First Time Activist? Not Exactly

Congressman Tom Emmer’s much anticipated (at least in the media) town hall meeting did not live up to advanced billing by most press accounts.  A lively but largely civil give-and-take went on for about an hour in a crowded, standing room only Sartell City Hall.

One of the questions being floated by the press focuses on whether the boisterous crowds turning out to disrupt congressional constituent meetings marks the onset of a Democratic party tea party movement.  Were the hundreds of people in Sartell an authentic grassroots response to the Trump era or more of an “astroturf” organized political campaign directed by seasoned operatives? The Star Tribune made it a point to ask some participants.

Vicki Morgan, 73, of Annandale, said the presidential election prompted her to attend political events for the first time in her life, starting with the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. She came to the meeting with 20 cards she planned to deliver to Emmer, each with a message from someone explaining why they are concerned about climate change. She said she’s especially concerned about the fate of the Environmental Protection Agency.

She bristled at the idea that meeting attendees like her are being paid, as some Republicans have suggested. “Standing out here for three hours at 73 — nobody could pay me to do that,” she said.

From that exchange, you might get the impression that Ms. Morgan is an average Central Minnesota citizen turned onto politics for the first time in outrage over the election of Donald Trump. In reality, Vicki Morgan and her husband Lee appear to be longtime Democratic Party contributors with a $45 million family foundation.

The Open Secrets website at the Center for Responsive Politics indicates the Morgans have donated thousands of dollars to some of the party’s most liberal candidates over the years. For example, Vicki Morgan has contributed to the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders, according to Open Secrets. The group’s records show Lee Morgan has made political donations to Keith Ellison, Paul Wellstone, Al Franken, Elizabeth Warren and Emily’s List, among other candidates in recent years.

Records show the Morgans have been significantly involved in sixth congressional district politics, as well, all in support of DFL candidates. They contributed a combined $9,200 to state Rep. Tarryl Clark’s ill-fated 2010 campaign against Cong. Michele Bachmann, while Lee donated $1,250 to businessman Jim Graves’ unsuccessful attempt to unseat Bachmann in 2012.

It should hardly come as a surprise that someone with that record of campaign contributions turns up as a supporter of the Democratic party or providing quotes to the media on sixth congressional district politics.