St. Paul, Minn. (Feb. 8, 2012) — On Wednesday morning, TakeAction Minnesota released a new report exposing the network of money that helped land Republican majorities in both the Minnesota House and Senate in 2010 and the financial interests behind legislative efforts to secure a photo ID amendment on the November 2012 ballot.
The report, entitled “The 1% vs. Democracy in Minnesota: Following the Money Behind the Photo ID Amendment,” places executives from Minnesota’s three largest banks – Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank and TCF – at the center of the effort to restrict voter rights in Minnesota.
Dan McGrath, Executive Director of TakeAction Minnesota told reporters that “over the past week, we’ve learned a lot about who would lose if photo ID becomes law — over 700,000 eligible Minnesota voters, including seniors, low-income persons, students, people of color, disabled and rural Minnesotans. What hasn’t been discussed is who WINS when people can’t vote. That’s what this report outlines.”
McGrath walked reporters through the report’s key findings via two large charts displayed next to the podium which explained how banking executives put members of ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) in the House leadership and then placed an attack on the voting rights of Minnesotans at the top of the 2012 legislative agenda. Voter ID legislation was initially introduce by Representative Mary Kiffmeyer when the new majorities took office.
The first chart showcased an extensive network of money flowing from banks down to bank-led political entities including Minnesota Forward, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, the Minnesota Business Partnership, the Bankers’ Association, and the Coalition of Minnesota Businesses, who then financed independent expenditure campaigns instrumental in electing the new Republican majorities. Jon Campbell, Wells Fargo Executive Vice-President, chairs the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. Richard Davis, President of U.S. Bank, serves as President of the Minnesota Business Partnership.
The second chart detailed banking contributions to individual House and Senate candidates, all of whom are backing or leading photo ID legislative efforts, including House Speaker Kurt Zellers and House Majority Leader Matt Dean.
• The independent expenditures from the Coalition of Minnesota Businesses and Chamber of Commerce helped elect twelve new Republican legislators in 2010.
• The Coalition and Chamber spent an average of $28,300 per campaign, an average of 34% of the total money in each race.
• On average, the amount of independent expenditures from the Coalition and Chamber were almost twice as much as the total contributions raised by the candidates themselves.
McGrath explained that “it’s important that Minnesotans understand the source of the large-scale campaign funding that stands behind many of the legislators pushing the photo ID amendment.” The effects of the banking money disproportionately impact the very citizens who most need to use the democratic process to counter the influence of the super-wealthy and the political entities they finance.
Gene Nichols, a member of TakeAction Minnesota Board of Directors from Shoreview, also spoke at the news conference saying he opposes photo ID efforts “because I do not want to go back to the time of my great-grandparents in Virginia who were denied the right to vote. As African-Americans, often the ONLY voice they had was their constitutional right to vote.” Nichols said TakeAction Minnesota values an inclusive politics where “every voice counts.”
McGrath concluded saying “we know all the constituencies who will lose if photo ID legislation passes. What Minnesota needs to worry about is the richest 1% who will gain even more than they already have, at the continued expense of the other 99%.”
Through its Democracy program, TakeAction Minnesota has worked for over eight years to protect and expand voting participation in Minnesota, removing barriers to voting and ensuring poll access for all law abiding voters. The organization sees photo ID legislation for what it is: an intentional effort to reduce the voting rolls in order to help corporate conservatives further expand their wealth and power.