Minnesota For Sale: using every tool in the Toolbox

Digging deeper into the world of “dark money.”

We’ve mentioned a couple of times the possibly non-existent Toolbox Fund, which contributed $232,000 to the Democratic party effort last year, through an entity called the 2022 Fund. The address given for Toolbox is a post office box in Arlington, VA. The name does not appear in any of the usual corporate or campaign finance databases. The email address given for Toolbox is from an unclaimed internet domain name.

But through campaign finance filings, we can confirm that the money behind Toolbox comes from individuals who are related to, or employed by, the Rockefeller Family.

A thumbnail history of the Rockefeller Family. The patriarch, John D. Rockefeller, became America’s first billionaire, through his Standard Oil monopoly. His only son, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., ran the family business later on.

John Jr. had six children: Abby, John III, Nelson, Lawrance, Winthrop, and David. Despite the presence of Abby, this generation is known as the Brothers. Among the Brothers, Nelson and Winthrop are best known for their political careers. Lawrance and David made their mark in business. John III is best remembered for his philanthropic work.

The Brothers generation had at least 22 children. This generation is known as the Cousins. Perhaps the best known among the 22 is J.D. Rockefeller IV, (“Jay”) who served as the Governor of, and a U.S. Senator from, West Virginia. Alida Messinger is one of Jay’s sisters.

The number of blood-relative descendants of the original J.D. Rockefeller is believed to be above 150.

The Rockefeller Family has a number of philanthropic entities associated with the family name. Two of the most prominent, and two closely associated with political activities, are the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Rockefeller Family Fund.

Back to Toolbox. The contact person for Toolbox is a staffer at the Rockefeller Family Fund. According to a disclosure filed by the 2022 Fund, the $232,000 came from the following donors.

The above table indicates the relationship between the donor and the Brothers generation, where known. The table also indicates whether the donor sits on the board of either the Brothers Fund or the Family Fund. For example, Liam Wang is a trustee of the Rockefeller Family Fund.

According to the Brothers Fund’s most recent tax return (for 2021), it donated $50,000 to the political charity ISAIAH.

We found a few other Rockefeller family members, or Fund employees, who donated to Minnesota candidates last year.

Clayton Rockefeller, grandson of David, current serves as chair of the David Rockefeller Fund.

Of course, the main Rockefeller donor to Minnesota politics is Alida Rockefeller Messinger, the ex-wife of Minnesota’s ex-governor, Mark Dayton (himself an heir to the Dayton/Target department store fortune). By my calculations, she gave individually more than $3 million during the most recent election cycle (2021-22).

As Irving Berlin suggested almost a century ago,

Come, let’s mix where Rockefellers
Walk with sticks or umbrellas
In their mitts
Puttin’ on the Ritz