Yesterday the Star Tribune broke a story on sleazy self-dealing corruption within the Minneapolis Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) party. Party Chair Dan McConnell—according to the story—spent $2,000 of party funds without consulting the central committee, to conduct a poll to potentially unseat City Council Member Cam Gordon.
That’s enough to upset many: Council Member Gordon may not be a DFLer—he’s a Green Party member—but he has been a consistent champion and ally of progressive causes, transparent and analytical about municipal policy issues, and by virtually all accounts, he’s provided excellent constituent services during his tenure on the City Council.
So why would McConnell try to unseat him in favor of a replacement?
Yeah… his spouse wants the gig.
Becky Boland, McConnell’s wife, who—incredibly—is also a Minneapolis DFL party official, confirmed to the Star Tribune that she is considering running against Gordon. If unilaterally deciding to spend party resources to elect your spouse isn’t insider dealing and corruption, I don’t know what is.
Many have pointed out that this was a terrible use of party money, which the Minneapolis DFL doesn’t have much of. This $2,000 poll represents about a sixth of the money the party had in cash-on-hand at the start of the year.
City Council Member Lisa Bender wrote on Facebook that the party didn’t even have enough money to pay for translation services at party caucuses last year; her campaign had to cover the cost. “This is the time when we should be building trust with voters, not breaking it,” Bender said, “This is the time when we should be capturing the energy and interest of people who want to get more involved.”
City Council Vice President Elizabeth Glidden wrote that it was “not right” for McConnell to spend the money “without any approval or even input from Executive Committee or others,” noting that “the beneficiary of the poll is an immediate relative who is contemplating running in that ward.” She continued, “We need to inspire more faith in DFL institutions, not less, by our transparency, openness to new ways of doing things, and involving more people in the process.”
McConnell’s blame-shifting defense of his conduct had an eerily similar tone to that of a Sean Spicer press conference: “Cam Gordon doesn’t have a D behind him, he’s got a G,” he told the Star Tribune, “And that’s not my choice, that’s his choice.”
Of the many ways McConnell’s poll backfired, the results were obtained by Star Tribune reporter Adam Belz, which apparently show that Council Member Gordon is well-liked and considered effective by his constituents. Bad news for Boland, but it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone in tune with Minneapolis politics, and it shouldn’t have taken $2,000 to figure out.
Of course, anyone should feel free to run against Council Member Gordon if they feel they can better represent the community (good luck, you’ll need it) but an opponent shouldn’t get an advantage because they’re a party officer or because their spouse is the party boss, in a position to spend resources to help make it happen.
Even if McConnell didn’t spend party funds to benefit his spouse’s potential campaign, running for office or having a spouse running for office is enough of a reason to step aside to avoid so much as the appearance of a conflict of interest. But we’re long past that point.
McConnell and Boland have ignited political kindling that will be impossible to extinguish absent their resignation. So long as they remain party officials, a suffocating black smoke will cloud the reputation and efficacy of the party in a critical election year.
For the good of the party’s values, goals, and future, Dan McConnell and Becky Boland must resign.