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Buzz Bissinger wouldn't like this blogger, either (politics)

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  • Buzz Bissinger wouldn't like this blogger, either (politics)

    Franken campaign "reeling" from Republican blogger

    May 2, 2008
    Republican blogger has Al Franken's Senate campaign reeling
    Associated Press Writer

    Senate candidate Al Franken wants to talk about jobs, health care and global warming. Republican blogger Michael Brodkorb wants to talk about Franken's failure to pay all his income taxes on time.

    Guess what everyone is talking about?

    From the kitchen table in his tranquil suburban neighborhood, Brodkorb for the last year has used his blog "Minnesota Democrats Exposed" to launch a furious political assault on Franken. He's labeled the former comedian and liberal commentator a "mean-spirited and un-Minnesotan" candidate who's running a "desperate and ridiculous" campaign.

    That's routine stuff in the world of political blogging, but in the last two months Brodkorb has scored two direct hits that have the Franken campaign reeling. Brodkorb scooped the traditional media by detailing extensive bookkeeping problems in New York and California that ultimately prompted Franken, this week, to pay about $70,000 in back taxes to 17 states.

    The stories have knocked Franken off balance as he prepares to take on Sen. Norm Coleman, in what's expected to be one of the most expensive and toughest-fought U.S. Senate races this year.

    Democrats have tried to downplay Brodkorb by portraying him as part of coordinated Republican attacks.

    "When people talk about the right wing noise machine, that's what it is," said Franken spokesman Andy Barr.

    But even some of his harshest critics admit Brodkorb, who has no real counterweight on the left, has been effective.

    A typical Brodkorb scoop is splashed across his Web site under bold-faced banners like "Shock!" or "Breaking News!" The items are often followed soon after by a news release from the state Republican Party on the same subject, and many of his themes find their way into Coleman's talking points.

    In person, Brodkorb is a dark-haired, soft-spoken and polite 34-year-old whose infant twin daughters sometimes nap not far from his laptop.

    The blog started as a labor of love, he said.

    "I do think it has some influence right now, but that's never what I sat down to do. This was always about a political junkie looking for an outlet," Brodkorb said.

    He said he grew up in a family that wasn't political, and his interest in Republican politics began in college. He said he believes in "the fundamentals of being a Republican — less government, individual freedom, personal responsibility, strong national defense."

    He dropped out of college in 1995 to work on the failed U.S. Senate campaign of Rudy Boschwitz. In the late '90s, Brodkorb worked for state Senate Republicans, where he started to learn how to do "opposition research" — digging up dirt on opponents. He did it well enough to become director of research for the state Republican Party, and served in similar roles for several Republican campaigns.

    Brodkorb's critics suggest some of his best stories are leaked from Republican campaigns, the state party and Republican-affiliated groups as part of a coordinated effort against Democrats. That includes Dave Colling, who managed the 2006 congressional campaign of Keith Ellison, a regular Brodkorb target.

    "It's about making them talk about something they don't necessarily want to talk about," Colling said.

    Brodkorb won't detail his methods, except to say he "gets tips all the time from Democrats and Republicans" and independently researches them before posting anything.

    Brodkorb wouldn't reveal how he first got the notion to check up on Franken's business dealings in New York and California, but said simple searches on government Web sites delivered the goods: New York had levied a $25,000 judgment against Franken's private corporation for failing to carry workers' compensation insurance, and the corporation was in forfeiture in California.

    Brodkorb often covers news conferences and other planned political events, but does most of his blogging from his home in the St. Paul suburb of Eagan. He lives just down the street from Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty — whom, he's quick to note, he considers a "rock star."

    Brodkorb started Minnesota Democrats Exposed anonymously in 2004, when he was still a paid employee of the state Republican Party. He outed himself in 2006 only after a Democratic public relations consultant sued him for defamation for an item Brodkorb posted. A judge dismissed the lawsuit last year, saying Brodkorb deserved the same legal protections as newspapers and traditional broadcasters against lawsuits by public figures.

    He first asserted himself as a political force in the 2006 election cycle by reporting that Democratic rising star Matt Entenza had hired a private investigator to investigate fellow Democrat Mike Hatch. The revelation eventually forced Entenza out of the race for attorney general.

    Hatch was a main target that year, too, with Brodkorb portraying the Democratic candidate for governor as divisive and mean-spirited. When Hatch was accused of calling one reporter a "Republican whore," his temper became the story, and Hatch went on to lose narrowly to Pawlenty.

    "I know there were people around me who would get glued to that stuff, who would be checking it every few hours," Hatch said.

    Brodkorb shrugs off Democrats' claims that he's a Republican operative by saying he's never been paid to blog. He said he earns a living through corporate, non-political consulting work, and would disclose on his blog if he does any paid campaign work this year.

    Nevertheless, as state Republican Party Chairman Ron Carey put it: "I'm glad he's on our side."

    "Can't buy what I want because it's free...
    Can't buy what I want because it's free..."
    -- Pearl Jam, from the single Corduroy