue line is the nominal dollars. The green line is inflation adjusted or expenditures based on the value of 2008 dollars.

More analysis will come after the forecast is released. Just wanted to prime the pump a little.

Annual MN State Govt Expenditures, 1960-2008

Duluth Set to Fill At-Large Council Seat, God Help Us All

NOTE: Because of this post I am adding a new label, Duluth Needs Help. Unfortunately, I think that I will be using this label more and more.

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Some of you might know (but maybe not care) that due to the retirement of long-time State Representative Mike Jaros there will be a new face representing Central/West Duluth in the Legislatures. This new face is Roger Reinert, a current, soon to be former, Duluth City Councilman.

Since Reinert is vacating his seat, the City Council has to appoint somebody to fill his vacancy until the regular election for the position is held in 2009. The normal way for an open council seat to be filled in Duluth is for the city to solicit applications from community members and have the City Council chose whom they would want to work with.

The open application period ended last week. In total, 35 people applied for the At-Large council seat.

Today, I stumbled on a partial list of the applications for the job. There are about 3 good candidates. Take a look if you want further disappointment in people's ability to make logical arguments.

Rule #1 for a job application is to list accomplishments in your resume. Rule #2 is to write a cover letter that lays out ideas for action. I read about 30 applications and only found a few professional accomplishments and ideas that the candidate would implement. Sadly, most of the ideas were either completely ill-advised (doing away with taxes) or misguided (stopping all bonding projects).

If one looks at the applications, one will notice the citation of nonprofit board experience as a significant reason for consideration. Having been on and worked with boards in Duluth, a person who solely lists board experiences should be automatically excluded. Many of the organizations in Duluth have boards that don't do anything but hold onto the status quo and look inwards. Now, if somebody cited some new innovations that they headed while a board member, that would be a different story. But they didn't, so move on.

I don't know what to think. The candidates with good experience have screwy politics. And the passionate candidates are mostly clueless about creating good policy. I could get behind somebody if they could present ideas, but apparently that's too much to ask for these days.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Showdown: 2012

Minnesota's state demographer came out with a rather unsettling assessment of the State of the State - no, it wasn't that the country is in a recession - its that Minny may lose a Congressional seat if current population trends hold up in the 2010 Census. 

I'm not interested in the reasons for it, they are relatively straightforward: Baby Boomers, snowbirds, Sun Belt, retirement, the reason all major Minnesota politicians fundraise in Florida and Arizona.  

I'm interested in who its going to take down.  Which leads to the first Degausser prediction for the 2012 race - one that is based almost entirely on caveats.

Fact: MN has 8 Congressional Districts now.  

First Assumption: All current occupants run for Re-Election in 2010; all then-sitting Congresspersons would be Incumbents, beyond their first term - arguably the second toughest electoral fight for a Congressperson after their initial election (or scandal).   

**The First Assumption obviously faces the fact that 2010 will certainly bring a slew of Democratic challengers to Pretty Boy Tim, who may come out of the MN House Delegation**

Fact: The US Census Occurs in 2010 and applies to Redistricting in Minnesota in 2012.

Second Assumption:  The Census shows Minnesota losing population enough to yield a net loss of one Congressional District.  

Fact:  Redistricting Plans are drafted in each house of the Minnesota Legislature, must be reconciled, passed then signed by the Governor - OR - Passed by Each House of the Legislature, Reconciled, Vetoed by the Governor, then a Veto Override Occurs.

Third Assumption: DFL maintains majorities in each of the state houses at least through the 2010 election, and a GOPer retains the Governor's manse.   

Think about this for a minute .... so many plausible scenarios.

Prediction:  The MN 6th and 2nd Congressional Districts are the Fastest Growing Districts, and any reallocation of territory will have to be ceded from these two to the 5th (Minneapolis - Ellison) and 4th (St. Paul - McCollum).   This makes Demographic Sense and Political Sense given the DFL's obvious interest in Weakening the 2nd (Kline) and 6th (Bachmann) districts.

But there won't be enough political capital available for the DFL to run roughshod over the two remaining GOP Congressfolk from MN, so they will shoot for the most delicious victory.  

Bachmann is the mark and gets redistricted into the 8th - when the DFL redistricts her Stillwater home into a now very longitudinal Northeast 8th.  

Oberstar v. Bachmann - 2012 
 - He will only get older; 
 - She will only get more batshit crazy.

Get your tix now.

Friday, November 28, 2008

New Toy

I just stumbled on this new gadget created by Doug Beeferman. It ranks Google search terms by state popularity and shows correlations of the search term with different variables. If you're curious about regional differences it is kind of a fun deal.

Here are a couple of interesting searches with a high MN ranking:

unemployment - MN ranked 7th in the USA for volume of people searching about unemployment.

quality of life - MN ranked 9th

ice fishing - the stereotype holds, Minnesotans are 2nd in searching about ice fishing.

You really can't draw large conclusions about the relationships, but it's a fun time waster.

Check it out:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mator RT unveils a program that provides free parking under Gaviidae Commons during the weekends this Holiday Season. Talk about a bailout. No word if overnight parking is available. If so, I predict my car staying there many Saturday night. Just doing my part to keep the economy rolling. Everybody has to sacrifice.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Facebook is the New Rasmussen (in 2-4 years)

Just before the election for MN Senate, the Degausser pointed out that Franken had a handy lead in Google Search trends in Duluth that could translate to a win for him in the area. After doing a little bit of research into the emerging world of political analytics, I have seen the future. And man, is it scary/fascinating/scary.

Just a quick primer: analytics is the process of using internet data such as searches, page views, and unique visitors to identify trends. These data are being refined in the business world to better market products to buyers. In the political realm, these data will become the new polling numbers.

In 2006 mid-term elections, researchers looked at candidates Facebook entries and created models that equated supporters to voters. They found that challengers were more likely to use Facebook as an organizing tool and that it could potentially add 1%-3% to the candidate's total vote.

Analytics are just beginning to be used by political scientists and campaigns. Most of the data is scattered and more research needs to be done to discover total impacts, but in a few election cycles, the internet will become (or maybe it has already) a 24/7 polling place.

Just for fun, let's look at some data collected from Al Franken's and Norm Coleman''s web presence over the course of 2008.

NOTE: Data presented here are from January 1, 2008 to November 2, 2008.

I collected Google Search trends, Facebook supporters, Youtube Channel subscribers, and basic website visitor stats collected from to see if there were any interesting patterns happening.
Throughout the course of the election, search trends were pretty similar between Franken and Coleman. However, right before the election, more people started searching for Franken at rates far beyond Coleman's. The graph above represents average search volume from Jan - Nov. 2. Anything above 1 represents larger than normal search volume for this period. So, by Nov. 2, there was a 24% larger search volume for Franken than Coleman. It is unclear what affect, if any, these searches had on voting outcome.

Looking at the top 8 MN cities by search volume, Franken lead in each except Prior Lake.

Election Results

Franken Coleman
Rochester 48% 51%
Minneapolis 69% 19%
St. Cloud 54% 42%
St. Paul 61% 25%
Hopkins 57% 38%
Mankato 60% 39%
Prior Lake 38% 57%
Duluth 62% 37%

There appears to be a relation between final election results and the volume of searches.

Looking at search trends through the election season and comparing them to the average of the polls conducted through the same time show even more relation. The last data point for the poll line is the final election result.

One interesting point however, is that there is a statistically significant and positive relationship between search volume and poll results. The more search volume, the higher the poll numbers.

It's obvious that Franken had a larger web presence than Coleman, but it is unclear how this presence translated into votes. For now, look at the data and make your own conclusions.