consultants are sandburs

Thursday, September 18, 2014

RAMSEY - Big bonus offer. Local Ramsey sign printer prints plethora of signs for $275 - merchantable, ostensibly per an in kind discount from regular pricing, ostensibly over a purported coloring error. Go figure.

Rhonda Sivarajah and Robyn West give money to the Buchholz Ramsey council campaign.

What's Matt Look given? After all, he's one of the three on the county board who, as Randy Backous has pointed out, lives and has a home-based business in Ramsey. He prints political signs. What do you suppose he gave?

The crux of concern is this screen capture from a campaign financial disclosure filed with the City:

click the image to enlarge and read

Yup. $275 reported for the Buchholz campaign signs. Only that. A low-ball cost, for certain. Something inspiring normal curiosity as to detail, begging for an answer or answers.

SO - This is a tale told well by email. Parallel threads:

Email between Eric Zaetsch and Wayne Buchholz.

Z to WB: Wayne/Maria Buchholz:

Before posting anything where there might be a simple explanation, it is fair to ask if there is one.

See attached. Only $275 reported for signage.

The number/size of signs around town suggests more was paid or the sign printer gave a contribution in kind, either way, not reported.

If the campaign itself started before the filing window, with signs printed in anticipation of running, it's a campaign expense, and the reporting window should reflect the actual time the campaign was in operation.

Or if you believe that wrong, please let me know in detail, why.

Otherwise, I see reporting of $275, many, many signs, and the $275 appears to be largely the cost of adding the stars. [...]

WB to Z: The reason my signs cost is what it is, there was an error in the printing. If you remember the last time I ran my signs were orange the printer printed my new signs red. Instead of reprinting he sold them to me at cost. The stars won't show up until my next report which is due 10 days before the elections.

But maybe you should be asking Ms Williams why she has not reported any cost for signs, when she had her large signs up long before her first report was due! They all read that she paid for them.

Z to WB: Thanks. But you paid for the orange signs? Or not? Was that cost forgiven? Should you investigate whether an in kind contribution should be reported if the sign printer gave you a discount, concession, whatever?

WB to Z: There is no in kind, the printer screwed up. That's on him, I could of been an ass and made him redo the whole order in orange, but I let it go and accepted the color. But you still didn't answer me about Kristine, did Santa Claus pay for all her signs both large and small?

[follow-up email from Z] Ms. Williams

I inquired about sign costs of the Buchholz campaign. Below is the reply.

I address this question to you for the reason I have not reviewed your campaign disclosure filings, but the implications of the Buchholz response to me is that you have not reported ANY sign expenses. Would you confirm whether or not this is so, and if so, would you explain the situation in a reply email?

[follow-up email reply to Z from Williams] I have reported expenses for small yard signs in my last filing. We did not receive the invoice for the large signs until late last month and the invoice was only recently paid. That is why the expenses for large signs have not yet been reported.

Thank you for reaching out to me for more explanation.

Z to WB: Kris Williams. I do not know. I sent her an email. I await a reply.

Matt, isn't he usually error-free?

WB to Z: Eric, I don't have time to be playing your games, I answered your question, and everyone makes errors including you. I will be waiting for your reply on Ms. Williams. I don't read your blog, so I hope you spelled my name correctly and include Ms Williams missing reports.

Z to WB: Yeah. Sure. If you don't read it somebody can tell you about it. Or not. The spelling is Wayne, with an "e" right?

WB to Z: - no reply -


next sequence - Z to Matt Look: There was some confusion because Nathan L. wore the one red tee shirt with the God judges text on the back, and then Wayne used red tee shirts in campaigning. Was he originally intending to use orange tee shirts?

ML to Z - two items: 1- "Ask him" 2- "I think he switched to red after we printed the wrong color for his signs....he'd have to confirm"

Z to ML: Thanks Matt.The shirts were done after the signs then. If it ever came to having to check your records I am sure timing would be there. That color thing, that's not a frequent error for you is it? It's not careful.

Too many irons in the fire at the time?

ML to Z: I work with up to 75 campaigns a year. Mistakes happen more than I like

Z to ML: I guess add in County business, it's a very full plate. The County stuff you do not want mistakes there. For sure.

ML to Z: Yes full plate....county being a part time job. We have excellent staff at the county and a great board. Everything is vetted well for sure

Z to ML: And keeping up with facebook, events.

ML to Z: - no reply -


Z follow-up to WB: What's the story on the tee shirts? Orange wanted there too? Willing to take red?

Matt emailed I should ask you.

WB to Z: - no reply -


So, a screw-up, purportedly so; ostensibly leading to a massive discount, i.e., whereas Abigale Whelan paid Look $1700 for signs - yard signs - Wayne paying only $275 for as many or more - yard size and larger - which is a fifteen hundred dollar difference.

That big a discount, and the claim is there was no in kind contribution, Look discounting, in kind, to the Buchholz campaign, via such a massive price differential despite wholly merchantable signs were delivered and used; $1500 being attributed, ostensibly, to red/orange stuff.

That's the story; with no real answer as to tee shirts.
A reader thought experiment. Find fifteen hundred dollars difference:

Constants: Holding the same roll of what, lapel stickers? Same flag tablecloth (which some might deem tacky in taste). Same Rhonda mood.

Where's fifteen hundred dollars worth of difference?

It's there.

The emails say so.

Gotta trust the emails.

(We don't have an answer from Buchholz as to tee shirts.)

In general, politicians should stay out of each other's election contests. That is the seemly thing to do. And when comingling, scrupulous record keeping is necessary especially as to in kind easily lost disclosure/reporting facts.

And if that massive discount on fully merchantable signs is not an in kind contribution, Look on the County Board to the Buchholz municipal campaign, pigs can fly.

In fairness, I requested copies of Kris Williams' disclosure filings with the city, from the city clerk, who emailed a four page pdf doc response. What I see there as listed expenses; campaign kickoff fund raiser, and Hello neighbor mailing. If there was any sign reporting in the four pages sent me from the city, I missed it. If signs are being funded separately by an entity per Citizens United independent of Ms. Williams, that would be in a separate reported item, from such a committee/entity independent of the Williams campaign - one with which she - her campaign - properly should not be coordinating things. People not running for office can participate in posting signs as best as I understand campaign law, being neither a lawyer in Minnesota nor having particularized knowledge of campaign requirements. "All they're saying is hooray for our side," etc. I expect Ms. Williams in email may have casually "misspoke" in writing "we" in her email if signs were being posted and reported by an independent entity of some kind. All that is for Wayne's World to unravel, if he and Maria and campaign volunteer Nathan care. First thing, he or somebody should look at the disclosure footer on Williams signs, to see who states "Paid for ..." info there.Then he should assure himself of having copies of any/all disclosure filings with the city. Nathan can run the errands.

Independent expenditure without limits might not appeal to some readers, but blame the system nationwide, the two party stranglehold on politics, and the ever-present lobbyists mucking around for that. Do not blame any local campaign, Wayne's or Kris's. Indeed, blame the framers of the Constitution. They added ten original amendments [and that's ten Amendments NOT commandments, something that has to be noted for some who are confused]. The first of the original amendments includes rights of political speech. Campaign finance disclosure is subordinate to First Amendment rights of those independently aiming to influence political matters as persons/entities apart from candidate campaigns. Legislation can require such independent outlet speech to report and disclose if their speech is election related, but it cannot constitutionally close off the right.

___________FURTHER UPDATE__________
Do you suppose Wayne's got available iron-on stars, for the tee shirts?

___________FURTHER UPDATE___________
I contacted Kris Williams by email, and she responded:

The "we" I was referring to was me and my campaign treasurer whom I have entrusted to understand the ins and outs of the finance report filing process. I mistakenly failed to consult with him before responding to your email and assumed the sign expenses were reported in the last filing. I have since confirmed the yard-sign invoice was not available prior to the last filing date and both invoices for sign expenses will be included in the next finance report. I am not aware of any signs that were paid for by an independent entity.

That seems to pretty much wrap up the Buchholz concerns. Invoices available were reported. Await the next filing. There is no independent effort on her behalf known to Williams.

I see no problems unless she got her signs all for $275 or less. That would be a hoot. Dueling discounts.

Don't expect it. My guess is she paid a full and fair price - the going rate - invoiced and paid. Presumably Buchholz will be monitoring Williams reporting. I won't. If he sees something he does not like he can write a comment.

P.S. Williams -- Color her signs green. And I bet that's what she wanted from the start. No obfuscating from the Williams camp, presumably, and the invoices shall be reported for what they are. So ends the story told in email.


Randy Backous said...

Again I think you raise an excellent question which I think the Campaign Finance Board should weigh in on. This may have been an honest mistake but future campaigns could use this as a way to hide in-kind contributions. They should set a policy if they haven't already. I think they'd be very interested in this. I will repeat, if $275 is the true cost of that many signs - i.e., materials, labor, overhead, depreciation, etc., there is an incredible markup on them which other sign-makers could either verify or refute pretty quickly.

Randy Backous said...

PS...don't believe Wayne...he reads your blog every day all day long. haha

eric zaetsch said...

Randy - Rather than whether formal complaints are lodged somewhere (by somebody besides me), my aim is that the voting public know what's happening.

"Stop, hey, what's that sound; everybody look what's going down," stuff.

Giving Wayne signs at $275, for whatever reason, should hot up Abigale Whelan and her people.

Paying more, my stuff. But that's for her to resolve with Matt Look; his differential pricing modes and reasons.

Last, ask me how much I care who reads what I post.

Freedom of speech.

Freedom of reading.


eric zaetsch said...

Randy, one closing thought. Who should note Matt's actions, whether they owe Matt one, after paying full freight for their campaign materials - ABC Newspapers did report after the primary:

"Williams received 682 votes (40.57 percent) and Buchholz got 579 votes (34.44 percent). Terry Hendriksen came in third with 306 votes (18.2 percent) and Thomas Towberman had 114 votes (6.78 percent)."

When Matt befriends Wayne's campaign that way, for whatever ostensible reasons he may publicly state, his sign discount to Buchholz should be noticed, besides by Williams, by the two gentlemen that were relatively disadvantaged and got fewer than the 579 sign-aided Buchholz votes. I bet they each can figure out who their friends are/aren't.


eric zaetsch said...

Last comment, a postscript. The two gentlemen getting fewer primary votes than the sign-aided votes Buchholz attained, each is clearly a Republican and has been so, for years. Each now sees another Republican - a Republican office holder - granting an intriguing concession to a fourth Republican; playing favorites if you will; that should have chickens coming home to roost among local Republicans. Or not. It is their big tent, not mine, so let them have at it. If they care.