Minnesota’s legislative auditor weighed in Tuesday on whether members of the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) have a conflict of interest if they’re also registered lobbyists.
The report concludes that the potential for conflict depends on “who the commissioner represents as a lobbyist and how a particular issue might affect both the lobbyist’s client and [the] MAC.”
The 15-member commission owns and operates Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and six smaller metro-area airports. The majority of its members are appointed by the governor.
The report specifically highlighted the work of MAC Commissioner Michael Madigan, a lobbyist for the Minnesota Beer Wholesalers Association, and, to a lesser degree, Commissioner Richard Ginsberg, a lobbyist for several businesses and organizations.
Madigan has been on the MAC since 2011; Ginsberg joined in 2016. Gov. Mark Dayton appointed them both. Members of the commission are required to follow state ethics laws.
Rep. Jim Nash, R-Waconia, asked the legislative auditor to assess whether Madigan lobbied against a bill that affects the MAC and beer wholesalers. From the outset, Madigan maintained he had little, if any, involvement with the bill.
“We did not find evidence that Mr. Madigan lobbied legislators on the bill,” the auditors said, concluding that no ethical violations were found.
Rep. Joe Hoppe, R-Chaska, introduced a bill in the 2017 session that would permit Minnesota brew pubs to sell their beers and ales to a retailer at a MAC facility without using a wholesaler. The bill did not gain any traction, but the auditor’s report said the House could reconsider it next year.
Madigan told the legislative auditor his involvement with the bill was “virtually nil,” noting his law firm is legal counsel for the Beer Wholesalers Association.
In 2015 and last month, Madigan abstained from voting on MAC business related to restaurant and retail offerings at the airport.
“I have never met Rep. Nash and have not had an opportunity to discuss any concerns he might have,” Madigan said in an e-mail Tuesday. He said the report “speaks for itself,” and declined further comment.
Nash could not be reached for comment.
Ginsberg, the second lobbyist on the MAC, was not called out in the auditor’s report.
According to the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, Ginsberg is a lobbyist for Hennepin County, the Minnesota Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, the Minnesota Credit Union Network, the Minnesota Government Engineers Council, Minnesota Medical Solutions, the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, and Walmart Stores Inc.