Kevin Cramer's Spirit Lake Confrontation Sure Seems Like A Set Up


Earlier today I posted about the Spirit Lake Reservation tribal official who accused Rep. Kevin Cramer of “verbal abuse” being a political operative. It turns out that the story goes quite a bit deeper than that, and is actually connected to my having been kicked out of what was bill as a “independent media convention” last weekend.

The accuser, Melissa Merrick, is a long time Democrat operative on the Spirit Lake Reservation. She was involved in a program handing out gas cards and flat-screen televisions for votes in the 2010 election cycle, and as a part of that scheme accused me of hanging up phony voting signs on the reservation to suppress the vote (as of 2010 I’d never actually been to that reservation).

Flash forward to this week, Merrick took to a website called Last Real Indians to publish her account of Cramer’s supposed threats and “verbal abuse.”

And it turns out that Last Real Indians is funded by the People’s Press Project, one of the groups involved in that “independent media convention” I was kicked out of. That per a long posting on Facebook from Cindy Gomez-Schempp, one of the founders of the People’s Press Project. In the posting, the entirety of which you can read here, Gomez-Schempp accuses me of having ties to the Koch brothers (I wish) and neo-Nazi groups (huh?) but also admits that her organization funds the LRI website.

Here’s the pertinent excerpt, in which she describes Barnes County Independent publisher Nikki Zinke as having been a former member of their board who was removed (I’ve spoken with Zinke and she disputes that characterization) over the People’s Press Project support for Last Real Indians:

I would like to add that in the comment section of his blog Rob mentioned two of his friends which arrived after he was allegedly “kicked out” of the convention, which provided him with information about who attended. I believe he was referring to Nikki Zinke and Dennis Stillings, both of whom I have worked with previously – Nikki was formerly on the board of PPP, and Dennis was a contributing writer for HPR. However, my relationship with both was not always comfortable. I tended not to print Mr. Stillings work, especially when it was racially divisive or downright discriminatory in nature. I can’t imagine that pleased him, however we never discussed it.

As for Ms. Zinke, she became very uncomfortable with our organization working with people of color, especially the Native American publication Last Real Indians. She would not say why she did not want our organization to associate with them, and subsequent to PPP voting to becoming LRI fiscal agent, she never returned to a board meeting, nor did she respond to our correspondence that her missed meetings and lack of content would require us to replace her so we could continue our work. In accordance with our by-laws, we removed her from the board with proper written notification and replaced her with a new member. She and Dennis both listened to our presentations at the convention, and then left without participating in any of the visioning work that the whole convention was about. I noticed that she mentioned she would be publishing an editorial about the convention and Rob Port’s ousting although I’m at a loss to understand how she could really have much to say about an event she did not witness, and the purpose of the convention which she did not participate in. Ms. Zinke publishes Mr. Port in her newspaper.

So here’s what we have in summary:

* Melissa Merrick is a long-time Democrat operative with a history of making false accusations.

* Merrick published her account of her exchange with Rep. Cramer on a website funded by a left-wing media organization which is working to develop ideologically-driven content in the state.

It’s getting very, very hard to believe (especially given the wild nature of some of the accusations made) that this wasn’t a set up involving a left-wing operative pushing content to a left-wing media organization which, in turn, pushed it into the state media.

Meanwhile, the North Dakota Democrat party is already leveraging this issue into a fundraising pitch: