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Although the national spotlight is no longer on the controversial budget battle in Minnesota, the political climate remains heated.
As evidence, look no further than this Star-Tribune report about efforts by House Republicans to force arts and culture groups like Minnesota Public Radio — no surprise — and the Minnesota Zoo to compete for grants rather than receive special appropriations from the state’s Legacy Fund, which is generated through sales and use tax
Explaining why the state funding for the arts is undergoing scrutiny, House Majority Leader Matt Dean singled out $45,000 in Legacy money paid to author and comics writer Neil Gaiman for a four-hour appearance at a Stillwater public library in May 2010.
Dean is quoted as saying that Gaiman, “who I hate,” was a “pencil-necked little weasel who stole $45,000 from the state of Minnesota.”
The author responded to the remarks this morning on Twitter, writing, “Sad & funny. Minnesota Republicans have a ‘hate’ list. Like Nixon did. I’m on it. They also don’t like capitalism. […] Any nice, sane Minnesota Republicans reading this, please vote for someone who isn’t a bully with a hate list next time.”
It’s certainly not the first time Gaiman’s Stillwater appearance raised eyebrows, but Dean is being awfully personal (to say nothing of hyperbolic).
The author first addressed questions about his fee last May, conceding that he’s, “Not just a bit pricy. Really expensive.”
“The main reason I got a speaking agency, ten years ago, was because too many requests for me to come and speak were coming in,” Gaiman continued. “And the speaking requests were, and are, a distraction from what I ought to be doing, which is writing. So rather than say no, we’ve always priced me high. Not Tony Blair high, or Sarah Palin high (last time I read about them, they’re about $400,000 and $150,000 respectively). But I’m at the top end of what it costs to bring an author who should be home writing and does not really want a second career as a public speaker to your event. So if you want to pay me to come in and talk, it’s expensive.”
He went on to recount that the money was earmarked “to bring authors to suburban libraries who otherwise wouldn’t be able to bring them in,” and that, if unused, could not be carried over the following year. With that in mind, he accepted the engagement then donated his fee (minus agent commissions) to two charities.