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Thursday, June 16, 2005

Consequences, part 2

Posted by: Hammer / 11:15 AM

City Pages pieces together Smilin' Norm's shady past:
Both daily newspapers reported today that Frauenshuh Companies has agreed to sell the Lawson Commons building in downtown St. Paul to a Dallas developer for $84.5 million. The Pioneer Press had, by far, the more informative coverage, but let's review the details of this stinky deal for a moment.

In 1997, in order to lure Lawson Software from Minneapolis, then-St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman agreed to spend more than $100 million on a new office tower for the company. Three years later the city turned around and sold the building to developer Frauenshuh Companies. Price tag? $54.5 million. For inexplicable reasons, the building had supposedly lost half of its value in less than a decade.

Or had it? Five years later--with the downtown St. Paul office market in absolutely dreadful condition (the vacancy rate has been over 20 percent for years)--the building has suddenly appreciated by more than 50 percent.

The big winner in this real-estate chicanery is, of course, David Frauenshuh, principal owner of Frauenshuh Companies. But another person has benefited tremendously from Frauenshuh's windfall: Norm Coleman.

The developer has become one of the now-U.S. Senator's most generous political patrons. Frauenshuh has contributed a whopping $45,000 to Norm-related causes since 2002, according to Federal Election Commission records. His family members have been awfully benevolent as well. Wife Sandra (whose occupation is listed as "homemaker") chipped in another $4,000, as did son Matthew (a "student").

It looks like a major campaign contributor made $30 million in 5 years on a real estate deal involving Norm Coleman and rewarded him with $50,000 in campaign contributions.

This looks a lot like Duke Cunnigham in reverse. Duke -- not Richie's nearly mute lost brother, by the way -- sold his home above market value, then oversaw contracts that benefited the purchaser. Smilin' Norm, as mayor, sold commercial property below market value, then received large campaign contributions from the purchaser. Republicans violate ethics rules both coming and going.

Nod to Nothing also follows up.


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