Norm's number one buddy

Both daily newspapers reported today that Frauenshuh Companies has agreed to sell the Lawson Commons building in downtown St. Paul to a Dallas developer for $84.5 million. The Pioneer Press had, by far, the more informative coverage, but let's review the details of this stinky deal for a moment.

In 1997, in order to lure Lawson Software from Minneapolis, then-St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman agreed to spend more than $100 million on a new office tower for the company. Three years later the city turned around and sold the building to developer Frauenshuh Companies. Price tag? $54.5 million. For inexplicable reasons, the building had supposedly lost half of its value in less than a decade.

Or had it? Five years later--with the downtown St. Paul office market in absolutely dreadful condition (the vacancy rate has been over 20 percent for years)--the building has suddenly appreciated by more than 50 percent.

The big winner in this real-estate chicanery is, of course, David Frauenshuh, principal owner of Frauenshuh Companies. But another person has benefited tremendously from Frauenshuh's windfall: Norm Coleman.

The developer has become one of the now-U.S. Senator's most generous political patrons. Frauenshuh has contributed a whopping $45,000 to Norm-related causes since 2002, according to Federal Election Commission records. His family members have been awfully benevolent as well. Wife Sandra (whose occupation is listed as "homemaker") chipped in another $4,000, as did son Matthew (a "student").

Of course all of this money didn't go directly towards Norm's '08 election fund. That would violate FEC restrictions on political donations. Instead Frauenshuh has sloshed the funds around to various fundraising operations that aren't governed by such strict limitations.

Two such entities, the Coleman Leadership Committee and the Coleman Victory Committee, received a total of $47,000 from the Frauenshuh clan in the last four years.

The big losers in this deal have been the taxpayers of St. Paul, who ponied up the money for this boondoggle. Perhaps they should form their own fundraising operation and hit the Frauenshuh family up for a few donations.

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