If Karl Bremer wasn’t causing a stir with the public information he was digging up and writing about, he wasn’t doing his job.
Bremer, writer of the blog Ripple in Stillwater, co-author of “The Madness of Michele Bachmann: A Broad-Minded Survey of a Small-Minded Candidate” and contributor to the website Dump Bachmann, died of complications related to pancreatic cancer on Tuesday at his home in Stillwater Township.
Bremer was 60 years old.
"We remember Karl's skill as an investigative reporter and photographer, but we also remember his courage, tenacity and good humor," Tuesday's post on Dump Bachmann reads. Karl grew up in Stillwater and was very protective of his hometown whether the insult came from politicos proposing a boondoggle bridge or reporters incorrectly describing Stillwater as the locus of Bachmann support in the 6th District."
Bremer is widely known as Michele Bachmann’s nemesis. He was a muckraker who wrote withering opinions of powerful people, but backed his opinion up with facts and public records.
"You can argue that his pursuit of Michele Bachmann was at times obsessive and excessive, but, really, I think ... we need approaches like Karl's," MinnPost media writer David Brauer told the Pioneer Press. "We need people to remind us that journalists can be hellraisers and rabble rousers and opinionated. He added facts to the debate."
“Karl was one of the greatest muckraking reporters that Minnesota has ever produced,” Ken Avidor, Bremer’s friend and co-author said on Wednesday. “I’m pleased to see the recognition he has gotten.”
Bremer would go to the courthouse, request public records and dig through boxes and boxes of documents, Avidor said. He bridged the old shoe-leather journalism with a mastery of electronic research.
He researched public records to explain dirty politics, Avidor said. “When doing that, the key is to follow the money, and Karl was very good at that.”
While working on the Vennes investigation, Avidor says he and Bremer read “every freakin’ document” available to the public.
Bremer also won first place for “Best News Portrait” capturing convicted money launderer and GOP donor Frank Vennes Jr. following a federal court appearance in September 2011.
As Avidor recalls:
“When Vennes saw Karl’s telephoto lens, he took off running down Robert Street. And there we were—I had my artist’s gear and Karl had his photography equipment—Karl was running after Vennes and I was running after Karl.”
During the chase, Vennes saw a police officer, stopped, pointed at the cop and said, ‘He’s chasing me,’ Avidor said. “Karl looked at the cop and said I’m with the press. The cop shrugged and the chase continued.”
Vennes eventually lost Bremer in the skyway system, Avidor said. But Bremer got his shot.
And then there was the “Boondoggle Bridge.”
Bremer wasn’t anti-establishment, Avidor said, He believed the law should be upheld, and when it came to the "Boondoggle," he was defending the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
“Karl went after anyone and everyone he thought was selling out the environment,” he said. “Karl didn’t spare anyone of any party.”
Bremer was also a music fan, a hunter and an avid environmentalist. He was also very proud of his town.
“He always defended Stillwater,” Avidor said. “He was a loyal son of the St. Croix River Valley.”
Bremer was drafted in 1972 and served in the U.S. Army's 759th Military Police Battalion until 1974.
"Fellows like Karl are few and far between, and they are irreplaceable," musician and Bremer’s longtime friend Paul Metsa told the Pioneer Press. "He was a really hip cat. When we lose people like Karl, the world does become less fun. He left a great legacy—his blog and his book, but he also left a real spiritual legacy on how he treated other people. He was very magnanimous and open-minded and one of the funniest people I ever knew."
Simonet Funeral Home is handling the arrangements. Service arrangements are pending.