Friday, October 15, 2010

Ponzi Politics: Why aren’t political contributions being clawed back to compensate victims of Minnesota’s Ponzimen and fraudsters?

By Karl Bremer

Minnesota is starting to look like the “Land of 10,000 Ponzi Schemes.” Hardly a month goes by before another Ponzi scheme unravels or another fraudster is exposed around here.

As bankruptcy trustees initiate “clawbacks” to try to recover ill-gotten gains from Ponzi profiteers and return them to their victims, one group seems to have escaped their attention: politicians. Many Minnesota politicians have benefited mightily from the largesse of the state’s Ponzimen, yet not one has been asked to give back their political contributions that were derived from illegal activity.

Some pols have donated to charity a portion of their contributions from these Ponzimen and alleged fraudsters. But while that may help cleanse the taint from a politicians’ image, it does little for the victims from which this money was stolen in the first place.

One reason no one is anxious to go after political Ponzi money could be because everyone seems to have some blood, er, grease on their hands. But if these bankruptcy trustees are looking for victims’ money that’s relatively painless to recover, political contributions would appear to be pretty low-hanging fruit.

The public shame of hanging onto it should be enough to get these politicians to return that dirty money to its rightful owners without a lot of legal wrangling. There always seems to be more where that came from anyway.

In the grand scheme of multibillion-dollar fraud cases, a few hundred thousand dollars in political contributions might not seem like much. But it could provide relief for at least a few of the innocent victims of these con artists.

An examination of political contributions by Minnesota’s three most well-known Ponzimen or alleged fraudsters and their wives reveals that Republicans are the favored—but by no means the only—politicians they give to. Convicted Ponziman Tom Petters, Petters associate and convicted felon Frank Vennes, Jr. (who has not yet been charged with a crime in the Petters case) and auto-magnate-gone-wrong Denny Hecker all gave to Republicans and Democrats, although Petters was somewhat more evenhanded. Republican Governor and presidential wannabe Tim Pawlenty, DFL Senator Amy Klobuchar, and former Republican Senator Norm Coleman are the only Minnesota politicians who have received money from all three.

Below are totals over the past decade of the political generosity shown to Minnesota politicians and presidential candidates by Denny and Tamitha Hecker, Tom Petters and Tracy Mixon, and Frank Jr. and Kimberly Vennes. Republican candidates, parties and funds are shown in bold. Draw your own conclusions about why who gave to whom.

In the case of Vennes, it’s clear that the convicted money launderer/cocaine-and-gun runner was after a presidential pardon—and he got letters from Michele Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty, Norm Coleman and state GOP chair Ron Ebensteiner seeking just that.

If churches, schools and employees are being asked to return money stolen from victims of Ponzi schemes and other frauds, isn’t it time that Minnesota politicians be subjected to the same clawback of their dirty money as well?

Photo above: Governor Tim Pawlenty and Ponzi Pal Tom Petters


(Republican recipients shown in bold)


Republican Party of Minnesota $60,465
Norm Coleman: $25,600
McCain-Palin: $24,600
Republican National Committee $15,400
Mark Kennedy $12,400

Lac Qui Parle County DFL $5,500
Minnesota DFL State Central Comm $5,000
James H. Gilbert (Supreme Ct Judge) $5,000
Minnesotans for a Republican Cong $5,000
Amy Klobuchar $2,350
Al Franken $2,300
Barack Obama $2,300
Rudy Giuliani $2,300
John Kerry $2,000
Jeff Johnson (Attorney General) $2,000
Keith Ellison $1,200
John T. Finley (District Ct Judge) $1,000
Erik Paulsen $1,000
George W. Bush $1,000
Tim Pawlenty (Governor) $750

Alan Fine $500


Republican National Committee $50,000
MN House Republican Campaign Comm $50,000
Republican Party of Minnesota $50,000
Minnesota DFL State Central Comm $45,000
Norm Coleman $42,300
Republican Party of Minnesota $16,265
Minnesota DFL $21,900
Amy Klobuchar $15,300
Minnesota Democrats $15,000
Patty Wetterling $5,100
Follow the North Star Fund $5,000
Tim Pawlenty (Governor) $3,500
Jim Oberstar $3,800
David Lillehaug (Senate) $3,000
Mark Dayton (Senate) $3,000
John Kerry $2,500
Terri Bonoff $2,300
George W. Bush $2,000
Ted Mondale (Governor) $2,000
Mike Hatch (Governor) $2,000
Minnesota DFL Senate Caucus $2,000
Jim Ramstad $1,750
Betty McCollum $1,500
Minnesota House DFL Caucus $1,500
Bill Luther $1,000
Walter Mondale (Senate) $1,000
Jerry Janezich (Senate) $1,000
Mike Hatch (Attorney General) $1,000
Roger Moe (Governor) $500
Judi Dutcher (Governor) $500
Alan Fine $500
Elwyn Tinklenberg $500
Steve Novak $300
Patricia Anderson (Auditor) $250
Tim Penny (Governor) $200


MN House Rep Campaign Comm $85,750
Michele Bachmann $27,600
Mark Kennedy $11,300
Republican Party of Minnesota $10,000
John Kline $8,000
Tim Pawlenty (Governor) $7,500
Norm Coleman $6,000
Minnesotans for a Republican Cong $5,000
Erik Paulsen $4,600
Patrice Bataglia $4,000

Amy Klobuchar $2,000
George W. Bush $2,000
Ted Mondale (Governor) $2,000
Tim Tinglestad (District Cty Judge) $2,000
Republican National Committee $200

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