In late July, as part of Alpha News’ ongoing coverage of turmoil and mismanagement in the administration of Minnesota Democrat governor Tim Walz, we reported on the abrupt resignation of high-level Walz official Sarah Walker.
Walker is the former deputy commissioner at the Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC), and a longtime Democrat lobbyist. Despite initial attempts by the Star Tribune to suggest that Walker was forced out because of her (righteous) political views, it has since been confirmed that Walker was actually under investigation for two separate incidents.
Specifically, after a fellow DOC employee confided with Walker about being the victim of a recent sexual assault by another DOC employee—and asked for Walker to keep the story confidential while the victim pursued action through the HR department—Walker instead went to a reporter with the story.
And Walker is also being investigated for lobbying for her husband’s charity, the Veteran’s Defense Project (VDP), while being a DOC official.
Brock Hunter’s “Veteran’s Defense Project”
Walker’s husband, Minneapolis lawyer Brock Hunter, runs a law firm—”Brockton D. Hunter, P.A.”—with another man, Ryan Else, that specializes in the criminal defense of veterans. The two co-founded VDP in 2014, and since 2017 the charity has received $450,000 in state funds.
This spring, during the legislative session, they were asking for an additional $800,000 in funding over the next two years, which is ostensibly the issue that Sarah Walker was illegally lobbying about. In the end, the charity wasn’t awarded any money this session.
VDP exists to advocate for special “veterans courts” but it appears that during the last session VDP’s self-advocacy for the $800,000 also helped torpedo the veterans courts idea.
And now, VDP is under “special review” by Legislative Auditor James Nobles, the non-partisan investigator for the state legislature.
Nobles had already looked at VDP in the spring, at the behest of several state legislators when the charity was seeking the huge increase in funding, and “raised questions but didn’t reach conclusions.” Sarah Walker has since said that the initial probe of her husband’s charity “found no concerns,” which clearly isn’t the case.
Possible wrongdoing at Hunter’s charity
Before VDP received the $450,000 in taxpayer funds, it operated on less than $10,000 per year. Once it received taxpayer funds however, no doubt because of connections to DFL legislators, VDP began expanding—sort of.
The organization’s only three employees are the two lawyers, Brock Hunter and Ryan Else, and an executive director that Hunter and Else hired named Donn Lindstrom. Of the $450,000 spent by VDP, the largest expense went to payroll: the lawyer’s received $53,000 each from the charity, and Lindstrom received $34,440.
Next, VDP paid for rent at 3201 Hennepin Ave, S., which just happens to be where the office of “Brockton D. Hunter, P.A.” is located. The money was even used to convert some of the firm’s “storage space” into space for the newly-seeded charity. In other words, taxpayers were now helping to pay for the connected law firm’s rent.
John Kingery, VDP’s board chair and another connected lobbyist, emphasizes that VDP was paying the building’s landlord directly. But that’s beside the point—VDP was now paying for space that “Brockton D. Hunter, P.A.” used to be paying for, and quite obviously still sharing that space with the firm.
Another $25,000 listed as “printing costs” is said by VDP to have actually gone to creating videos touting veterans courts, which according to Brock Hunter had over 9,000 views.
Add all this up, and it explains—in the loosest sense of that word—how $243,000 was spent. But that still leaves about $200,000 that is unexplained. Kingery said that VDP is working on reports that will explain the rest, to be released soon. Minnesota’s taxpayers won’t hold their breath.
The connected few
This is yet another example of connected progressives leeching off of a system that is only shrouded in a veneer of compassion and public service. Its also a good reason why both Republicans and Democrats should avoid lobbyists when filling government positions—lobbyists might know a lot about how government works, but that’s sort of the problem, and they bring a lot of baggage. Better to fill government with upstanding citizens from across ordinary Minnesota.
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