Prospective Star Tribune investors Opperman and Taylor: spending millions to influence politics

Glen Taylor and Vance Opperman could save hundreds of thousands of dollars simply by agreeing to a political cease-fire.

The duo, which announced plans Wednesday to purchase a minority stake in the Star Tribune, are in opposite political camps. According to the Federal Election Commission, Taylor has given $212,000 to Republicans and allied PACs and funds since 2004; Opperman has donated $200,859 to Democrats in the same period.

On the state side, Opperman is the clear champ. He’s given $1,970,976 to DFLers since 1998, according to the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board; Taylor, a former state Senate Minority Leader, is a relative piker at $499,850. The totals do not include contributions from spouses.

Opperman is one of the DFL State Central Committee’s biggest bankrollers, giving $213,000 since 2006 according to the CFPDB. Taylor, meanwhile, donated $61,400 to the Republican Party of Minnesota.

Taylor and Opperman will undoubtedly deny attempts to politically influence the Strib’s news pages. Of course, there’s no evidence yet they will. But owners do hire publishers, who sit on editorial boards and hire editors, who hire staffs. So it’s always good to know up front where ownership’s passions are.

When it comes to individual candidates, Opperman’s recent favorite was DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who received $5,700 directly and $30,900 through her Minnesota Grassroots Victory PAC. Taylor threw the most at Klobuchar’s ’06 opponent, Mark Kennedy ($18,200).

In 2008, Taylor gave $10,300 to Norm Coleman, while Opperman donated $3,300 to Al Franken. Come recount time, Taylor kicked in $10,000 to Coleman’s fund; Opperman $5,000 to Franken’s.

Franken wasn’t Opperman’s first choice; he donated to fellow lawyer Mike Ciresi’s 2008 Senate bid nearly a year before giving to Franken. Similarly, he financially supported Hilary Clinton’s presidential bid (and Bill Richardson’s) well before Barack Obama’s. Taylor gave only to John McCain ($9,400).

In the House, Opperman’s biggest amount went to First District Congressman Tim Walz, who received $9,400 since 2004; Taylor gave $3,300 to Walz’s 2008 opponent, Brian Davis, and $3,000 to incumbent Republican Rep. Gil Gutknecht in 2006.

Unsuccessful Michele Bachmann challenger El Tinklenberg is next on Opperman’s list, at $7,100; Taylor gave $5,000 to Bachmann.

Nationally, Taylor has supported some of the GOP’s most conservative members, including Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn and South Carolina’s Jim DeMint. Relative moderates Mel Martinez and Kit Bond also received contributions.

As with his ’08 Senate support, Opperman’s Congressional contributions lean away from Democratic liberals. South Rep. Stephanie Herseth, a leader of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog caucus, got $4,000 and fellow member Earl Pomeroy of North Dakota received $4,600. Public option opponent Kent Conrad got $4,600. Liberal Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin got $500, and West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller picked up $4,000.

Opperman did cross party lines at least once, for a fellow line-crosser. In 2008, he donated $5,000 to Edina state Rep. Ron Erhardt, a pro-choice Republican who left the party. In a three-way race, Erhardt lost to the endorsed Republican candidate.

I’m sure there are some other wrinkles to both men’s political giving. If politically savvy types want to offer help, please use my email address on the right-hand side of this page.

You can also learn about all our free newsletter options.

Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/28/2009 - 10:41 am.

    It’s doubtful that purchasing a minority interest in the heavily indebted Strib will give Opperman any influence at all in the running of the company, and that’s certainly true if the present trends continue.

    The Opperman offer values Strib equity at 27 million dollars (all ballpark figures) a reduction from the previously tossed around figure of 125 million. I believe that if business doesn’t turn around quickly, that equity figure will be quickly reduced to zero, the company will once again be insolvent, and in need of a restructuring that will leave Taylor and Opperman pretty much out in the cold.

    If Opperman and Taylor want a role in the company’s operation, they should be buyers of the debt.

  2. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 10/28/2009 - 12:27 pm.

    If the Strib’s columnists begin to lean heavily toward the Katherine Kersten/Charles Krauthammers of commentary, we will cancel our subscription. Isn’t one Rupert Murdoch-style publisher enough?!

  3. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 10/29/2009 - 06:35 am.

    Hiram’s advice about the strib debt is very much the way to proceed.

Leave a Reply