Money Money Money
This Labor World cartoon made me laugh out loud when I saw it seven days into the year 2000. It was published back in October and its suggestion that I raised corporate cash to fight off Al Netland is dead on accurate The corporate big wig, smoking the stogie at the top of the steps, looks on as I point out the cheerful Al Netland with his Union PAC money. This should have been my cartoon! Al's union candidates had an almost two-to-one financing advantage over my "fat cat" financed candidates.
The final fundraising tally for the School Board election demonstrates how strongly the public employee union leaders wanted to take over the School Board. School board spending was closer, perhaps higher, than the typical spending for a City Council race. I was the only non-union endorsed candidate to raise more money than my union backed challenger. Even Bob Mars, a representative of the wealthy propertied interests in Duluth, was only the fourth biggest fund raiser among the six at-large candidates. Incumbents Mary Cameron and Mary Glass Leblanc raised a pittance.
Money Raised in 1999
Old Guard/Incumbents Union backed Challengers
at-large Bob Mars
Dist 2 Harry Welty
$6,006.00 Pauline Nuhring
$5,845.39 Duluth Fed. Teachers
TOTAL $22,432.71 $43,193.69
This was a $65,000 school board campaign. This kind of spending is unprecedented in Duluth. While complete campaign finance records no longer exist for earlier campaigns some comparisons can be made.
In 1997 the 9 candidates in the general election (including the write-in candidate Bob Mars) raised a total of $26,850.89 not even half of the money raised this year.
average money raised for a winning candidate in 1993 was $3,065.14
In 1997 the public employee unions got actively involved in all local races especially the school board race. That year saw a steep increase in campaign spending. Union participation increased even more dramatically in 1999. Up until 1999 the winning candidates were usually also the top fund raisers. In 1999 the two top fundraisers (both union backed) lost the election.
This election saw the addition of "soft money" spent by independent committees. The total contributions to the union backed candidates (including the soft money from the two independent committees) averaged $8,638.74 per candidate. The Chamber backed candidates average fund raising (including their soft money contributions) averaged just $4,486.54 per candidate.
I received a curt note in the mail from a former DFT officer. He had jotted it down on the back of one of my campaign flyers. He accused me of preferring the money of the rich over the money of the union "rabble." He was wrong of course. I would have been glad to take union money had I not been required to make promises I disagreed with. When it became apparent that the public employee unions were intent on steam rolling me, I did solicit a contribution from a big shot at Edison. It amounted to $300; less than 5% of the money I raised.
Perhaps the most glaring proof of the union's determination to sweep this election was a huge, illegal*** $1,500 donation made by the "Minnesota Education Association" to the Put Children First Committee. Mary Schroeder, who vilified Mary Cameron was its chairman. Schroeder was also Eileen Zeitz Huddleson's campaign manager in 1997. Apparently Education Minnesota was so intent on winning that they were willing take the bad press exposure would have cause them. Paying a fine would have been a small price to pay to elect their candidates. They have lots of of money. Our teacher's union sends between $250,000 and $400,000 of union dues out of Duluth every year to the state and national unions. In fact, Education Minnesota refunded $4,915 in union dues to the DFT for the 1999 elections.
I have just filed a complaint against "Put Children First" with the St. Louis County Attorney.
** 1-7-2000 I talked with Tom Wilkowske of the Duluth News Tribune today. I've made some modest corrections to the contribution information I first posted on this page after he pointed out some errors.
*** Tom told me that the St. Louis County Attorney has determined that the contribution I call illegal is legal. The County Attorney has not contacted me yet. I think the County Attorney is wrong based on the forms "Put Children First" was required to fill out. The state law limiting contributions to $300 is printed on those forms. The County attorney says that since "Put Children First" is not a candidate committee this wording does not apply to them. If the County Attorney is right there is no campaign finance law in Minnesota and anyone can spend as much as they want to elect any candidate they want. I will protest this decision and investigate an appeal.