A Minnesota budget battle has expanded into an attack on Neil Gaiman, as one fiscally-minded politician called the Newbery Award winning writer, whom he “hates,” a “pencil-necked little weasel who stole $45,000 from the state of Minnesota.”

The comment came up as Minnesota House Majority Leader Rep. Matt Dean (R) sought to change the way “Legacy funding” is used to pay for cultural services, such as Minnesota Public Radio, the zoo and, specifically, Gaiman’s $45,000 fee for speaking at the Stillwater Library last year.

The fee is high, as Gaiman himself notes, but he charges a lot of money to discourage speaking requests and he says he donated the money to charity.

Rep. Dean Urdahl is suggesting that instead of being granted the Legacy money, institutions like MPR be required to compete for it:

Legislation that Urdahl’s panel adopted less than a week ago recommended that Minnesota Public Radio receive $2 million in Legacy money over the next two years, that public television get $7.8 million and that an assortment of minority groups, including the Council on Black Minnesotans, share $1 million.

In the new version, most of the groups that previously were to get specific appropriations would now have to compete for the money.

Via Twitter, Gaiman was a bit nonplussed by the attack, tweeting:

Any nice, sane Minnesota Republicans reading this, please vote for someone who isn’t a bully with a hate list next time.

Our own editorialization: Listen, you can target the socialist globalizers at MPR, which has won seven Peabody Awards, and six Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards just fine — but THE ZOO? Leave the children alone!


  1. “In the new version, most of the groups that previously were to get specific appropriations would now have to compete for the money.”

    Personally, I’m hoping they do it in a steel cage with accompanying music from the classic STAR TREK episode “Amok Time.”

  2. Todd, back off that Bachmann stuff. She represents one heavily gerrymandered district, and the rest of MN has, ahem, a relatively low opinion of her. It’s an insult to MN to imply that she represents the whole state.
    Mike Dean is using a very old issue to grandstand, one which has been resolved ages ago to the satisfaction of most. Dean is hoping people have short memories and long tempers.
    As for Gaiman, who lives just over the Wisconsin border, we’re proud to have him for a neighbor. We wish he’d stop in and visit more often, but he has a busy life. Hey, we’re Minnesotans, we understand, ya know!

  3. Non sequitur:

    At first I mis-read the headline as “Minnesota *poll* calls Neil Gaiman a “pencil-necked little weasel.””

    …which would have been hilarious if it was the will of the people or something.

  4. “Wow. That is a big fee. I hope the charity he donated it to was a public library.”

    According to Neil’s comments at the time (the link to his blog is somewhere upthread) of the amount he received, 25% went to a social/abuse charity, and the other 75% goes to an author/literature/library related charity program.

  5. James – how did he stiff the state? Did he take money and not give the speech? No. He was chosen by the library to give a speech. The money was paid out of a fund that was earmarked specifically for bringing speakers to libraries. The funds in question could only be used for speakers and were set to expire the following month.

  6. Okay everyone, can we calm down from the Republican hate a little? Should we judge all Democrats by the actions of Dennis Kucinich? This guy is a name-calling bully. That’s wrong. But I have no problem with his fiscal responsibility. It was moronic for a library to pay ANYONE that much money for an appearance, unless they charged a fee for attendance. I don’t blame Neil for taking it. That is the free market.

  7. Jerry,
    You’re missing a big point. That money was a special fund used specifically to bring big-name authors to smaller libraries which otherwise would not be able to afford the fees. The money could not be spent elsewhere. It could not be spent on anything other than a big name author (which why aren’t we all insanely excited that a funny book writer is considered a big name author). The library had already brought in a bunch of other writers that year, but still had a lot left. AND THE MONEY HAD TO BE USED. If it didn’t get used, it went away. The fund wasn’t some general purpose fund that could be used to hire a couple more summer staff or buy more copies of Winesburg, Ohio – it HAD to be used for a speaker.

    That happens a lot with government. Money gets set aside for specific purposes that groups like libraries have worked very hard to get because they feel those purposes have merit, and it usually comes with a caveat that the money has to go to that specific purpose to avoid improprieties.

    It didn’t cost anyone their job, it didn’t keep any kids from being able to check out a copy of The Black Cauldron. It didn’t buy Neil a porsche.

    All that happened was Neil spoke for 4 hours (and honestly how great would it be to hear Neil speak for 4 hours! – Springsteen doesn’t even go for 4 hours), and then he gave the money away charity.

    There are no “BUTs” in this situation. There is nothing here that should have been done differently, except for maybe some small-minded shithead who needs to actually read instead of just being a conjectural tool.

  8. For whatever reason this whole issue has reminded me of Jaime Lannister who was generally reviled for slaying the Mad King Aerys Targaryen while a memeber of the King’s Guard, which he considered the one truly noble act he had ever done. Therefore, from now on I am referring to this incident as the time Neil was Lannistered.

  9. It seems silly to play “political football” with a writer in print… especially a world class writer in print… you’re very likely to provoke them into writing a response… and you can bet your bottom dollar that they will write a better response than you.

  10. Thanks for the clarification, William. If that is the case, the root problem should be attacked. I think that is an unreasonable way to spend money, and the rules which govern its distribution are also unreasonable. They weren’t “forced” to use the money. They don’t use it, it goes somewhere else (unfortunately, probably not to tax relief or debt payments). What’s the loss? I’m all for tax money to be spent on library books, but for visiting celebrities? Let them donate their time or stay home. Just my opinion.

    Still don’t blame Neil for taking it, though. That’s a lot of money for four hours work.

  11. “Still don’t blame Neil for taking it, though. That’s a lot of money for four hours work.”

    Neil didn’t take a penny. He paid agent fee to his agency, and donated the rest.

  12. I know we’re splitting hairs here, but respectfully, you contradict your own statement. He took money from an institution using taxpayer funds. Taxpayers who had no choice in how that money is spent. He then donated the money to charities of his own choice. I am not faulting him. But he did take the money.

    I would (again respectfully) point out that if I were a Minnesota taxpayer, I would rather I, rather than Neil Gaiman, decide how to spend my hard-earned money. But that’s the government’s fault, not Neil’s. Just sayin’.

  13. Then again, perhaps the library could have used that money to bring in several name authors, rather than one great big, gigantic author.

  14. “Taxpayers who had no choice in how that money is spent.”

    Legacy Fund was created by a state constitutional amendment passed by Minnesota voters, so taxpayers basically said “we approve that a certain portion of sales tax revenue should be spent in arts promotion, and we leave it up to the government to decide how to spend it.”