ST. PAUL (AP) -- Gov. Jesse Ventura is making good on a bet -- a hefty one that will require some taxpayer money.
Ventura was scheduled to fly to Syracuse, N.Y., Thursday evening to attend the Ultimate Fishing Challenge on Onondaga Lake with New York Gov. George Pataki. The trip is the result of a lighthearted wager with Pataki on last season's Vikings-Giants NFL playoff game.
"We believe that there is value in this trip for Minnesota," Ventura spokesman John Wodele said, although he acknowledged that it doesn't rise fully to the level of official business.
But Friday's meeting with Pataki is raising questions about its expense for Minnesota taxpayers and even its effect on fish. And the backdrop is dampened by the training-camp death of Vikings tackle Korey Stringer.
"I don't know how the governor can justify having his security and his radio producer travel with him just to pay off a bet," said Rep. Phil Krinkie, R-Shoreview, a frequent critic of Ventura's extracurricular activities.
Ventura's airfare is being paid by his campaign committee, and lodging costs for his group will be defrayed by his hosts. But taxpayers will pick up more than $2,000 in airfare for the governor's bodyguards and his radio-show producer, David Ruth, who flew to New York state Wednesday. Ventura will return Friday night.
It's an established precedent that Ventura's security detail follow him at state expense wherever he goes, on state business or not, on grounds that protecting the governor at all times is in the public interest. Less clear is the status of Ruth and other aides who handle technical arrangements for the weekly "Lunch with the Governor" show on WCCO Radio and 21 other stations around Minnesota.
Wodele noted that Ventura's agreement with WCCO requires the governor's office to pay costs of broadcasting from remote locations. Under a two-year contract, the radio station provides technical equipment and an hour of airtime each Friday and Ventura puts on the show.
An animal-rights group called on Ventura to cancel the Syracuse trip, saying angling is cruel to fish. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said studies have shown that about half the fish that are caught, tagged and released for fishing tournaments die in a few days from stress on their systems.
"We ask you not to treat their suffering and deaths like a game," PETA leader Jay Kelly wrote in a letter to Ventura.
Ventura has enthusiastically led the annual Minnesota governor's fishing opener for three years, proudly proclaiming his catch. If the Vikings had beaten the Giants in the playoffs, Pataki would have joined Ventura at the May opener in Breezy Point.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.