Northwest Gets Another Handout

There's a free City Pages T-shirt in it for anyone who has the wiles to figure out whether those helpful Northwest Airlines ticket counter people routinely bump Gov. Tim Pawlenty to first class. If they don't, they really ought to. Or maybe their bosses ought to put some kind of flag or flashing beacon on his profile in the reservation system so flight attendants know to leave the whole can of ginger ale.

In the latest chapter of the ongoing drama in which Northwest shores up its balance sheets on the backs of Jane and Joe Minnesota, Metropolitan Airports Commission Chair Jack Lanners, a T-Paw appointee, this week presided over the cutting of a deal that will essentially give Northwest a $239 million rent reduction from '06 to 2020, and possibly more.

The deal would all but cancel out the money Northwest borrowed from the MAC in 1992--the last time the airline insinuated that without the help of the public, it would be forced to pull up stakes and bless the people of some other state with its good jobs.

Yeah, those good jobs.

In exchange for this latest bailout, Northwest will agree to keep a headquarters and a hub at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. (Bonus points if you remembered that that was pretty much what they promised in exchange for the loan 15 years ago.)

The Strib has details:

Savings for the airlines will come from fees paid to the airport by the restaurants, shops and auto rentals that operate there. And because it will be sharing that revenue and reducing airline fees, the MAC would be left with less money to spend on construction, early debt payment and soundproofing of homes under the flight paths.

But back to Pawlenty and Lanners. The owner of MGM Liquor Warehouse, Lanners also appears to be the kind of guy who puts his money where his mouth is. Campaign finance records at the state and federal level show him contributing some $45,000 in the last three election cycles, all of it to Minnesota Republicans, to Minnesotans for Marriage, and to a political action committee called the Freedom Club of America. The Club, which boasts donor disclosure statements that read like a Who's Who of the rich and the far right, made even more donations to some of the same pols. Pawlenty got $1,300 from Lanners, and another $2,500 from Freedom Club.

In terms of largesse toward business, Lanners had precedents to keep up. His Pawlenty-appointed predecessor, the redoubtable Vicki Tigwell, stood prepared to undertake a massive expansion project Northwest desired even though the airline was already suggesting bankruptcy might be in the offing.