Mystery persists about finances of Minneapolis PACs and candidates



A handful of financial reports from Minneapolis political committees and candidates remain as imaginary as the just-pretend primary election that made them mandatory more than two weeks ago.

The reports are supposed to let voters know who is putting money into political funds, how the committees are spending their money, and how much money they have on hand. The size of individual candidates’ purses is kept in check by donation limits, but greater quantities of unrestricted cash can go to political action committees (PACs) – about a dozen of which still haven’t filed.

Several of the PACs for which no reports are available have proven active and influential in the past. A group registered with the county as Parks Present Future (and chaired by Park Board President Tom Nordyke) successfully battled back a proposed city charter amendment this year that would have done away with the city’s quasi-independent park board. Treasurer Kari Dziedzic didn’t respond to messages about the group’s finances.

Another committee, People for Independent Parks (PIP), raised thousands of dollars from developers and donors outside the city to help elect a slate of candidates in 2005, including incumbent park commissioner Carol Kummer, who defeated challenger Jason Stone by 300 votes out of nearly 13,000 cast. The group didn’t register until after the 2005 primary, so the sources of its funding weren’t revealed until just before and after the general election.

PIP re-registered as an active committee early this year, but at that time there was to be no pre-primary reporting requirement; the first financial filing was set for just before the general election. Only after the Minneapolis City Council voted in June to set a faux primary for Sept. 15 (because instant-runoff voting makes a real primary unnecessary) did the earlier filing become required.

Financial reports can tell a lot about a political committee once they’re filed. A case in point in Citizens for Independent Parks (CIP). CIP led a petition drive to put a city charter amendment on the ballot that would give the park board greater taxing autonomy, then fought an ultimately unsuccessful court battle after the city council rejected the referendum as unconstitutional.

CIP’s pre-primary report (pdf) reveals that of $32,100 CIP raised, $20,000 came from park board attorney Brian Rice, and $1,700 from six other park board staff members. The Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, another Rice client, donated $10,000, and a catering company that leases space at park board headquarters provided $1,500 worth of T-shirts.

Treasurer Patty Hillmeyer said the group hasn’t met to decide what to do with its money, but staffer Justin Fay tells the Minnesota Independent that most of the nearly $16,000 CIP reported having on hand as of Sept. 1 “has gone to pay for various overhead costs.” The group has 60 days from an adverse Sept. 10 ruling to file a planned appeal, according to Fay.

Nordyke and City Council Member Don Samuels are the biggest candidates still missing from Hennepin County’s online records. Nordyke’s treasurer said Tuesday she tried to file by email a week late but was sending a required hard copy, while Samuels’ treasurer didn’t respond to messages. Technical difficulties at the county also delayed some timely reports’ posting.

Delays of more than three days incur fines, since late filing robs the public of critical information about those who seek their trust. The problem is even more acute with pre-general campaign finance reports, which are supposed to be filed a mere week before the general election.

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