Sunday, January 22, 2012

She Stands Up for Minnesota

Her family has a long history and tradition of philanthropy and they’ve shown enormous affection for the land and its water.
by Charlie Leck

She’s a retiring type who does not like to be in the lime-light. A publication of some influence (Politics in Minnesota) just called her the most influential Democrat in Minnesota. At first blush one might conclude that it’s because of her money. Far from it, however, because she’s also very bright and very committed to the things she believes in.

I’ll concur with the magazine’s choice. She probably is the most influential Democrat in our state. Democrats, if they got to know her, would really like this woman.

I don’t want this to be biographical, but you really ought to know a little bit about the woman, Alida Rockerfeller Messinger. She’s 63 years old. Her father was John D. Rockefeller III. Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller was her mouth. Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, U.S. Senator from West Virginia, is her brother.

In Minnesota, she has homes in Minneapolis and Afton.

Mrs. Messinger is an important philanthropist in this state and her major concern seems to be for the environment. In addition to gifting large amounts of money through her own charitable trust, she is also a trustee of the Rockefeller Family Fund.

She was formerly married to Minnesota’s current governor, Mark Dayton, and had two sons with him. They divorced in 1986 but they retain an enormous amount of respect for each other and she was significantly involved in Dayton’s election campaign in 2010.

Our local newspaper, the StarTribune has called her “a quiet but enormously powerful force in Minnesota politics.” [Click here to read the story!] The story by Baird Helgeson says that Mrs. Messinger “has quietly given at least $10 million to candidates and causes over the past decade.” She gave a half-million to a group that supported her ex-husband in his race for governor.

The story also indicates she’ll be generous in her support for President Obama’s reelection campaign this year.

I don’t know Mrs. Messinger, but I have a lot of reasons to like her. She was very generous to one organization I had a lot of affection for over the years and for which I volunteered two years of full time labor [1000 Friends of Minnesota]. Because of her interest in land preservation and open spaces, she virtually carried that organization for a number of years.

I was at a small campaign rally for Governor Dayton a couple of years ago, and Mrs. Messinger was there, quietly working the crowd and showing her complete support for her ex-husband.

Mrs. Messinger is a strong supporter of an organization called Win Minnesota whose clear and admitted goal is to return the state legislature back to Democratic control. She agrees with her ex-husband-governor that the wealthy pay too little in taxes to the state and that the Republicans do not defend our state’s environment and open spaces nearly enough.

Since the beginning of 2001, Mrs. Messinger has given more than 9 million dollars to political causes (campaign financing). You can see her totals and those of Minnesota’s other top financial contributors here.

Some have accused this quiet, shy and gracious woman of trying to buy Minnesota politics “with daddy’s money.” [Mitch Berg in his blog, Shot in the Dark, 16 July 2010] No, what she’s trying to do is save Minnesota from those who don’t understand how perilous it is to abuse a state’s treasury of environmental beauty. Mrs. Messinger cares deeply and passionately about this state and she wants to protect its wetlands, lakes and open spaces.

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