Friday, July 25, 2008

Huckabee-Hopeful Hong Hung

GOP Stalwart Arrested in 2-Day St. Paul Prostitution Ring

The Star Tribune reports:

Peter Hong, a longtime Republican operative in Minnesota, was arrested Wednesday afternoon on a charge of soliciting prostitution in St. Paul.

Police spokesman Peter Panos said that the arrest came during the first day of a two-day sting operation during which "johns" and prostitutes responded to ads placed on the Internet and in print. Thirty-five people were arrested Wednesday and Thursday, Panos said today.

He declined to say where the undercover operation was based.

According to city and county records, Hong, 41, of Minneapolis, was arrested at about 3:40 p.m. on Wednesday and arrived at the Ramsey County jail just after 5 p.m. He was one of at least 19 men swept up during the first day of the sting, police records show.

Hong, reached by phone Thursday, said: "I don't have any comment."

Hong has been in and out of the Republican side of Minnesota politics since the mid-1990s, when he surfaced as a genial bulldog campaign press secretary for former Sen. Rod Grams, R-Minn. He served as a spokesman for Gov. Tim Pawlenty's campaign in 2002 and for the Bush-Cheney campaign in Minnesota in 2004.

Most recently, Hong was a point person for presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Gina Countryman, a spokeswoman for the Minnesota Republican Party, said Hong is not currently working for any Minnesota candidate.

He is the third political figure to be arrested in a St. Paul prostitution sting in the past year.

Last summer, police arrested Tim Droogsma, a press secretary to former U.S. Sen. Rudy Boschwitz, who initially attributed his arrest to a "severe misunderstanding" before pleading guilty in January to an engaging-in-prostitution charge.

In February, New Brighton City Council member David Phillips was one of nine men nabbed in a prostitution sting. His next court appearance is in August.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Hillary Clinton Asks To Keep Donor Money for 2012

The New York Observer reports:

Hillary Clinton's campaign is sending out letters to donors asking permission to roll a $2,300 contribution to Clinton's 2008 general election coffers to her 2012 senate election fund instead of offering a refund.

The letter, read to me by one recipient, includes a photocopy of a handwritten note from Clinton that says, "Dear friend, your commitment has meant so much to me over the course of my presidential campaign. You were there for me when I needed you the most and I'll never forget it. I hope you'll help me continue to fight for the issues and causes we believe in by filling out the enclosed form in support of Friends of Hillary."

The form says, "I hereby verify that my 2008 general election contribution may be designated to the 2012 Senate election. I designate the entire amount to the 2012 primary election. However if I have already contributed to the 2012 primary, I designate any amount in excess of $2,300 to the 2012 general election."

"If we do not hear back from you by August 28 2008 we will automatically refund your contribution."

This donor, at least, had no intention of signing. "Of course I'm going to get my money back," the donor told me.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

A Constant American Takes A Stand, Quits Rather Than Lower Flag For Helms

L.F. Eason III gave up the only job he'd ever had rather than lower a flag to honor former U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms.

L.F. Eason, III, 51, out of a job, but rich of character

News & Observer reports:

Eason, a 29-year veteran of the state Department of Agriculture, instructed his staff at a small Raleigh lab not to fly the U.S. or North Carolina flags at half-staff Monday, as called for in a directive to all state agencies by Gov. Mike Easley.

When a superior ordered the lab to follow the directive, Eason decided to retire rather than pay tribute to Helms. After several hours' delay, one of Eason's employees hung the flags at half-staff.
The brouhaha began late Sunday night, when Eason e-mailed eight of his employees in the state standards lab, which calibrates measuring equipment used on things as widely varied as gasoline and hamburgers.

"Regardless of any executive proclamation, I do not want the flags at the North Carolina Standards Laboratory flown at half staff to honor Jesse Helms any time this week," Eason wrote just after midnight, according to e-mail messages released in response to a public records request.

He told his staff that he did not think it was appropriate to honor Helms because of his "doctrine of negativity, hate, and prejudice" and his opposition to civil rights bills and the federal Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

Eason said in an interview Tuesday that he did not typically lower the flag himself, but that, as head of the lab, he supervised the technician who did. He also trained new employees on proper flag etiquette, including a one-person folding technique he learned in Boy Scouts.

When the lab opened Monday morning, the flags were not out at all. An employee called Eason's boss, Stephen Benjamin, who worked in another building in Raleigh. About 10:45 a.m., Benjamin told one of Eason's co-workers to put the flags at half-staff.

Another of Eason's superiors later drove by the lab to make sure the flags were up properly.

No one in the Governor's Office was aware of any time in recent memory when a state employee refused to lower a flag. Brian Long, a spokesman for the Agriculture Department, said Eason's refusal was unexpected.

"We've never had any conversations like that," he said.

An ultimatum

In a string of e-mail messages with his superiors, Eason was told he could either lower the flags or retire effective immediately.

Though he's only 51, Eason chose to retire, although he pleaded several times to be allowed to stay at the lab. Eason, who had worked for the Agriculture Department since graduating from college, was paid $65,235 a year as the laboratory manager.

Several people, including his wife, argued to Eason that the flags belonged to the state, as did the lab. But Eason said he felt a strong sense of ownership.

Eason and a previous boss had sketched out the building's rough design on a napkin at the Atlanta airport in 1984 after attending a national conference on weights and measures.

He then worked to get funding for it in the state budget, and he recently helped snag state money to study building another lab.

"I designed and built that lab," he said. "Even though technically the bricks and mortar belong to the state of North Carolina, I feel very strongly that everything that comes out of there is my responsibility."

It was not the first time Eason felt uneasy about lowering the flag.

A registered Democrat who frequently votes a split ticket, he said he had no problems lowering the flag for former Sen. Terry Sanford or President Reagan. But he remembers wondering whether he would be willing to lower the flag after President Nixon's death.

He never had to make that decision, since it rained both days.

Monday was sunny. And Eason was out of a job.
To L.F. Easley, III, a Constant American, goes the Golden Picket award.