Thursday, October 10, 2013

A tale of two press releases

Update-Anna Long from the MDVA responded to my email, asking for clarification;

I was wondering if you could tell me about the press release I received from your office regarding the upcoming townhall tour across the state.  Specifically, I would like to know why the language in the emailed press release is different from the language on the MDVA website announcing the tour.

Hi Dave – thanks for the email. Can you be more specific? We did make a few edits to the release after it was posted on the web, but both should be similar. Do you have a concern?

thanks for your quick response.  I am looking at the announcement in the MDVA website and comparing it to the press release distributed to all of the veterans organizations.  The version on your website makes no mention of Governor Dayton or his role in the improvements being discussed at the townhall meetings.  Was that intentional?  Will the governor or a representative from his office be attending any of the forums?

Sorry for the confusion Dave. The Governor is not attending, but this fits well with his initiative of gathering feedback from Minnesotans in an effort to serve our communities (in our case, the Veterans Community) better and more efficiently.

I reached out to veterans across the state this week and confirmed that the governor was not present at any of the events.  So the state veterans affairs department is highlighting the governor's leadership at a series of town hall meetings that the governor will not be attending.

Next week, the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs (MDVA) has announced it will be touring the state and hosting town hall meetings to "celebrate recent successes and legislative changes relative to Veterans and their families" and get the public's input.

Excellent idea.

But the MDVA promoted this tour to all of the state's veterans organizations in a separate press release e-mail that seems like it had a much different intention: getting Governor Dayton re-elected.  From the email-

MN Veterans Affairs to Launch Statewide Town Hall Tour

Visits will Highlight Improved Minnesota GI Bill and Other Key Accomplishments Under Governor Dayton that Will Benefit Veterans and Their Families


Note the underlined section.  It changes the tone of the townhall meetings from simply being informative to highlighting that all of these improvements are due to the work of Governor Dayton. The body of the press release doubles down on this idea that the statewide tour is touting Governor Dayton (emphasis mine);

SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Next week Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs (MDVA) leadership will travel to eight Minnesota communities to meet with citizens and members of the Minnesota Veterans Community. The town hall tour is focused on updating local officials, community leaders, and Veteran’s organizations about recent reforms passed under Governor Dayton’s leadership, like the improved Minnesota GI Bill that will benefit Minnesota Veterans and their families. The MDVA will also ask citizens to bring new ideas for how the Department can continue to support Veterans and their families.

Governor Dayton certainly gets to take credit for improvements to veterans affairs under his watch.  But sending the MDVA on a statewide tour to tout his 'leadership' on veterans is something completely different-it looks a lot like campaigning on the taxpayer dime.

The real concern here is the two different press releases.  The version available on the MDVA website does not mention anything about Governor Dayton.  But the version emailed to all of the veterans organizations in Minnesota, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, the Disabled American Veterans, and 6 others, includes very specific language that gives credit to Governor Dayton for increased veterans benefits.

I have emailed the point of contact on the press release to see what explanation they have for such a big difference in content and tone of the two press releases.  I'll post any response.

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