Monday, October 12, 2009

Dave Bicking and the The Enduring Legacy of Dean Zimmermann

Over at the Mpls Issues, supporters of Ward 9 candidate Dave Bicking are posting stuff like this about his opponent:

I have never seen a smoking gun like Schiff-gate in Minneapolis politics. A developer basically describing how a council member shakes him down for campaign contributions.

If this were chess, it would be a clearly won endgame for the Bicking campaign right now. But alas, it is not a chess game. Lit must be dropped, and the word must be spread.

...and this...

Dean Zimmermann was convicted and sent to prison for "accepting a gratuity." He accepted a campaign contribution from someone who had a development issue in his ward. He went to prison even though he voted against the developer's issue when it came before the Council.

I certainly don't want Gary Schiff or Steve Minn to go to prison. But the way the FBI reads the law: any politician who accepts anything from someone having business before the City, no matter how they vote on a given issue, is accepting a "gratuity." As the Zimmermann case proves, there doesn't have to be a quid pro quo. The fact that someone gives you something and has business pending before the City is all it took to put Dean behind bars for over a year....

Dean Zimmermann was busted for asking for under-the-table contributions and accepting a large amount of it in cash and that is NOT the same as elected officials asking for and accepting legal political contributions. Here is an audio file from Zimmermann's appeal hearing that explains exactly what Zimmermann did and why it was illegal:

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously against Zimmermann, That ruling was not contested by Zimmermann who served his sentence. In April I videotaped Zimmermann protesting LRT and promoting Personal Rapid Transit at a transportation forum. Zimmermann gave me a tortured explanation for accepting cash from FBI witness Gary Carlson and refused to sign a waiver for the FBI tapes shown at this trial:

Members of the LRT-hating/pod-promoting Citizens for Personal Rapid Transit (CPRT) also spread the nonsensical conspiracy theory that Zimmermann was framed:

According to the website, the CPRT meets at Dean Zimmermann's home every month.

Dave Bicking, like Zimmermann is a fierce opponent of reality-based transit and big supporter of the pods. This is from his son, Ian Bicking's website:

... Dave has followed PRT for some time and he knows quite a few of the people involved in CPRT. Dean Zimmerman, who is a Green City Council member in Minneapolis (neighboring ward) has been a strong proponent of PRT during his time in office (and like all the councilmembers, he's also up for reelection).

I get the impression there's conflict in the Green Party over this, as some see PRT as a dig on traditional mass transit like Light Rail. I'm personally very excited about PRT, as mass transit just doesn't work well. It's not even very good for the environment....

"mass transit just doesn't work well. It's not even very good for the environment".... WTF?

Has Bicking's positions on LRT and PRT have changed since 2005?

Does Bicking still believe what he wrote in this petition for Zimmermann?:

***In Support of Dean Zimmermann***

We, the undersigned, protest the investigation, conviction, and imprisonment of Dean Zimmermann. As he begins his 30 month sentence in federal prison, we stand in support of an honest man who has dedicated his life to helping others, both personally and politically.

We are convinced that Dean is innocent of the crime of bribery - a crime that requires intent. Dean has shown no signs of personal ambition; it is unthinkable that he would participate in corruption for personal gain. Indeed, his imprisonment is the result, not of corruption, but of his activism and his integrity. The FBI set-up is the culmination of over 40 years of FBI surveillance of Dean's political activities.

This was a set-up, in the most literal sense: The cash, the witness and his script, the cameras, and the locations were all provided by the FBI. Unlike someone truly soliciting a bribe, Dean never asked for nor expected the contributions in cash, nor did he ask that they be given to him directly. The FBI never showed that Dean did anything for Gary Carlson that he would not do for anyone else. The prosecution could not find one other business person nor developer who would testify that Dean had asked for money in exchange for a favorable vote for their business or project.

This is not the first time that the FBI has taken an interest in Dean.

Dean Zimmermann has had a long history of political activism. He opposed atmospheric nuclear weapons tests in the 50s. He participated in the Civil Rights movement in the 60s, working on voter registration drives in Mississippi. He was an early opponent of the Vietnam War. He helped create the natural food coops in Minneapolis. As an elected member of the Minneapolis Park Board he promoted sustainable ecological practices. In his four years on the City Council, he worked on homelessness issues, for immigrant rights, for greater accountability to end police brutality, and continued his work for a better environment. As he puts it, his focus on the Council was "to make life easier for poor people, and to leave behind a planet that is fit for our great grandchildren to live on."

The FBI also has a long history, and it is a history of dirty deeds inopposition to all the causes that Dean has promoted. An FBI agent even remarked what a low FBI number Dean had, indicating that his file goes way back. The infamous COINTELPRO program was created to, in the FBI's own words, "expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize" dissident movements. In addition to keeping extensive files on activists including Dean, the FBI encouraged the selective prosecution of movement leaders, and worked covertly to incite violence and to split groups apart and pit one group against another. After Congressional investigations in the mid-70s, COINTELPRO was formally disbanded, but many of the activities continued, and the files were kept.

Recently, new tools such as the PATRIOT Act give the federal government even more power. Surely the FBI, overseen by torture defender Alberto Gonzales, is as determined as ever to repress dissent. The persecution of Dean Zimmermann can be seen as nothing less than a warning to any elected official who would dare repudiate the Bush administration's repressive agenda. Even as Republican leaders have engaged in demonstrated acts of corruption and violation of the public trust, the US Justice Department under Gonzales has gone after more non-Republican elected officials than any other in modern American history.

We will probably never fully know the motivations and circumstances thatled the FBI to set up a sting operation to try to entrap Dean. But if we think that Dean's case has anything to do with a sincere concern about ethics or municipal corruption, we have fallen into the trap set for us by the FBI. Ideally, investigation and prosecution should be a search for the truth. By their record of deception and distortion, the FBI has shown, its true intent.

A centerpiece of the FBI's case is the famous "money, money, money" quote. To obtain a search warrant, the FBI deliberately deceived the judge by depicting this as Dean's response to Gary Carlson at a "meeting in a restaurant". They did not reveal that this was a perfectly innocent quote, given the context that this "meeting" was one of Dean's many conversations during a large public fundraiser for his campaign. When they raided Dean's house, the FBI confiscated not just evidence, but nearly all of his campaign materials. His re-election campaign was crippled by this loss of mailing lists, phone numbers, address labels, etc., perhaps revealing their true intent.

Any credible news source would readily expose these injustices, but the corporate media has been complicit in deception that influences the public's view of this case. Even after the trial was over and the true facts were known, the Star Tribune printed the transcript of the conversation with the "money, money, money" quote without revealing that it occurred during a fundraiser.

Dean's unjust conviction and imprisonment will not negate the legacy of his decades of service. Like many true freedom fighters, Dean is paying a high price for his activism. Our hearts go out to him and his family., This hurts not only Dean, but all of us. It hurts the causes Dean works for, and it unfairly tarnishes the reputations of the groups he works with. The timing of the FBI investigation and raid also tampered with the democratic process. We miss Dean's leadership on the Minneapolis City Council.

We stand in support of all political prisoners including Leonard Peltier, Mumia Abu-Jamal, and the Cuban Five. Dean Zimmermann is a political prisoner and we appeal to other groups, national and international, to recognize him as such.

Dean has not asked for personal support; he asks only that we "continue the struggle". We will do that, while keeping in mind that part of that struggle is to defend our allies from persecution, and to support the right of activists to work without fear of retribution.

Dean says it best: "Speaking on behalf of the poor and oppressed and generations to come is not always popular, but it is necessary. It is my life's work. It is my work as a public official and it's work I intend to continue." Thank you, our friend, for your inspiration and for your life's work. We look forward to your continuation of that work, both in prison, and when you are able to rejoin us afterward.

If Bicking still believes that Zimmermann is innocent, I hope he would urge Zimmermann to sign the waiver to release the tapes shown at his trial to the media so voters can decide for themselves.

And when it comes to casting stones at candidates who have accepted donations from developers... (click to make bigger):

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Dean Zimmermann Protests LRT and Promotes PRT in North Mpls

I wasn't expecting to see Zimmermann today at a transportation meeting in North Minneapolis... but there he was in the audience dissing light rail and promoting the pods along with CPRT director Margaret Beegle . I asked Zimmermann a few questions.. listen:

UPDATE: Pods on Streetsblog.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Pod People Meet at the Scene of Zimmermann's Crime

If you go to the Citizens for Personal Rapid Transit website (, you'll notice they had a meeting recently at 2200 Clinton Avenue South in Minneapolis, the home of convicted felon Gary Dean Zimmermann.

2200 Clinton is where Zimmermann was caught on video accepting a cash gratuity from government witness Gary Carlson on August 31st, 2005:

Carlson says they need to get Zimmermann elected, then hands him an envelope and says “that’s for getting us the zoning over there.” [This envelope contains $1000 in the form of 10 $100 bills, given to Carlson by the FBI.]

Jenny Heiser, Zimmermann’s wife, comes in and Carlson asks for a campaign t-shirt. Carlson has a discussion with Heiser about line-drying their t-shirts and Heiser exits.

Zimmermann tells Carlson, “this guy down here [in the 9th. ward] is running against Schiff, Dave Bicking…[Schiff is a?] significant obstacle, this’ll be in his ward. He [Bicking] could use a little promotion, he’s got an uphill battle, but he’s got no relation with Hamoudi and those guys,” even though he met with the Sabris. One of them [I don’t recall if it was Zimmermann or Carlson] mentions Sheila Delaney, a candidate Hamoudi [Sabri] and his friends promoted, who withdrew from the race.

Carlson then says he thinks there are three people running in Zimmermann’s ward. Zimmermann replies by saying the “other guy” [other than Lilligren] is a “straw man we put up so there’ll be a primary.” He says the campaign wanted to have a primary to see “where we stood.” [I believe he also said something about his whole campaign knowing about this “straw man,” James Gorham.]

...2200 Clinton was raided by the Feds:

After lunch the prosecution continued its questioning of Agent Bisswurm. In response to questioning, Bisswurm explained that repetitive portions of the tape we just heard had been edited out, but the full and unedited version was supplied to the defense. He said a federal search warrant of Zimmermann’s home at 2200 Clinton was served on September 8, 2005. He explained that money was indeed found in the desk drawer: $1200 cash in four envelopes (Exhibits 34-37). He said all $1200 was there, but there was no trace of the $5000 or the original $1000. Docherty asked him is any of the original $100 bills (other than the $1200 in four campaign envelopes) were found in the house, and he said no. He said Zimmermann was asked where the $1000 was and he replied “all over the place.”

The CPRT has no problem with law-breaking, having broken IRS law to help get Zimmermann elected in 2005.

Here's Margaret Beegle of the CPRT at the Living Green Expo last year:

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dean Zimmermann is Back and He's Boring...

Mpls Issues had a notice about a "Community Discussion and Forum". One of the speakers was Dean Zimmermann:

Dean Zimmerman is a former Minneapolis City Council Member. A well known and respected member of the local progressive peace and justice communities, Dean is considered a hero by many people and has always been a champion of poor and oppressed people.

A very small group of people listened to Zimmermann drone on and on about stuff including, of course the pods:

Saturday, February 07, 2009

AG Holder: "We Must Restore the Credibility of this Department"

Attorney General Eric Holder Addresses the Department of Justice from White House on Vimeo.


"Remarks by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to Department of Justice Employees":

Good morning.

It’s a privilege to speak to you today, both as the new Attorney General and as your returning colleague. I am deeply honored to have the opportunity once again to work side-by-side with all of you here at the United States Department of Justice.

The Justice Department has aptly been described as the “crown jewel” of the federal government. It has attained this distinction not because of any laws or regulations, cases or controversies, buildings or equipment, but rather because of the quality, integrity, and dedication of the people who work tirelessly to carry out the Department’s vital mission. Simply stated, you – the employees of the United States Department of Justice – are the backbone, the heart, and the soul of this great agency.

The honor of serving in the Justice Department is very real – and so too is the responsibility that accompanies it. Citizens from across this nation look to us as the standard bearers of justice, fairness, and independence. At all times, and in all ways, we must demonstrate that we merit their confidence. We must fulfill our duties faithfully, and apply the law evenhandedly, without regard to politics, party or personal interest.

I owe much to you who serve in this Department today, and to those who served in years gone by:

When I was in the Public Integrity Section more than 30 years ago, it was you – or people just like you – who served as my mentors, my colleagues, and my friends.

When I was the United States Attorney in the District of Columbia, it was you – or people just like you – who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with me as we fought against violent crime, drug trafficking and corruption.

When I was Deputy Attorney General, it was you – or people just like you – who worked with me to protect our fellow citizens and the ideals upon which our country was founded.

And now that I am Attorney General, it is you – and precisely you – who will serve as the Department’s faithful troops as we engage in a daily battle for justice.

We have much work before us.

We must strengthen the activities of the federal government as we protect the people – the American people – from terrorism. Nothing we will do will be more important. We must use every available tactic to defeat our adversaries – and we must do so within the letter and the spirit of the Constitution. There is not a tension between the ideals that formed this nation and that which we must do to keep it safe.

We must restore the credibility of this Department, which has been so badly shaken by allegations of improper political interference. Law enforcement decisions and personnel actions must and they will be untainted by partisanship.

We must reinvigorate the traditional missions of the Department. Without letting our guard down in the fight against global terrorism, we must embrace the Department’s historic role in fighting crime, promoting civil rights, preserving the environment, ensuring fairness in the marketplace, and protecting the interests of all of our fellow citizens.

Our task will not be easy. Our days will be long and our challenges will be great. But I know that because of your professionalism, your integrity, and your hard work, we will succeed in our vital mission. And I pledge to you today that throughout the days and months ahead, I will work with you, I will listen to you, and I will learn from you as we go forward.

And so, my friends and colleagues of the United States Department of Justice, I say to you today – let’s roll up our sleeves, and let’s get down to work.

It’s good to be back.

Thank you.