MNGOP circumvention scheme

An email obtained by the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board suggests the MNGOP's alleged financial shenanigans might not have been limited to the legal bills from the 2010 gubernatorial recount.

The January 2011 email from then-party chair Tony Sutton to former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice and longtime MNGOP supporter Eric Magnuson implies Sutton envisioned a similar "circumvention" scheme to help cover costs associated with the then-impending redistricting effort.

Two days after Sutton sent the email, a group called Minnesotans for a Fair Redistricting filed with the Minnesota Secretary of State for registration as a nonprofit corporation.

The New York Times recently reported that a St. Louis-based drug benefit company named Express Scripts gave $10,000 to Minnesotans for a Fair Redistricting last year. Brian Henry, spokesman for the company, which has a facility in Bloomington, said the company donated because the "electoral maps in Minnesota were in doubt and we supported efforts to bring certainty to Minnesota voters."

The Times' report, combined with the Sutton-Magnuson email, suggests the MNGOP may have been illegally raising funds for the redistricting battle. As Common Cause's Mike Dean explained, it's unlawful for the MNGOP or any political party to set up a for-profit or nonprofit corporation that accepts undisclosed corporate contributions and then uses the money for party purposes.

"What happened with [the recount], also happened with redistricting," Dean told City Pages. "There's a pattern when the Minnesota Republican Party was trying to get around the ban on corporate contributions to political parties with these shell organizations."

Dean added that his focus, for now, is on the criminal complaint he just filed in connection with the recount case. He plans to spend more time looking into how the redistricting battle was funded after the election.

"People don't make political contributions out of the goodness of their heart — they're expecting something in return," Dean said. "This particular email provides an opportunity to shine a brighter light on this." —Aaron Rupar

Drinking for two?

The ladies room at Pub 500 in Mankato received an odd distinction last week. It is, according to a nonprofit group called Healthy Brains for Children, the first bathroom in the world to house a pregnancy-test dispenser.

Healthy Brains for Children is hoping that the message will ring loud and clear: If a woman knows she's pregnant, she will abstain from drinking alcohol. In turn, there will be a greatly reduced chance that another child will be born with fetal alcohol syndrome.

According to Jody Allen Crowe, Healthy Brains for Children's director, the group is hoping this dispenser will be the first of many installed in the United States, and eventually all over the world.

"What we're trying to do is provide tools for women to find out as soon as possible if they're pregnant," Crowe said. "By putting these dispensers in alcohol establishments, the message and the tool are right there."

Crowe formerly worked as a teacher on a Native American reservation, where he says he saw many children suffering from behavioral problems he later linked, through research, to alcohol use by their mothers while pregnant.

He continued researching the subject and then published his own book, titled The Fatal Link, examining the link between prenatal alcohol exposure and school violence. He quit teaching to form Healthy Brains for Children.

Tom Frederick, the owner of Pub 500, met Crowe when he would come in for breakfast during the time he was working on his book. The two men got to chatting, and Frederick thought Crowe's idea for the pregnancy-test dispensers made a lot of sense.

"It's the right thing to do," Frederick said. "Obviously, we looked at it as a strange idea at first, but it can help prevent problems that are 100 percent preventable." —Erika Wolf

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