Democracy dies in the darkness

Who funded the unsuccessful ballot effort to defund the Minneapolis police department? Out-of-state interests, mostly, with some mystery donors thrown in.

Question No. 2 appeared on the ballot last November in Minneapolis. Had it passed, it would have replaced the city’s police force with an, as yet, undefined Department of Public Safety. It was widely seen as a referendum on the “defund the police movement,” which arose after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020.

In the end, the effort was defeated by a wide margin (56%-44%), but not for lack of effort. The main advocacy group for the measure, Yes 4 Minneapolis, waged a vigorous campaign, raising and spending about $3.7 million on the effort. The group got an additional $1.1 million dollars’ worth of non-cash assistance.

Where did the money come from? Short answer: we don’t know.

The effort was seeded with an initial donation of $500,000 from the George Soros-funded nonprofit Open Society Policy Center. Campaign finance for Minneapolis elections is overseen by Hennepin County. The Soros donation, dated November 2020, is recorded in Yes 4 Minneapolis’ first filing with the County.

In the group’s second filing, dated August 2021, Yes 4 Minneapolis reports raising an additional $500,000. In addition to numerous small donations from around the country, the filing records a $75,000 donation from the national ACLU. A Minneapolis group listed as Black Visions Collective donated $100,000.

Although Black Visions Collective claims to be a nonprofit founded in 2017 in Minneapolis, it is, according to records kept by the Minnesota Attorney General’s office, a trade name of the St. Paul political nonprofit TakeAction MN. Black Visions Collective does not exist as an independent corporate entity.

Reclaim the Block, another trade name for TakeAction MN, contributed an additional $125,000 to Yes 4 Minnesota.

The Tides Foundation of San Francisco contributed $70,000. A group listed as WDN Action of San Francisco contributed an additional $100,000.

The national leftist nonprofit contributed $430,000 in “in kind” donations to the effort.

The group’s next report was filed in October 2021 and reports raising an additional $1.3 million. The ACLU was good for another $100,000. A group listed as Black Voters Matter contributed $50,000 this period.

Here’s where things start to get tricky. A donor located on University Avenue starting with the letter “F” gave $150,000. The name is redacted in this report, but the alphabetical placement of the item suggests that the donor was Faith in Minnesota, the 501c4 arm of the political nonprofit ISAIAH.

Soros’ Open Society Policy Center gave an additional $150,000 in this period, but curiously, this is how the entry appears in the Yes 4 Minneapolis final, year-end report.

TakeAction’s Reclaim the Block (in care of Black Visions Collective) gave another $500,000 in this period. Suburban School Employees Local 284 contributed $185,000 of “in kind” donations. Tides appears to have given an additional $150,000, but with the name now redacted.

In January, Yes 4 Minneapolis filed its final report for 2021, covering the last few months of the year. During this period, which covers election day, the group took in an additional $1.4 million.

The ACLU kicked in a final $150,000 in cash, along with some additional in-kind assistance. An unknown entity beginning with the letters “Cha” of unknown location gave $100,000. Here is the listing for that donor,

Faith in Minnesota contributed $50,000, in kind.

An entity beginning with the letter “G” contributed $15,000. Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors of New York donated $750,000, which represents most of the money raised during this period. TakeAction contributed about $300,000, in kind, and $205,000, in cash.

An unknown entity of unknown location beginning with the letter “W” contributed $25,000. The Working Families Organization of New York contributed $50,000 in cash and $90,000 in kind.

During the entire campaign run, Yes 4 Minnesota received $1.1 million in “in-kind” contributions, nearly all of which came from donors outside of Minneapolis. Half ($520,000) came from outside of Minnesota.

Of the $3.7 million in cash, $3.4 million came from large nonprofit donations from organizations located outside Minneapolis or of unknown origin. Most of that ($2.1 million) came from out-of-state or unknown sources.

To recap—

It’s clear that the political agenda of Minneapolis is being driven by actors located out of state. But the basic premise of campaign finance laws is that voters have a right to know who is financing elections.

When political funds submit, and regulatory authorities accept, reports with large donor name redacted, then faith is lost in the integrity of the process.