The battle for the police opens a tap of money in Mpls. groceries

Money is pouring into the Minneapolis election at a breakneck rate as residents of the city prepare to vote on the future of its police service and the issue assumes increasing importance in national politics.

Two months away from the first municipal election since George Floyd’s death, political committees on both sides of the issue have already surpassed fundraising totals set in the last election cycle.

Several political agents and former city officials have said they believe fundraising is at an all-time high, although they agree it is difficult to verify.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Jackie Cherryhomes, who served on Minneapolis City Council for 12 years and served as its chairman. “We who live here will live with the consequences of any outcome, and that should be our decision as residents of our city.”

The injection of national money into local races has become a matter of division. Some groups say it is absolutely necessary to correct a power imbalance that has left historically marginalized groups speechless in city politics. Others fear the money will cover the concerns of residents who fear their city will become a laboratory for untested police proposals.

The fundraising numbers reported so far are only a fraction of the total amount likely to be funneled into the November 2 election.

The future of the Minneapolis Police Department is already showing up as an issue in state and federal races next year. Republicans hoping to win back majorities have sought to portray Democrats as candidates who want to “fund” the police. Democrats, meanwhile, are under increasing pressure to clarify their position on an issue that has divided their party.

Exceed election totals

By the last election campaign finance filing deadlines this month, Hennepin County political committees had grossed more than $ 1 million. This has already exceeded the total of approximately $ 740,000 that the committees raised there in 2017, during the last municipal races.

According to a review of documents filed by Star Tribune, 14 of the 20 committees that raised funds in 2017 had addresses in Minneapolis. This year, seven of the 18 committees had addresses in Minneapolis, while the rest came from a mix of other Minnesota cities across the country.

The biggest fundraiser so far this year has been the new political committee called Yes 4 Minneapolis, which has drafted a proposal asking voters if they want to pave the way for officials to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a new public security agency.

The group, registered in St. Paul, disclosed nearly $ 984,000 in donations – half in cash and the other in services. (A spokesperson said he used a volunteer address at first and was in the process of updating it.)

Among their donors was the progressive national organization MoveOn.org, which disclosed about $ 430,000 in “in-kind” donations in the form of emails and text messages to benefit the group.

Other big fundraisers included a new committee called All of Mpls, which campaigns against the proposal to replace the police department and promotes a proposal that would bring Minneapolis closer to a “strong mayor” system. . This group raised approximately $ 109,000 in the three weeks leading up to the deadline. Among the 23 donors to the group who reached the dollar amount for public disclosure, many were developers, business executives or lawyers. About half had also contributed to mayor Jacob Frey’s candidacy for re-election.

An overview of total expenses

The donations disclosed so far represent a fraction of the total amount that will go to the race. If past trends hold true, some of the biggest spending will be in the final days before the election.

With the delta variant of the coronavirus complicating in-person campaign plans, some observers expect flyers, ads and social media to play a key role in the final push.

The groups organized so far are preparing for a flood. JaNaé Bates, spokesperson for Yes 4 Minneapolis, said she expects her group to be spent.

“It might be a David and Goliath story, and this story is powerful for a reason,” she said. “I think it’s going to be a big fight if these dollars are going to outperform, outperform, lower people.”

Due to a loophole in state law, some donations will not be disclosed until after the vote.

“I’m afraid you have a lot of blank in terms of spending related to voting matters,” said Jeff Sigurdson, executive director of the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board.

Committees that spend money on state elections as well as local elections have the option of applying to the state council. In odd-numbered years – when local races are held but not at the state level – committees that file there only have to submit a disclosure report, and it only comes after the elections are held.

That will change in 2022, when a new state law increases the number of reports these committees have to submit in local election years.

“It’s a little disturbing that you can go through an entire election in the largest city in Minnesota, and there is no transparency on who is funding election communications and information about it,” Rep. Mike said. Freiberg, DFL-Golden Valley, who pushed for the new law. “I thought it made a lot of sense as a policy to make this change.”

Search for a comparison

Although political observers say campaign spending appears to be heading for local records, it’s hard to verify. Hennepin County election officials keep records for five years, enough to compare only one previous election. This retention schedule, they said, is based on state law.

Few others appear to keep historical data on local election spending, a phenomenon that David Schultz, professor of politics at Hamline University, attributes in part to the fact that the data is kept in PDF format, which does not lend itself to to easy computer analysis.

He said he suspects the most appropriate comparison would be with the 1978 election, when National Conservatives came to St. Paul to campaign for the repeal of an ordinance protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual or lesbian people. transgender.

According to an article in the Minneapolis Tribune at the time, groups organizing for and against the repeal said they spent about $ 148,000 in total, an inflation-adjusted equivalent of around $ 630,000 today. ‘hui.

Money poured into the fight against the police department has an impact on mayor and city council races, where it quickly became the dominant issue. Political observers expect that spending on the ballot issue may affect the turnout for candidates’ races, some of which have been decided by narrow margins in recent years.

“You must be thinking, at this point, that … several board members are going to live or die depending on their position on the ‘fundraising policy’ [movement]”said Schultz.

Affecting other races

The fight for the city’s police service is already spilling over into national and national politics and campaigns for future elections.

Governor Tim Walz and US Senator Amy Klobuchar, both Democrats, oppose the specific question about the Minneapolis poll, though both have said police reform is needed.

National and state Republican organizations are using Minneapolis – and the burning of the Third Police Station after Floyd’s death – in posts to rally their bases. They have sought to portray Democrats as candidates who want to withdraw funding from the police.

Among those targeted was U.S. Representative Angie Craig, a Democrat whose battlefield district covers the southern metropolitan area. Craig released a statement last week saying she opposed plans to replace the Minneapolis Police Department and efforts to fund the police.

“I think Democrats need to tackle this issue head on,” Craig said in an interview. “I think Democrats across the country are going to be affected by this in 2022, and we had better come out with what our actual record is or we’re going to be defending throughout the electoral cycle.”

Researcher John Wareham contributed to this report.

Liz Navratil • 612-673-4994


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