What is Shelly Mategko’s big problem with Rick Nolan?

July 12, 2016

Dear Zenith News:

I read the editorial from June 21 [“On defending domestic steel, Rick Nolan is making it up again”]. I have asked Shelly quite a few times what issue or issues she has with Eighth District Representative Rick Nolan. I never got a logical response from her. She stated I was mean and unfriended me on Facebook.

I am never one to march lockstep with the DFL, although I am very left of central, so that is my party. Shelly keeps on dogging Nolan for whatever personal reasons she has. Shelly wrote a very nice article about [Chisholm Free Press founder and publisher] Veda Ponikvar when she passed. Veda would have never badmouthed a DFL candidate. What is Shelly’s alternative? Voting for [Eighth District Republican challenger Stewart] Mills?

Deborah J. Bloom


Shelly Mategko replies: Thanks for your letter, Deborah. Am I watchdogging Congressman Rick Nolan? You bet I am! My role as a watchdog journalist is to serve the public interest by scrutinizing the actions of lawmakers, government officials and institutions, not to act as a mouthpiece for or protect the interests of any politician or political party. Thus, accountability and transparency are the focus of my Voice of the People column in the Zenith. What voters ultimately choose to do with that information is entirely up to them.

As I explained to you previously via Facebook, my one and only issue with Nolan is that his actions and words have been inconsistent, contradictory, confusing, and dishonest. Those common threads run through all my columns about Nolan, including the four written during the past year. Last June, Nolan claimed to have an “effectiveness rating” from the Sunshine Foundation, which doesn’t rate members of Congress (“Who said Rick Nolan’s effective? Rick Nolan” June 30, 2015). Last December, Nolan claimed to be voting for Syrian refugees while voting for a bill against them and invoking Pope Francis’ call to compassion for refugees (“Rick Nolan quotes the Pope while voting to turn away Syrian refugees,” December 15, 2015).

So far this spring, Nolan has mischaracterized his fundraising as predominately from small donors, which is not true (“Nolan hitches a ride on Bernie Sanders’ little-guy populism. Just one problem: In Nolan’s case, it’s false” (March 29, 2016), and he’s taken credit for defending domestic steel before the International Trade Commission long before he actually did (“On defending domestic steel, Rick Nolan is making it up again,” June 21, 2016).

I note that you don’t dispute the facts presented in my columns, but are simply trying to discredit the messenger. That tactic is nothing new, but it is becoming increasingly common as politics becomes more and more polarized. Supporters of former Eighth District Congressman Chip Cravaack did the same in response to my Iron Country Free Press blog posts, when I kicked his dishonest packsacker guzica from here to New Hampshire and back.

For the record, I haven’t heard from you since May 5, 2014, when I did, indeed, go Ranger on you, not because you asked about Nolan, but because of your tactless comments under a post on my wall about my good friend Jim Oberstar’s sudden death, which stunned his family and friends.

It’s equally offensive and distressing that you chose to invoke the name of my dear friend, confidante, and journalism mentor Veda Ponikvar in your ad hominem attack on me. Your statements are misinformed at best and carry implications that are an affront to her legacy and journalistic integrity that I cannot let stand. John Myers of the Duluth News Tribune did quote me in his wonderful tribute to Veda, but I didn’t write a column of my own about her. The relevance of this to my watchdogging Nolan totally escapes me.

Your suggestion that Veda was nothing more than a partisan cheerleader completely befuddles me and defies history. She founded the Chisholm Free Press in order to challenge the Steel Trust and the politicians who did its bidding. Speaking truth to power marked her long tenure as publisher and editor, and nothing was more offensive to her than a public official who misleads or lies to constituents, one who puts their own selfish political interests ahead of the Common Good. The Iron Lady, as Veda was known, didn’t hesitate to call them out, be they friend or foe, no matter their political affiliation.

As for your implication with respect to Nolan, Veda emphasized that I have both a moral and journalistic obligation to hold him accountable and set the record straight regardless of my own personal feelings or political leanings. She was very proud of my investigative reporting award for calling out Nolan’s use of DFL money to pay his campaign staff and then claiming it was a “coordinated campaign" (“Rickrolled: How Congressman Rick Nolan and the Minnesota DFL appear to have violated federal law,” January 21, 2014).


Veda understood more than most the consequences of being a female journalist who writes about men in power and the special interests they want to keep secret. She encouraged me to not back down even in the face of ever-increasing ad hominem attacks—advice well-taken. Veda’s trademark “Is it true and does it need to be said?” will continue to guide my reporting.

Deborah, instead of joining the Nolan camp in shooting the messenger, a better strategy to stop stories you clearly don’t like might be to smack your chosen candidate upside the head with the proverbial two-by-four and tell Nolan to stop going steady with the Blarney Stone!

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