At least three mass mailers have hit Minnetonka school district residents asking them to “Vote Yes Tonka” to the tune of a $200 million tax increase. But nobody knows where the money’s coming from for the campaign. Minnesota requires that local ballot initiative committees file campaign finance reports with the local school district and “Vote Yes For ‘Tonka” also known as the “Committee for Continuing Academic Excellence,” filed its first report September 4th.
Updated reports need to be filed on October 23rd and again 30 days after the Nov. 3rd general election. The only donors listed on the current report are Tom and Pam Langseth and Anne and John Groton. Pam Langseth is the current Vice Chair of the Minnetonka School Board and has been on the board since 2005, she was a one-time candidate for the Minnesota House, losing the Republican endorsement to Rep. Cindy Pugh in 2012. John Groton has served on the board for the Minnetonka Schools Foundation.
Other members of the “Vote Yes Tonka” committee are Kaite Becker, a current candidate for school board. Becker will be elected as Minnetonka only has four people running for four spots on the November 3rd ballot. Another member, Paul Alegi, a former Minnetonka Schools Foundation trustee, also ran as the endorsed Democrat for House in District 33B in 2014, losing to Rep. Cindy Pugh.
Almost all of the money ($17,509 of $18,131) from the Vote Yes Committee’s first report is from an old ballot committee, the “Committee for Quality Academics.” Alpha News spoke with Deborah Hoffman, who manages elections for the district. The old committee was last active in 2007 and the district doesn’t keep campaign finance records over three years old.
The new committee purchased a database of 2015 Minnetonka graduate information from the school district for a mere $16.09.
During a tax referendum campaign back in 2002, the Minnetonka Teacher’s Union urged members to help out the Committee for Quality Academics with phone calling and door knocking efforts and also authorized a $3,000 donation to the committee and solicited individual teacher donations as well. Langseth was the Chair of the ballot initiative committee during that time, actively working with the teacher’s union to ensure passage of the tax referendum. Jean Swiecichowski is Executive Director of Communications for Minnetonka Public Schools and back in 2002, in the same role, also worked with the Teacher’s Union to pass the ballot referendum per meeting minutes of the Minnetonka Teacher’s Association.
$17,509 buys a lot of mailings and campaign work, unfortunately for the residents of the school district, they have no idea where the money is coming from to raise their tax bills.