Minnesota is home to a very strange demographic: Just as how North Carolina has an unusually large number of basketball colleges, the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes has an unusually large number of “romantic” scandals involving female politicians. And they have ranged from the most powerful (state Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, forced out after a relationship with a subordinate), to the most embarassing (State Rep Tara Mack, literally caught in the act with another legislator), to the absolute most bizarre.
Even after nine tumultuous years, I still haven’t seen a political scandal as utterly bizarre as the Laura Brod one. And it’s not about anything she did or was accused of doing (consensual affair and posing for an ill-considered photo). It’s about how it unfolded.
Much of the stuff is only accessible via archives, but as far as I can tell, this is how I’ve read it went down. In August 2008, State Rep. Laura Brod had an affair and posed for a naughty photo. In 2009, when she was expected to run for governor, a ton of internet gossip and drama went out (but no real concrete evidence). There was legal action involving her and a “John Doe”. Brod bailed out of her expected campaign for governor for “health reasons”, and then did not run for reelection in 2010.
In 2011, she was appointed to the University of Minnesota Board of Regents. Around the same time, the Koch/Michael Brodkorb scandal broke, and Brodkorb sued for gender discrimination, alleging that women who slept with male superiors weren’t punished the way he was. A list of his allegations against specific people mysteriously and briefly ended up online, in what was largely regarded as a deliberate mudsling.
In July 2013, out of nowhere, a single-use Tumblr appeared with the Brod photo and the words “This is a picture of University of Minnesota Regent and former State Rep. Laura Brod. A thousand words describe this picture and the story behind it.” But those ‘thousand words’ did not appear (until now, arguably). The now-defunct City Pages ran a series of articles about the Brod photo, talking about its supposed political importance, and eventually going into the details of when the picture was taken and that Brod had spent campaign money on legal fees afterwards. They did not mention or even really speculate on anything like who the photographer/”other man” was, if the relationship brought about any conflict of interest, or anything that would make it a legitimate scandal and not just a tawdry swipe at someone no longer in office.
The result was that everyone expressed sympathy for Brod, and rightfully so. Everyone from her divorcing husband to people who called themselves staunch political opponents spoke on her behalf. The articles about the photo trailed off, no real news about investigative results emerged, and everyone moved on. Laura Brod later remarried and had a successful life outside of government.
The strange thing is the slow drip nature of it, which, combined with the lack of actually identifying or speculating, has made me wonder if that meant the people releasing it were covering for the photographer/”other man”.
Of course, that was a little long ago, but Minnesota couldn’t resist keeping the “streak” going. State GOP Chair Jennifer Carnahan was forced out amid a trafficking (!) scandal, and drunkenly stated that she didn’t care about her ill congressman husband because he’d “soon be dead”. Then came the retaliatory gossip on the internet alleging that she had multiple abortions.
Meanwhile, New York political scandals tend to be boring. Then again, we never elected a pro wrestler as governor…