A campaign flier supporting Minneapolis City Council President Barb Johnson took what looks like a white mom and her son and switched them out for what looks like a black mom and her son.
The flier started showing up recently in Ward 4, the north Minneapolis neighborhood Johnson has represented for 20 years. A majority of the district's residents are non-white, and about one-third are black.
The mail piece was noticed and tweeted by D.A. Bullock, a community organizer and a fellow at the Bush Foundation, who publicized the advertisement around midnight Tuesday.
Did u see this? Did it make you laugh and cry at the same time? Lawd, please Ward 4 time to make a change pic.twitter.com/mjM0mbowci— D.A. Bullock (@BullyCreative) October 17, 2017
Johnson said Tuesday afternoon she's as surprised as anyone to see the literature, and distanced herself from its content.
"I don't like it," Johnson told City Pages. "That's why I disavow it."
Johnson also put out a statement denouncing the mailer on her campaign Facebook page:
Today, I call on Minneapolis Works! and any other outside groups to stop independent expenditures of mailings and other campaign literature into the 4th Ward. Last week a mailing came into my ward that contained a stock picture that was then altered by Photoshop changes. This picture has no connection to the 4th ward residents and is simply a fake. I understand any group can exercise their first amendment rights, but my campaign has no connection to this group, we don’t need their help and we do not welcome this type of campaigning. I trust the voters will make informed decisions on who will represent them based on the efforts of my campaign and those other candidates who seek the office of Fourth Ward City Council.
Johnson says she can't recall seeing independent expenditures supporting her campaign in past election cycles, and says she has not personally seen other outside spending occur yet this year.
Minneapolis Works!, the group behind the offending flier, registered with Hennepin County in June. The group's treasurer is Matt Perry, owner of a software company and a past candidate for Minneapolis City Council. In 2013, Perry challenged Linnea Palmisano for the Ward 13 seat in southwest Minneapolis; Palmisano bested Perry for both the DFL endorsement and, later, in the general election (43 percent to Perry's 39 percent).
The first Minneapolis Works! campaign finance report, filed August 1, shows donations from a handful of people, including employees of the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce, the Minneapolis Downtown Council, and Lupe Development Partners, a real estate development firm behind projects throughout the city. At the time of its filing, Minneapolis Works! reported $12,000 cash on hand.
According to the also exclamatorily-named WedgeLive!, MinneapolisWorks! is responsible for capmaign lit pieces supporting numerous city council candidates. In each case noted by WedgeLive!, the political action committee is backing an incumbent: Johnson, Lisa Goodman, Kevin Reich, and John Quincy. So far as is known, the Barb Johnson piece is the only one to take a stock photo and pull the racial rug out from the people finding it on their doorsteps.
Johnson, who is being challenged by two progressive DFL candidates -- Stephanie Gasca and Phillipe Cunningahm -- says MinneapolisWorks! and its mail piece have "no connection to the Fourth Ward."