Star Tribune Reporter Fails to Ask Obvious Questions in Minn. Shutdown Beer Brouhaha

Well, I guess it's getting serious now in the melodrama known as the Minnesota state government shutdown.

If the Gopher State shutdown goes on much longer, hundreds of bars and restaurants will lose their ability to serve alcohol because they can't renew their liquor licenses. Worse, as reported by Eric Roper at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, MillerCoors, whose "brand license" somehow expired, will, be forced to "pull its beer from Minnesota liquor stores, bars and restaurants." The economic ripple effect will have a lot of Minnesotans crying in their beer, if they can find any.

If there's a less curious reporter than Eric Roper, I don't want to meet him. I've seen pet rocks with more curiosity than the Strib reporter demonstrated in the linked report. Consider the following paragraphs which Roper relayed without any hint of an attempt at follow-up:

Miller Time in Minnesota is over -- until lawmakers reach a budget deal.

The state's government shutdown, now in its 13th day, will soon force MillerCoors to pull its beer from Minnesota liquor stores, bars and restaurants. A state official says the law requires the company to stop selling products like Coors Light, Miller Lite and Blue Moon imminently because their brand licenses expired.

... (Minnesota Department of Public Safety spokesman Doug) Neville says MillerCoors must remove the beer because they did not renew their brand label registration with the state before the shutdown began. By law, brewers must renew those registrations -- which show the label on each brand of beer -- every three years.

The company tried to renew in mid-June, but the process got delayed when they wrote a check for too much money. Green said they sent in a new check, which the state received on June 27, but nonetheless got a letter three days later saying their brand licenses had expired.

“We believe we’ve followed all applicable state laws on this," Green said.

Uh, Eric, here's something even the Democrat Farm Labor Party-defending Associated Press broke down and noted on Sunday. It occurred when a public-sector employee who is nonetheless peeved at Democratic Governor Mark Dayton broke down and told the truth. The man (paraphrased by AP) said that "Dayton vetoed all major state agency funding bills Republicans passed at the end of the session."

In other words, the government has shut down because DFL Governor Mark Dayton shut it down, period. "Lawmakers" -- i.e., the legislature -- did their job, and therefore are not to blame for the shutdown. The executive branch, specifically Dayton, the guy who vetoed the funding bills, is solely to blame.

Beyond that obvious error, it takes a special degree of laziness or ignorance for Roper not to have looked into at least the following:

  • Why didn't the state simply cash the earlier check for too much money and refund the difference?
  • Why doesn't the check the state received on June 27, the fourth last day before the shutdown began, count (whether deposited or not)?
  • Who issued the letter "saying their brand licenses had expired?"
  • Was the person who issued the expiration letter pressured by higher-ups in state government or the Governor's office to send the expiration letter instead of processing the renewal -- perhaps for the express purpose of creating the statewide havoc which appears imminent?
  • Why didn't the state cash the check if it was for the right amount (or if the check has been cashed, what in the heck is the problem)? Who ordered the department not to cash the check if that's indeed what happened? (Please don't tell me the state had to allow for check clearance times for funds availability for a company like MillerCoors, which surely has millions in the bank.)
  • If state government is shut down, why is Mr. Neville still working?
  • Since Mr. Neville is still working and assuming the check hasn't been cashed, why can't he take it to the bank? Are his fingers and legs broken?
  • If state government is shut down, who is going to pull beer from the shelves if MillerCoors refuses?
  • If the state isn't accepting payments, why shouldn't Gopher State employers and other taxpayers just hang onto their withheld or otherwise due state income taxes and other tax payments until state government resumes full operation?

I daresay if the governor in these circumstances had been a Republican or conservative, reporters like Eric Roper would be much more curious about the incongruous chain of events he unquestioningly described -- and that he'd be pinning the blame on the governor and not the Republican-controlled legislature.

In addition to failing to report that state government has shut down because Mark Dayton decided to shut it down, Roper also failed to tell readers that Dayton is determined not to reopen the government until he gets the income tax increases he wants -- and the heck with all the people who are affected in the meantime. But reporting that wouldn't fit what is apparently the Strib's unofficial motto: DFL uber alles.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.