Protesters picket GOP at Wayzata fundraiser

  • Article by: ERIC ROPER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 17, 2011 - 11:04 PM

As U.S. House Speaker John Boehner and state GOP politicians were inside a country club with wealthy donors, demonstrators made their points outside.

The political battleground Wednesday was the manicured landscape of the Wayzata Country Club.

Outside were 100 activists who descended on the affluent suburb to protest a pricey GOP fundraiser. Inside was U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, who had recently gone toe-to-toe with President Obama during the debt ceiling drama in Washington, D.C.

In a spectacle that was largely staged political theater, golf carts whizzed by as the crowd marched in a roadside picket line and an airplane overhead pulled a banner reading "Where's our piece of the pie? Jobs now." Others wore giant masks of Boehner and Minnesota politicians and popped out of a stretch limousine.

"We're trying to find a caddy," said a protester posing as Boehner. The Boehner impersonator stood beside impersonators of Minnesota Reps. Michele Bachmann, Erik Paulsen, Chip Cravaack and John Kline. Only Boehner, Paulsen and Cravaack were actually at the club. Several state legislators, including Sen. David Senjem, R-Rochester, were also in attendance.

Boehner traveled to Wayzata to play golf with wealthy donors who pitched in $10,000 for a round of golf, or $1,000 for a luncheon where they could ask him questions.

Cravaack, who attended the luncheon but is "not a golfer," said that while protesters were outside pushing for more jobs, politicians inside were focused on the same goal.

"The people that we were speaking with were the job creators. They're the people who employ Minnesotans," Cravaack said of the attendees. "So we're asking the question to them, 'What is it going to take for you to invest in yourselves and create jobs?'"

He added that businesses are skittish about making that investment with the threat of new taxes and regulations from the Obama administration.

"Taxing companies right now in a recession is not going to create jobs," Cravaack said. "It's going to take jobs away."

Protesters accused the Minnesota congressmen of meeting with wealthy donors while proposing cuts to the middle class and not creating jobs. One sign read "People before profits," and the crowd chanted "Hey-hey-ho-ho, corporate greed has got to go."

The event was staged by a coalition of union and community groups, along with help from MoveOn.org. A number of anti-war activists tagged along as well, including former FBI agent and congressional candidate Coleen Rowley.

Organizers found themselves briefly playing cat and mouse with Boehner on Wednesday morning after learning that he had nixed plans to hold the event at nearby Spring Hill Golf Club. Shortly before 11 a.m., they discovered the new location and redirected three busloads of protesters.

"The main crime here is tax breaks to corporations -- who are not people -- and mega rich people," said Mark Ambroe of South Minneapolis. "That's the main reason I'm here."

Eric Roper • 651-222-1210

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