Union, corporate dollars fueled Walz inaugural events

Tim Walz takes the oath of office for Minnesota governor during the inauguration ceremony Monday, Jan. 7, 2019. Evan Frost | MPR News

Large donations from labor unions, corporations and American Indian tribes powered the inaugural events for Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, according to a federal filing submitted Thursday.

Three $50,000 contributions were part of the $380,000 raised by the One Minnesota Inaugural Committee between the November election and the end of 2018.

The biggest donations came from: the Laborers District Council, a union for construction and blue-collar workers; the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Council 5, the dominant state employee union; and Infinite Campus, a Blaine-based company that specializes in online learning products. A pair of $25,000 checks came from the Prairie Island Tribal Council and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.

While candidates for office face strict limits on how much they can raise from any one group and a clear ban on corporate donations, inaugural committees aren’t subject to those restrictions.

Create a More Connected Minnesota

MPR News is your trusted resource for the news you need. With your support, MPR News brings accessible, courageous journalism and authentic conversation to everyone - free of paywalls and barriers. Your gift makes a difference.

Many of the inaugural donors are active in debates on legislation at the state Capitol.

In all, the inaugural committee established by the Walz team took in 14 contributions of at least $10,000. Several others were in $5,000 increments.

Most unions that are active in state-level politics gave at least something. But so did associations for credit unions, mining companies and realtors. Two power companies chipped in as did the Minnesota Twins, BNSF Railway Co. and Cleveland Cliffs Inc., a giant in the steel mining industry.

The committee’s spending in 2018 was relatively minor, not surprising given that Walz didn’t take office until Jan. 7. Of the $24,000 spent, the biggest chunks were on fundraising, event planning and space rental.

More expenses are likely to be reported this summer covering the full range of inaugural activities, including the regional celebrations that Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan held in the days after they assumed office.

Separately, a committee that raised and spent money on the governor’s office transition efforts reported $121,000 in contributions. Almost all of that -- $ about $110,000 -- was state money that had been set aside for the transition between administrations. The remaining $10,000 was kicked in by a carpenters union.

Roughly $96,000 from that account was spent on staff payroll, employer taxes and equipment rental.