In lieu of a mining industry – which Metrocrat environmentalists from the Twin Cities have been keeping nice and shut down for decades – the DFL substitutes a lot of state money to try to tease some economic activity out of the Iron Range.
Part of that, traditionally, is the cataract of money that has gone through the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board – more commonly called the IRRRB, but more accurately referred to as a “Taxpayer-financed DFL Slush Fund”.
The Strib’s Jennifer Bjorhus will never do lunch in Minneapolis again, having written this generally excellent piece. The IRRRB may not have reinvigorated The Range, but they sure have greased a lot of DFL palms (emphasis added):
For years, prominent Democratic candidates and political groups have used the obscure center tucked among hills and pines to canvass and raise money from small donors. DFL organizations, state and national, have paid the phone bank’s current and former owners about $80 million over the last decade, campaign records show.
The call center relocated to Eveleth in 2006 thanks in part to a $625,000 loan from a unique state agency called the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB). It doles out about $40 million each year, much of it from a tax on taconite, in the name of bolstering and diversifying the Range economy.
In its first incarnation, the call center on the Range failed to meet job targets, but the IRRRB gave the company, Meyer Associates, more time to repay the loan. It shut down anyway last year. The IRRRB let Meyer’s owner walk away and wrote off the $250,000 Meyer owed, records show.
Then a former Meyer executive reopened the phone bank under the name of his new company. The deal allowed him to pay $50,000 for equipment that had been purchased with $500,000 in IRRRB money. The largest political client for the call center remained the same: a group called Dollars for Democrats.
Of course there’s a rational explanation!
Officials at the IRRRB say jobs, not politics, are behind its dealings with the two firms.
“There’s still 100 people working there,” said former state Rep. Tom Rukavina, a DFLer who served on the IRRRB board for years and once hired Meyer to make calls for his own campaign. “That to me is a success story. Any time I went in that office people clapped and thanked me that they had a job.”
So should the taxpayer provide cut-rate financing and pennies-on-the-dollar equipment and infrastructure for the GOP? The NRA? Pro-Life Action? The Tea Party?
If the IRRRB weren’t a DFL slush fund, and an equal opportunity graft machine, you’d see some equal-opportunity gravy-training.
Somehow, there seems to be none…