City Pages: Pro-development faction on park board got big 11th-hour financial help

In this recent article by Britt Robson at the City Pages, we learn that after a large amount of developer financed help funneled through a front group PAC, there was a nice quid pro quo for at least one contributor.

» A Little Help from Their Friends

Why did a developer and a billionaire venture capitalist give $10,000 each to a Minneapolis Park Board PAC?

by Britt Robson
November 23, 2005

Leading up to the city elections held earlier this month, the battles between old-guard DFLers and the so-called reform faction on the Minneapolis Park Board often grew so heated and so personal that it was easy to forget that there were differences of policy as well as of personality underlying the fight.

But the differences may have been underscored during the run-up to the election by an extraordinary show of generosity on the part of two prominent political donors: Campaign records made public just before the election showed that developer Paul Klodt and venture capitalist Vance Opperman had donated $10,000 each to an old-guard-friendly organization called People for Independent Parks [PIP], which in turn poured a lot of resources into closely contested races in Districts Five and Six. In the end, old-schoolers Bob Fine and Carol Kummer won those two seats, helping to keep would-be board reformers on the short end of a 5-4 board split.

What prompted such a show of largesse in a race where the contribution limit on political donations to individual candidates runs from $300 a year (for district seats) to $500 a year (for at-large seats)? «

» Because PIP was formed so late in the campaign, the PAC did not need to file a campaign finance report until just before the recent election, covering contributions through October 21. That report reveals that more than 80 percent of the $23,600 raised by the group came from Klodt and Opperman.

Though precise expenditure figures were not available, PIP seemed to deploy much of that sum on behalf of park board incumbent Carol Kummer, who was generally regarded as the most vulnerable of the old guard seeking reelection. On October 5, Klodt contributed $10,000 to PIP. During the last two weeks of the campaign, no fewer than four PIP-sponsored pieces of literature blanketed the District Five area where Kummer was running. On November 8, Kummer defeated Jason Stone by a mere 300 votes, out of 12,796 total ballots cast.

Just six days later, on November 14, a proposed 233-unit housing project to be developed by Klodt, known as Hiawatha Flats, was brought before the Minneapolis Planning Commission. Although the commission agreed to rezone the area, located at East 43rd Street and Snelling Avenue in south Minneapolis, to accommodate the development, they denied the issuance of a conditional-use permit that would have moved the project forward. The vote to stymie Klodt’s Hiawatha Flats was 6-1. The lone vote in favor of Klodt was cast by the park board representative to the planning commission — Carol Kummer. «

Read the entire article here.