The campaign of Antone Melton-Meaux, who is challenging Rep. Ilhan Omar in the Fifth District DFL primary, has paid almost $100,000 to two newly established Delaware corporations for “strategic consulting,” but has refused to disclose what specifically the firms are doing for the campaign or who is involved in the firms.
The two companies, North Superior Consulting LLC and Lake Point Consulting LLC, were registered in Delaware in late 2019. Neither appears to have a website or any presence at all online, nor do the firms appear in campaign finance records of other candidates. The companies would normally be required to list their directors on their corporate tax filings, but neither firm filed its Delaware taxes on time, instead incurring fines.
The only name MinnPost was able to uncover connected with the companies was that of K. Davis Senseman, a Minneapolis attorney who served as Omar’s campaign treasurer in 2018 and went on to join Omar’s office as district director, but resigned in July of the first year of Omar’s term. Senseman is listed as the submitter of the document forming North Superior, and Senseman’s law firm, Davis Law Office PLLC, is listed on the document forming Lake Point, according to records obtained from the Delaware Secretary of State.
In response to questions about the registrations and any involvement with Melton-Meaux’s campaign, Senseman said, “Davis Law Office has no involvement with any campaign and legally we can not comment on any companies we may have registered for clients of DLO.”
When asked what North Superior and Lake Point were doing for his campaign, Melton-Meaux said he did not know and that he would get back to MinnPost. His campaign communications director later provided a statement saying, “They are both strategic communications firms that provide strategic counsel for the campaign.”
The campaign later added, “Both Lake Point Consulting LLC and North Superior Consulting LLC are communications and strategy consulting firms that work largely outside of politics, with very limited political experience. Both organizations aren’t affiliated with the DFL, and are people that Antone knows and who were referred to his campaign by supporters.” Melton-Meaux’s campaign manager also claimed to have signed nondisclosure agreements with the companies that prevented them from revealing any further information.
Scott Thomas, a former Chairman of the Federal Election Commission and Melton-Meaux’s campaign’s finance attorney, told MinnPost that “strategic consulting” is an adequate descriptor.
“The FEC would say, if you just put down for the payment as being for consulting, ‘That’s not an adequate disclosure,’ but if you put something down like strategic consulting, that’s basically a clue in the campaign finance world,” Thomas said. “This is someone who is involved with helping the campaign with its strategy.” As for the NDA in place between the campaign and the two companies, Thomas said that NDAs like those are put in place “because the person might be someone who is working for all sorts of different clients. And there can be some tension created with clients if the same consultant goes over and works for some other client.”
For Brendan Fischer, director of federal reform at the Campaign Legal Center, the campaign’s response falls short. “The law requires campaigns to file itemized reports of their spending so that the public can assess candidates and make informed decisions,” he said. Omar’s campaign, for example, has faced scrutiny after disclosing her payments to her now-husband’s firm, E Street Group LLC.
“It sounds like [Melton-Meaux’s] campaign is not only failing to provide meaningful disclosure on campaign finance reports, but also refusing to answer any questions about the nature of the disbursements,” Fischer said.
Michael Beckel, research director at Issue One, a nonpartisan organization that seeks to reduce the role of money in politics, said nondisclosure agreements between campaigns and consultants have become “increasingly common,” but that the whole situation sounds “atypical” and is “really keeping people at a loss for how the money is really being spent and who’s calling the shots.”
“It’s very problematic when voters don’t get the full story about opaque entities that are actively involved in the support or opposition of candidates on the ballot,” Beckel said. “And it’s the sad reality right now that there’s a number of situations in which we’re not learning the information that we should until long after election day.”