Ex-Best Buy CEO quits Mayo board; donated to group that placed anti-Islam ads

Brad Anderson
Brad Anderson following a news conference in London, May 8, 2008.
Alastair Grant | AP 2008

Former Best Buy CEO Brad Anderson has stepped down from the Mayo Clinic board after he confirmed he contributed $25,000 in 2016 to a right-wing group that distributed inflammatory anti-Muslim videos.

A Mayo Clinic spokesperson confirmed Anderson offered his resignation as a member of Mayo Clinic's board of trustees and the institution accepted. Anderson also serves as a trustee of the parent company of Minnesota Public Radio News.

The controversy surfaced Thursday after the Center for Responsive Politics' OpenSecrets blog first reported that Anderson and an organization linked to Best Buy founder Richard Schulze each contributed $25,000 in 2016 to Secure America Now, a so-called "dark money" organization that ran highly targeted ads designed to stoke fears of Muslims in the weeks before the 2016 election.

Anderson acknowledged his $25,000 donation to Secure America Now during a Thursday interview with MPR News. He confirmed that he contributed the money after meeting several times with Allen Roth, the organization's president.

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Anderson said the two primarily discussed the security of Israel, not anything as inflammatory as the organization's "Islamic state" videos. Anderson said he never saw the videos, only learned about them Thursday afternoon, and had he known about them, would not have been willing to contribute, "not for those videos."

Schulze's investment management firm, Olympus Ventures, said in a statement Friday that Schulze was not aware that Secure America Now had distributed the ads when the company made a 2016 contribution to the group.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations' Minnesota chapter called on Anderson Thursday to step down from the boards of Minnesota Public Radio and General Mills, two of several boards he serves on.

"Mayo's long history and reputation have been built on a foundation of respect for the well-being of people of all religions, races and nationalities," the Mayo spokesperson said. "Our commitment to diversity and inclusion are tremendous strengths of our organization."