Around the country, Minnesota has the reputation of having a corrupt state government. This story from Alpha News illustrates why that reputation is deserved.
Last August, two Democratic state officials were involved in a rollover accident as they were leaving Farm Fest, an annual ag industry show in southern Minnesota. Minnesota State Auditor Julie Blaha was driving her SUV and Senate Minority Leader Melisa López Franzen was her passenger. They were on their way to a Democratic fundraiser or party. Blaha apparently was negligent in pulling out from the Farm Fest parking lot, causing her vehicle to be struck by a semi. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt. This was Blaha’s vehicle:
Blaha, the State Auditor, was not intoxicated, but the passenger, Franzen, apparently popped a White Claw as they were leaving Farm Fest. An open, cold, nearly full can of White Claw was found in the car. This is a clear open bottle violation under Minnesota law, and would normally be charged as such. The driver also can be criminally charged for allowing an open alcohol container in his or her vehicle.
Apparently the first thing Blaha and Franzen did after the accident was to call Ken Martin, the Chairman of the DFL Party. He was on the scene in a matter of minutes, driving an official brightly-colored DFL van. He is captured on body cam video making sure the officers at the scene know they are dealing with high-ranking politicians.
Senator Franzen lied about the White Claw to investigating officers:
[T]he State Patrol’s Lt. Matthew Sorenson stated in an email at 9:31 p.m. on the day of the crash that “an open alcohol container was discovered in vehicle #1 after the crash,” but “it appeared to be empty and sounds like it was supposed to be thrown away but forgotten in a backpack pocket.”
This conclusion seems to be based on a statement Franzen gave to police. She said she had been drinking White Claws at Farmfest and that she “just takes all her trash with her,” per the police report.
She also claimed that the White Claw was “attached to her backpack” and she “had [forgotten] about it,” according to the report.
The Auditor’s office later told the same story:
Blaha’s office told Alpha News that police also located a can of non-alcoholic fruit juice at the scene and had a brief discussion about whether or not it was alcoholic, which can be seen in the dash-cam video.
“That’s what the officers were referring to when they said there was an open can and it’s cold,” said Donald McFarland, director of communications for Blaha’s office.
“When authorities were retrieving a bag, they did find an empty can of White Claw in the backseat that Sen. Franzen had drunk at Farmfest and had put it in the bag because she was going to recycle it. So there was a can of White Claw in the car. That’s how it got there. Nobody was drinking it since earlier,” he added.
However, in both their field reports and in conversations at the scene, first responders explicitly described the White Claw as “open,” “cold,” and “pretty full.”
The Democrats’ story is patently untrue:
The responder who found the alcohol was Morgan Fire Department Assistant Chief Justin Blomeke. A Minnesota State Patrol field report details how he reached into the car and retrieved an open can of White Claw that he accidentally “spilled all over the backpack and himself.”
“Blomeke guessed that the contents of the can [were] pretty full due to how much spilled out,” the report says. He also stated that “the can was very cold, indicating it was opened very recently.” Finally, he noted that “the backpack was zipped up, indicating the White Claw container was not inside the backpack.”
He later reaffirmed these observations in a recorded phone call with a state trooper, saying the can was open, still cold and mostly full.
This video captures Ken Martin pulling rank and dialogue about the open White Claw container:
The Democrats brought their political influence to bear to squash what normally would have been a criminal prosecution. Email traffic shows that within hours, top officials at the State Patrol, which reports to Democratic Governor Tim Walz, were told of the crash and of the important Democrats who were involved.
That evening, [State Patrol Lt. Matthew] Sorenson also directed a trooper creating an incident report to not recommend charges based on what they encountered at the scene. “Do not recommend charges at this time,” he ordered. “We will compile all the reports and submit a packet to the county attorney for them to review and go off of their recommendation on charges.”
“We want to make sure we cover our basis [sic] since this is a high-profile case,” he wrote in a third email sent during the same time period.
Blaha got off with a minor traffic citation and Franzen, who had been illegally drinking the White Claw, was not charged at all. The Democrats’ transparent lies became the official story of the accident, which gained a lot of publicity at the time. No newspaper or other media outlet chose to look into the accident until the Alpha News story that appeared today.
There is much more at the link. Alpha apparently obtained the entire investigation file via a FOIA request, so there are videos, voice recordings, emails and photographs. This is the infamous White Claw can:
This is a textbook case of powerful politicians using political influence to dodge accountability for what in any other circumstance would be charged as a crime. The Democrats lied and got away with it. My colleague Bill Walsh comments here.