Pohlad family has given well over $200,000 in campaign contributions
Despite consistent public opposition to
taxpayer subsidies for the owners of professional sports franchises,
the Twins, and perhaps the Vikings stadiums have picked up strong
The Governor and the Legislature appear
poised to provide hundreds of millions of tax dollars for a stadium,
letting the team owners keep 100% of the proceeds from the new
stadium -- even the naming rights to a stadium that taxpayers pay for!
If these tax revenues weren't used for
a new stadium, they could be used to clean up Minnesota lakes and
rivers, meet transportation and transit needs, or undo the cuts to
childcare and early childhood education -- priorities the Governor
and Legislature have been unable to fund this year.
Why is this occurring? Follow the
You don't even need to count the
contributions from the Twins' lobbyists. The Pohlad family, which
owns the Minnesota Twins, contributed to Governor Pawlenty and to
one of his DFL challengers. The Pohlad family gave to the
Republican Senate Caucus and to the DFL Senate Caucus. They
gave to the DFL and Republican House caucuses.
Carl Pohlad and his sons gave to
legislative leaders of both parties -- they even gave to candidates
running against each other. In the 2002 gubernatorial race they
contributed to two Republican candidates for governor, two DFL
candidates, and the Independence party candidate -- they had all the
bases covered, regardless of who won the election. The Pohlad family
has given well over $200,000 in campaign contributions since 2000!
For a couple hundred thousand dollars
in contributions, they will likely gain a couple hundred million
dollars in taxpayer subsidies. It is a great deal for the Pohlad
I am not suggesting that there is any
quid pro quo here. I'm not suggesting someone is buying votes or
that anything illegal has occurred here. But, if it wasn't for
pro-stadium lobbying pressure, wouldn't many legislators rather use
the money to clean up polluted waters or for other urgent needs?
If gubernatorial candidates did not
receive generous contributions from the team owners and lobbyists,
perhaps the Governor would stand up to the pressure and provide
leadership in assembling a private financing package,
something he has failed to do.
Some people may dispute the notion that
Mr. Pohlad and his sons are contributing money in order to get a
subsidy from the state. If so, listen to how the Pohlad family and
the Twins' lobbyists respond:
Ten years ago, when they first started
lobbying for a new stadium, the Twins' lead lobbyist was asked why
the Pohlads started making large campaign contributions when they had
not been big contributors prior to that time. His answer says it
all: "They haven't been before the Legislature with a request
of this size before, and now they are."
Many people make contributions to
candidates or parties they support to help them campaign. Perhaps
one could argue that the Pohlads are only giving to candidates and to
the party they philosophically agree with. But then how do you
explain giving $26,000 to the Republican Senate caucus as well as
$40,000 to the DFL one? Or Carl Pohlad's giving the legal maximum to
both Governor Pawlenty and to one of his DFL rivals last year?
When lobbyists and people seeking favors from government contribute
large amounts of money to both parties, it's clearly not because they
agree with both. It is an attempt to influence the political process.
When they first started lobbying for a
stadium subsidy, Bob Pohlad said that his family's bi-partisan giving
was done because, "we don’t want to do anything to paint
the challenge as a partisan issue. It's not." Perhaps this
gives new meaning to the word bi-partisan -- they're trying to buy
Bob Pohlad is right that the
contributions probably don’t buy votes. But they certainly
help buy goodwill and gain access.
"We're not trying to buy votes,"
Bob Pohlad said. "There's probably a group of people who will
think that. Yes, we made the contributions. It's the way the world