When Minnesota’s Republican Senate Caucus hired Michael Brodkorb as their communications director, they may not have expected it would end with
a lawsuit and multiple retirements. Yet while those specific results may have been unpredictable, a person of reasonable judgment could have figured that it would not end well.
Even so, it is fortunate that then-Majority Leader Amy Koch was not exercising reasonable judgment when Brodkorb was hired. The incident has been good for the GOP and for democracy.
When I first encountered Michael Brodkorb in 2009, he was running against incumbent Dorothy Fleming to become the deputy chairman of the Minnesota Republican Party. He had no substantial contact with the activist wing of the party prior to that from what I had observed. Sure, Democratic blogs probably liked to say that he regularly consorted with Republicans, and Brodkorb might have even sold himself that way. For me, though, the only Republicans I saw Brodkorb associating with were big names that had no relevance to any activism as I knew it.
Former Republican National Committeewoman Evie Axdahl might have been a co-chair on his campaign, but I hadn’t heard of her attending any local meetings since the mid-1990s. Present-day State Representative Kurt Daudt might have exclaimed (via written endorsement) that he was “very excited” about Brodkorb’s candidacy, but Daudt never dirtied his hands helping out the activists that much either. The grassroots credentials of Brodkorb’s campaign may have been advertised, but they weren’t really evident.
Yet in retrospect, it seems clear that there were warning signs. One endorsement that seems ironic now came from Rory Koch, formerly a Republican chairman of the 4th congressional district and a legislative assistant briefly assigned by House Republicans to answer phone calls for Rep. Tom Emmer’s office. (No, he isn’t related to Sen. Amy Koch. Yes, though, this is the Koch who was discovered to be in possession of child pornography when police raided his home earlier this month.)
“Our party is very lucky to have such an excellent candidate for Deputy Chair in Michael Brodkorb,” read the endorsement from Koch. In bold-faced font, the endorsement promised Brodkorb would have “a strong commitment to reform and build our party.”
That endorsement came through in an e-mail distributed on April 30, 2009 by Brodkorb’s campaign. The second-to-next endorsement in the e-mail came from Washington County Commissioner Bill Pulkrabek. His endorsement promised, “Michael… is clearly the best equipped candidate for Deputy Chair,” and if he was elected, Republicans would “win back the suburbs.”
A present-day Google Search for “Bill Pulkrabek Estee Lauder” will display the issues that particular endorser has sincehad to work out over allegations of domestic assault arising from a disagreement with his girlfriend (no, his wife wasn’t involved) over skin-care lotion. Allegedly, he dragged her down the stairs.
Did some good people endorse Michael Brodkorb as well? Sure. Yet did anyone with significant legal problems endorse his opponent for deputy chair? I couldn’t find any. I doubt anyone else could, either.
The people most active in politics can generally be described through a dichotomy. They either make a decision to be basically good and have integrity, or they make a decision that character isn’t really as important as it might otherwise be when it comes to winning whatever it is they want to win. These attitudes both stem from and ultimately influence the other regions of life. The two groups recognize each other in the political realm, and they usually will not cross over to support a candidate who is not a member of their group.
Brodkorb had his own share of problems, before, during, and after his time in the limelight of the Minnesota Republican Party. From getting into a conflict with Wally “the Beer Man” McNeil in 2007 to his wife calling 911 over an altercation at their home in 2011, it was an open secret in the Republican Party that Brodkorb’s coterie was a pretty foul group of people.
For Sen. Koch, of course, that wouldn’t have mattered anyway. The situation was pretty shameful all around.
In addition to the loss of Michael Brodkorb, Republicans’ decisionto accept his overall lack of integrity has resulted in the resignation of a state GOP chair, the Senate majority leader, the deputy majority leader, and ongoing ethics hearings, all of which will be defined by the legacy of Michael Brodkorb.
So has it been worth it? Well, if it gets some bad people out of government and reminds voters of why they shouldn’t be there in the first place, that’s going to be a good thing for everyone.