Business & politics

Making the case for foreign assistance

Andy and Wally Kocemba, the father-and-son owners of business-brokerage Calhoun Companies, flew to Washington, D.C., on their own nickel recently to lobby for foreign investment, a cause that really doesn’t directly affect their wallets, unlike most business-lobby missions.

The Kocembas and eight other Minnesota members of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, a small but influential foreign aid-and-trade organization, met with U.S. Reps. Tom Emmer and Keith Ellison and visited with staff of Minnesota’s senators and a few other House members.

“My dad and I wanted to go there to express our business reasons to support foreign investment,” Andy Kocemba said. “Trade and humanitarian investment are important, including to our businesses and national economy. We must invest to make the world better.”

Foreign assistance spending has dropped about 10 percent since 2010, to around $55 billion in fiscal 2016.

That includes funds to counter ISIL in the Middle East and assistance to Ukraine and elsewhere to counter Russia.

Annette Meeks of the Freedom Foundation, citing the Heritage Foundation, reports that the big bucks, or more than 50 percent of the federal budget, go to entitlement spending such as Social Security and Medicare; 18 percent to “income security” such as federal disability payments, unemployment benefits, welfare, low-income and elderly housing subsidies, and 16 percent for military, not counting the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Those programs have many more lobbyists than foreign assistance, which includes many initiatives that help poor people around the world become self-sufficient in agriculture, sanitation and clean water.

Land O’Lakes, which works with small farmers, CARE, Catholic Relief Services, several big businesses and foundations, and even the Sesame Street Workshop, is part of U.S. Global Leadership Coalition.

Neal St. Anthony


Target loses one, Barnes & Thornburg gains one

Ann Wessberg, the chief trademark attorney at Target Corp., has joined Fredrikson & Byron after about a decade at the big retailer.

In her role at Target, Wessberg was responsible for protecting and litigating infringement of Target’s portfolio of trademarks. She now will take on brand-management challenges for corporate clients, large and small.

Wessberg said that working in-house at Target helped her appreciate the “pressures on in-house counsels’ time and budgets. I’m hoping I can now bring my expertise to in-house counsels so they can outsource more and focus on higher-level engagement with in-house clients.”

A good sign the parting was amicable: She’s bringing in Target as a client.

Lee Hutton III has joined the Minneapolis office of Barnes & Thornburg, a big Indianapolis-based firm that is growing in the Twin Cities as a litigation partner in the firm’s entertainment, media and sports practice group.

Hutton, who previously served as the chair of the entertainment practice group at Zelle LLP, is known for representing celebrities, athletes and other entertainers, including professional basketball player Kris Humphries during his divorce from media personality Kim Kardashian.

Hutton, who succeeded a Barnes & Thornburg partner who left the firm, also is a popular sports-and-celebrity law commentator. Earlier in his career, he was an entertainment lawyer for at the Minneapolis-based Lommen Abdo firm.

Neal St. Anthony

Health care

Clinics split $1 million in incentive payments

More than 250 clinics across the state are splitting nearly $1 million in payments that reward health care providers for high quality in treating three costly health conditions.

The “Minnesota Bridges to Excellence” program scores clinics according to their outcomes for patients with diabetes, vascular disease and depression.

Those conditions affect hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans and are primary drivers of health care costs, according to the Minnesota Health Action Group, a coalition of large employers that runs the program.

The number of clinics getting awards and the total funds being split are down this year, primarily because of changes in the method for evaluating clinics, said Jim Chase of MN Community Measurement, a nonprofit that helped develop the scoring system used in Minnesota Bridges to Excellence.

Last year, 437 clinics split a total of $1.5 million, compared with 274 clinics splitting $997,772 this year.

Employers that sponsor the pay-for-performance program include: Best Buy; Southwest/West Central Service Cooperative; State of Minnesota-State Employee Group Insurance Plan; the Minnesota Department of Human Services; the University of Minnesota; U.S. Bank, and Wells Fargo.

Collectively, these employers provide health care coverage to more than 1 million people in Minnesota, according to the group, which is based in Bloomington.

Christopher Snowbeck