A City Council candidate on Friday raised concerns about the amount of money a local club owner and his affiliates have donated to four city campaigns.
Kristina Gronquist, the Green Party-endorsed candidate in Ward 3, compiled public campaign finance data showing that 17 associates and family members of Peter Hafiz have donated more than $13,000 to campaigns. Ward 3 straddles the central riverfront area.
Hafiz, once dubbed the "king of clubs," oversees a downtown portfolio that includes two strip clubs and several bars. The family also owns Carmines restaurant in Woodbury.
Gronquist did not name the campaigns who received funds, but records show they are mayoral candidate Betsy Hodges, council candidate Ian Alexander, council candidate Jacob Frey and council member Lisa Goodman. The contributions have been public since campaign finance reports were released in September.
Gronquist said the contributions were troubling because Hafiz frequently has business before the city, Minneapolis’ regulation of sexually-oriented businesses lags behind St. Paul, and the city has allowed Hafiz to neglect an empty property at 325 2nd Avenue North.
“I think the concern is when you see one specific business or industry giving that much money to a campaign, I think you have to ask the question, ‘Is it possible they’re going to want something in return for that? Is that a conflict of interest?' said Gronquist, general manager of the Eastside Food Coop.
A Hafiz family member said he is attending a drag race in Las Vegas, but sent this statement: "As you know, we have six different kinds of businesses in downtown Minneapolis, along with 13 different properties. We have over 480 workers, which 70 percent of them live in the Minneapolis area. So I believe with confidence that we do have a large vested interest in the leaders of our city.”
Hodges responded at a press conference on Friday: “I go everywhere and I say the same thing to everybody … When I walk into office, I will be responsible to a vision. I won’t be beholden to special interests.”
Frey, on Friday, said: "Our grassroots organization cannot be bought -- he is just one of numerous small and local business owners supporting our campaign."
Maya Rao contributed to this report.
Pictured: Green Party-backed Ward 3 candidate Kristina Gronquist