Big contributors have much at stake in Minneapolis mayoral race

A look at donations in the mayoral race offers hints of future alliances.

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Minneapolis real estate developer Kelly Doran in 2011.

Photo: Richard Sennott, Star Tribune

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A major utility, developers and labor unions with money and clout on the line at City Hall are donating heavily to the Minneapolis mayoral race.

Financial reports released this week offer the most detailed look yet at the money pouring into the most competitive mayoral campaign in 20 years.

The donations don’t carry the high-dollar amounts of some state campaigns, but offer a look at alliances taking shape on some of the most crucial policy decisions that will be made after Mayor R.T. Rybak leaves office. The reports also included big-dollar checks from corporations as far away as Florida and Nevada.

With five days until the election, the big money drew a sharp mention on the campaign trail.

“We are not one Minneapolis when the candidate for mayor with the biggest war chest and the most money from big donors tries to buy his way into the mayor’s office,” Council Member Betsy Hodges said at a Thursday campaign rally, taking a veiled shot at Mark Andrew, who has hauled in the most money of any candidate.

His spokeswoman, Marion Greene, responded that Andrew has built the broadest and most diverse coalition.

“Earning broad support is the sign of a leader who can move Minneapolis forward, and that’s what she’s attacking here,” she said in an e-mailed statement.

Andrew, a former Hennepin County commissioner, has raised $420,284, on top of an independent spending group raising $136,500 to campaign on his behalf.

The three independent groups in the race can raise and spend unlimited amounts, but campaigns have no say over their operations.

In direct contributions, Andrew received at least $5,600 from employees and lobbyists for Xcel Energy.

The company has major interests at City Hall next year, when its multimillion-dollar utility franchise agreement to provide electricity to the city is set to expire.

Earlier this year, city officials discussed the possibility of not renewing the agreement and seeking authorization from voters to form a municipal utility, a proposal that Xcel lobbied heavily against and Andrew described then as reckless and irresponsible.

Teamsters Local 120 gave $15,000 to the Coalition for a Better Minneapolis, the independent group that’s paying for mailers and TV ads in support of Andrew.

The union successfully pressed the city this year to continue applying a controversial “labor peace” clause to a multimillion-dollar garbage collection contract up for bid that would open the door for it to more easily unionize employees of whichever company won the work.

The Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, which also advocated to city officials this year to keep labor peace in place, gave more money than any other group in the race, donating $28,400 to the Coalition for a Better Minneapolis.

Minneapolis Refuse Inc., the consortium that won the trash contract, donated $1,500, nearly all of it to Council Member Don Samuels.

Lobbyists with North State Advisors, a firm owned by former Mayor Al Hofstede, gave $600 to Andrew. The company represents Covanta Energy, which operates the Hennepin County trash incinerator that is at the center of a controversy between the city and county to possibly increase its burning capacity from 80 to 100 percent. North State Advisors also lobbies on behalf of Aspen Waste, which unsuccessfully bid on the garbage contract.

And the company just picked up the Timberwolves as a client; the basketball team has been negotiating with the city on a renovation project for the Target Center. Others at the Timberwolves gave $1,500 to Andrew.

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