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These comments are responses to the Civic Caucus interview with

Lori Sturdevant, Minneapolis Star Tribune Editorial Writer

December 9, 2016

Big money drives Minnesota public policy today


What's driving Minnesota public policy today is who is paying for our politics and what those people insist on, asserts Star Tribune editorial writer and columnist Lori Sturdevant. She says the quality of ideas is not what's driving public policy now. She denounces the million-dollar legislative races that have recently appeared in Minnesota and says candidates have lost control of their own campaigns. She calls the nationalization of Minnesota's politics "an amazing change" in just the last dozen years. She contends that elected officials feel bound to their political patrons and that legislators are paying more attention to money than to their constituents. Sturdevant agrees with the Civic Caucus that the community sector must come up with better, more thoughtful, innovative public-policy ideas that look to the future. But she is concerned about the recommendation in the recent Civic Caucus report that foundations should play a large role in helping improve the quality of these proposals. She points out that foundations are not really accountable to the public, although she praises Minnesota's foundation community. But she says other communities have quite different foundations that have been created by well-to-do people to advance their particular interests and agendas. She asks what would happen if Minnesota's foundation community were to change significantly over the next 25 years. Sturdevant addresses the caliber of candidates for public office in Minnesota, the need for nonpartisan public policy guidance in the area of transportation, the need for political and legislative reform, the benefits of cooperation among existing nonprofit public-policy organizations and the importance of convening people face to-face to talk about issues. She's optimistic that Minnesota can still make public policy work.

For the complete interview summary see: link to interview

Individual Responses:

Wayne Jennings

I find it easy to be a pessimistic these days about moving the state and nation forward for greater social advancement. I think social media may be an important means that we ought to explore.

Charles A. Slocum

Thank you for this Civic Caucus interview.  Lori Sturdevant is an informed and available resource---and potential advocate---for those wanting to change the things that can be changed and set plans for a responsible future.

I agree with her that policy formation in Minnesota is "a little different here. I think that's been more of a plus than a minus," she noted. "We still get along with each other here. We still have CEOs with enlightened views. We can still make this work."

Mark Ritchie

great interview -  thanks!

George Beck

Thank you for providing a forum for Lori Sturdevant's insightful remarks about who pays for policy, driving public policy in Minnesota.  She notes that Minnesota's politics have become nationalized due to the influx of big money from outside sources through independent committees. This is completely undemocratic. It means that ordinary citizens have little influence as compared to the big check writers.  

I hope you will support eliminating dark money from Minnesota elections as 25 other states have done so that voters know who is supporting candidates and so that we can see if elected officials are favoring big contributors. We need to fund the political contribution refund program so that elected officials look to a broader group of citizens. We need to support increased funding for the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board that is unable to do more than basic functions. And we need to ask the Board to adopt a strong rule prevent independent committees from running the campaigns of candidates.

Thank you for the work you do in promoting discussion of important public policy questions in Minnesota. The Washington state group working on campaign finance reform is called Fix Democracy First. It means that innovative solutions to questions of public policy are unlikely to advance until we deal with money in politics.

Scott Halstead

This was a great interview with a very thoughtful and experienced writer that knows the legislature and the community

I concur that a coalition of organizations needs to work together on engaging the general public on various policy issues.

That includes working at the State Capital and grass roots throughout the State.  Perhaps there needs to be regular non-partisan public policy discussions on public television including citizens throughout the state to submit their comments and then sharing their reports (like the Civic Caucus) on the same media and then an action plan prepared.

I believe it is essential that there be statewide publication of State legislators votes including an annual report of the votes, bills passed, bills not passed etc. a legislative report card website, report of campaign financing, report of town hall meetings conducted etc.

Thank you Civic Caucus interviewers and Lori Sturdevants writing!

Tom Spitznagle

A lot of interesting thoughts and discussion but overall nothing one could "hang your hat on". Indicative of the dilemma that the Caucus has been working to solve. The search for some process that will work best to advance important civic issues may not even be possible I'm beginning to wonder. Has the explosion of communication channels made it very difficult to focus citizens on an issue and instead caused people to engage with a myriad of micro issues that suit their personal preferences? 

Stepping back, I wonder if folks have become less likely to embrace top-down solutions or programs initiated by government. It seems to be the case in the current environment especially at the national level. If citizens sense that government is being used to promote some ideology that they disagree with then the overall trust in government is diminished. On many different fronts there has developed a sense by citizens that government is doing something to them as opposed to doing something for them. 

There is considerable distrust of government today compared with 50 years ago. Blatant dishonesty across the political spectrum has to be a major factor. Corruption within a major political party has been on full display. No wonder that many folks are distrustful of anything the government promotes. The first questions now are: What is the real objective? Whose putting money into it? Which constituency group is being catered to with taxpayer money? Why is this even an issue? Is this designed to feather a politician's nest for an upcoming election?

Sharon Pfeifer

Lori - I am sorry to hear this but not surprised.  What should drive policy is the idea of functional systems, i.e., nature as one large interrelated system.  


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The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Interview Group  includes persons of varying political persuasions,
reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

  John S. Adams, David Broden, Audrey Clay, Janis Clay (executive director), Pat Davies, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje, Dwight Johnson, Randy Johnson, Sallie Kemper, Ted Kolderie,
 Dan Loritz, Tim McDonald, Bruce Mooty, Jim Olson, Paul Ostrow (chair), Wayne Popham, Dana Schroeder, Clarence Shallbetter, and Fred Zimmerman



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