Who is hosting the August 6 “People’s Forum” in Minneapolis?


Who is hosting the August 6 “People’s Forum,” billed as a Minneapolis School Board candidate forum, and why is a New York City-based PR firm sending out the media advisories for it?

When clicking on the “Event Brite” invitation for this “people’s” forum, it is clear that no recognizable name, of an individual or group, is listed anywhere on the invitation. And, if you want to ask a question of the event’s organizer, your question will be sent to an anonymous source.

However, an invitation and media advisory for this very populist sounding forum (did the “People” plan it?) was sent around to some people (not me, directly) on August 4, reminding them of this event. The advisory came from Lillian Nottingham, of the New York PR firm Group Gordon, with no Minnesota-based contact name included.

Therefore, in order to find out more about who is hosting this forum and how and why they have a “high end” New York PR firm handling their media contacts for it, I had to call Ms. Nottingham in New York.

Luckily, she answered the phone right away.

Hello, I said. I am calling from Minneapolis about the upcoming “People’s Forum.” Can you tell me more about who is hosting this event?

Sure, said Nottingham. The “People’s Committee” is putting on this candidate forum.

I said, who is in this “People’s Committee”? I have never heard of it, and I have heard very little about this forum.

Oh! I know Beth Hawkins has written about it for MinnPost (I could only find one small paragraph about it on Hawkins’ blog, recommending that people be sure to get to this forum).

The “people’s” committee is made up of multiple members, Nottingham said.

Can you please give me some names, I asked.

Sure, the SFER Action Network (the arm of Students for Education Reform that legitimately advocate for candidates) and MinnCAN, for example, she said. (This felt like a Mitt Romney moment. Are organizations like MinnCAN “people”?).

And who is Group Gordon doing PR for? I asked.

We are working directly on behalf of the SFER Action Network, which is an organization that provides summer fellowships to college students, as well as online student memberships, around campaigning.

So, I asked, who is paying the Group Gordon retainer? It seems unlikely that a bunch of college students are paying the Group Gordon fees.

Oh, I don’t think that’s a fair assumption, she said. I don’t know who is paying the retainer.

At this point, she put me on hold.

She came back on and explained a little more about the SFER Action Network. It is, she said, a national group with multiple chapters, who reached out to Group Gordon for representation. The goal here, she said, is to promote the “people’s forum,” and get the widest possible audience, so that the “people” can ask questions of Minneapolis School Board candidates.

Has anyone else from Minneapolis called to ask whom you are representing?

No, she said. There have been no other inquiries.

Ms. Nottingham said she would email me a complete list of who is hosting this candidate forum. She has yet to do so, but I have a source that spoke directly with her yesterday afternoon, and was able to get a list of the hosts.

In another blog post, I will detail who is on the list Nottingham provided.