DFL party chair appointed to Minnesota arts board that gives out taxpayer dollars

Gov. Walz gave the head of Minnesota's Democrat party a seat on a government board that appropriates taxpayer dollars.

The chairman of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) is now sitting on a state government board that hands out taxpayer-funded arts and culture grants.

On Monday, Ken Martin was appointed as a member of the State Arts Board by Gov. Tim Walz. Martin occupies the seat previously held by Sean Dowse, former mayor of Red Wing in southeast Minnesota, who recently resigned from the post.

The move raises eyebrows in light of Martin’s position at the head of the local Democrat party and his previous advocacy for the clean water, land, and legacy amendment that was adopted into the Minnesota Constitution in 2008. What’s controversial is that a small portion of the state’s sales tax collected for the purpose of funding clean water, parks, and trails also goes toward funding “arts and cultural heritage.”

“In November 2008, Minnesotans passed the clean water, land, and legacy amendment to the Minnesota Constitution. As a result, over the next twenty-five years, 3/8 of one percent of the state’s sales tax will be dedicated as follows: 33 percent to a clean water fund, 33 percent to an outdoor heritage fund, 14.25 percent to a parks and trails fund, and 19.75 percent to an arts and cultural heritage fund,” according to the State Arts Board website.

The Minnesota State Arts Board “stimulates and encourages the creation, performance, and appreciation of the arts,” its website reads. The main avenue of fulfilling this mission is to give “creative support” grants to various individuals and organizations.

In the fiscal year 2022 — lasting from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022 — the Minnesota State Arts Board has awarded 452 grants worth a combined $10.1 million to organizations and another 526 grants worth a combined $3.1 million to individual artists.

Earlier this year under Martin’s leadership, the DFL announced it would allow illegal immigrants and convicted felons who hadn’t finished their sentences to participate in precinct caucuses, even though they can’t vote.

“No Minnesotan should be denied the right to help shape the future of our party because of where they were born or because of mistakes they made in the past and have paid their debt to society for,” Martin wrote in a January 26 statement. “The DFL Party believes strongly in a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and in re-enfranchising ex-felons who have paid their debts to society.”


Evan Stambaugh

Evan Stambaugh is a freelance writer who had previously been a sports blogger. He has a BA in theology and an MA in philosophy.