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Friday, September 15, 2006

The People Behind Debate Minnesota

As reported yesterday John Binkowski, the Independence Party Candidate in the 6th Congressional District is being excluded from a debate on Thursday 21Sep2006. But who is behind Debate Minnesota and who is making the decisions?

Debate Minnesota was founded in 2004 by the Independent Community Bankers of Minnesota (ICBM) which is headed up by Will Haddeland President and CEO ICBM. Looking at the website you can see that Mary Heller is the contact at Debate Minnesota ( 651-687-9080). All contact information is directly connected to ICBM. Ms Heller is no longer answering phone calls, all calls go directly from a secretary to voicemail. Initially Heller stated that there must be a poll showing a candidate polling at 5% to be included in a debate. It was pointed out that the only poll taken only speaks of an unnamed democrat v an unnamed republican. Ms Heller Had no comment. I then pursued, by phone, Will Haddeland. I spoke with Mr. Haddeland for about 20 minutes. He told me that he "is under a lot of pressure from the Board of Directors [at Debate Minnesota] to exclude the other party."

In the past Haddeland has severd as a senior advisor to MPR and more interestingly, was co-chairman of a tri-partisan task force in 2002 that recommended a two stadium financing deal for the Vikings and the Twins. Curiously, the process of public funding of stadiums wasn't the only venue by which Haddeland was in bed with the Pohlad family. Durin the stadium debate he was quoted saying "I hear all your arguments about general funds, but if a stadium isn't built you're going to lose all that income [tax from players' salaries],". Furthermore, Haddeland has been an advocate of a Media Tax to fund stadiums, that is taxing the media if they want to broadcast games and place reporters at the stadium. Some claimed the tax was in response to media criticism.

Additionally Haddeland, serving as Senior Vice President of MPR was involved in a lawsuit over MPR's donor list sharing practices. This lawsuit alleged that MPR improperly shared it's donor lists (over 3 million names) with over 100 organizations including the Democratic National Committee. The suit, filed by then Attorney General Mike Hatch, was later resolved in an agreement where MPR admitted no wrong.

A search upon the FEC website shows that Haddeland has contributed to Betty McCollum (D-MN), Colin Peterson (D-MN), Tim Johnson (D-SD) and the National Republican Congressional Committee. He was also the Chairman of the Independent Community Bankers of Minnesota Political Action Committee which has donated thousands of dollars across the country. Seems like an odd grouping to me. Why would a businessman donate to local Democrats while funding the National Republican Congressional Committee all while being involved with a highly financed banking PAC? Perhaps it can be attributed to a hope of garnering votes favorable to Ashland Oil, Inc to which Haddeland has documented ties.

It seems to me that other banks around the State might want to reconsider their association with the Independent Community Bankers of Minnesota. Actions, such as this, could lead to a decrease in numbers of customers or could lead to current customers taking their business to a more fair-minded bank.

Are people from Independent Community Bankers of Minnesota, like Will Haddeland and Mary Heller trying to stiffle Minnesota's 3rd Major Party?

Is Will Haddeland settling a personal grudge with the IP over Governor Ventura not supporting his task force recommendations?

Is this just a group of Democrats and Republicans who are trying to maintain bipartisan hegemony?

These are the questions to which I intend to find answers. Concerns about Debate Minnesota can be shared with either Mary Heller (who no longer takes calls) or Will Haddeland. They can be reached at: