UPDATED June 11.
According to campaign finance disclosure forms filed by Fargo City Commission candidate Tony Gehrig, he received a campaign contribution from Cash Aaland, a lawyer who is one of the leading opponents to the Red River diversion.
Gehrig’s filing — turned in about three weeks late, for which he’s been fined $100 — says Aaland gave Gehrig’s campaign $480.
(Two other candidates, Lenny Tweeden and Liz Maddock-Johnson, were also fined $100 each for failing to comply with state law by filing their campaign disclosure forms late.)
By law, candidates have to file paperwork listing campaign donations and people who gave more than $200 to their campaigns. The paperwork was due May 11. The election is Tuesday.
Aaland lives in Christine, N.D., and has a Fargo law office. He is one of the loudest and most virulent voices against the Fargo-Moorhead Red River diversion, speaking and writing against it at every opportunity — whether it’s on behalf of himself or the Richland Wilkin Joint Powers Authority group that’s been at war with diversion supporters for years.
Or on behalf of a Facebook alter ego named “Eddy Welstad” he possibly created.
Wait, what? Yeah, more on that later.
Aaland wrote an op-ed piece that ran in Sunday’s Forum in which he tied Fargo City Commissioner and candidate for re-election Tony Gehrig’s line about the city’s “dirty little secret” about special assessments into a rant against the diversion plan. In Aaland’s world, the diversion has never been about flood protection. He and others of his ilk believes it’s about housing development and the powers-that-be in Fargo getting rich off the backs of people in Richland County, N.D., and Wilkin County, Minn.
It’s all a conspiracy, you see.
Maybe Cash wasn’t around in 1997 and 2009. Don’t know.
The op-ed not only served Aaland’s goal of opposing the diversion, but also as a not-so-subtle way of giving Gehrig a back-door endorsement in his city commission race before Tuesday’s election. A two-for-one. Tricky, these lawyers.
Why a Christine resident would feel the need to back a Fargo city commission candidate isn’t clear, but Aaland and his law firm appear to be all in on Gehrig. There is a campaign yard sign supporting Gehrig outside the Aaland law firm’s office in south Fargo.
Why is one of the leading diversion opponents strongly supporting Gehrig to the point that his law firm would openly campaign for the commissioner? It’s plausible most of the dozen or so of Aaland’s lawyers and staff either align with Gehrig’s libertarian views or they just really like him a lot personally.
They probably know him well enough from office Christmas parties and such. That’s because Gehrig’s wife, Rachel, works at Aaland’s firm as an attorney specializing in family law. Maybe Tony makes a crazy-good egg nog. Who knows?
Or it could be that Cash really likes Tony for his own reasons.
Gehrig was a guest on my 970 WDAY radio show this morning and said that he and Aaland are simply friends.
This is where it gets kind of odd.
It would appear Aaland — although I haven’t confirmed it with him — has created a Facebook account under the name “Eddy Welstad” on which he posts and shares mostly anti-diversion rhetoric via links to local media or the Richland Wilkin JPA web site. I was tipped off to the existence of Eddy Welstad on Saturday after Aaland’s backdoor endorsement of Gehrig was posted online. I’ve been told some diversion supporters have confronted Aaland about his Eddy Welstad Facebook page. They believe it’s unethical for an attorney to misrepresent himself as somebody else. I’ll leave that up to Cash, Eddy and the North Dakota Bar Association.
Sprinkled in with the anti-diversion posts are an occasional post about somebody from the Aaland family and, as of Saturday, a link to Cash’s op-ed in The Forum.
Honestly, the effectiveness of it cannot be great. Eddy Welstad had 98 “friends” as of Sunday morning. I sent a friend request and am waiting back to see if it will be accepted. I hope so. If I get a chance to talk with Eddy, I’m going to ask if he’s speaking as Eddy or Cash at that moment and to let me know when he switches personas so I don’t get confused.
But it’s clear scrolling through Eddy’s and/or Cash’s feed that he’s not afraid to either give endorsement or implicit endorsement for a few political candidates, as well as trash one candidate who has a connection to somebody who works for the Diversion Authority.
And it’s clear one of the most anti-diversion voices in the region strongly endorses and supports Tony Gehrig for Fargo City Commission. Posts supporting Gehrig are more numerous than the other handful of political-candidate posts on the feed.
Why Aaland, who has made no secret of his opposition to the diversion and politicians like the late Dennis Walaker and Tim Mahoney for supporting it, would feel the need to be Eddy Welstad on Facebook isn’t known, if indeed he is. Maybe he feels professionally that he has to stay out of the endorsement game. But his Forum op-ed piece is an implicit endorsement of Gehrig, so it’s not like he’s even hiding that. I’ll call Eddy (if he accepts my friend request) and/or Cash on Monday to ask. Today, I’m going fishing.
Eddy also implicitly supports an anti-diversion county commission candidate in Minnesota by sharing a Forum article. He and the Richland Wilkin JPA have long supported their allies on the Moorhead City Council, Mari Dailey and Heidi Durand. Now it appears Eddy and/or Cash will support Dailey in her bid for Clay County Commission, even though he may or may not live in Christine, N.D.
This was posted on Eddy Welstad’s feed:
Cash and/or Eddy is/are not so kind to politicians with whom they disagree on the diversion, though. Rocky Schneider is a spokesman/lobbyist for the diversion. His cousin Mac Schneider is running for U.S. House in North Dakota:
Tim Mahoney, of course, is the mayor of Fargo and viewed as the enemy of the anti-diversion activists.
So it’s fairly obvious Eddy and/or Cash uses his Facebook page to endorse or damn political candidates who oppose or support the diversion.
Why anti-diversion Eddy and/or Cash strongly support Gehrig for re-election is a mystery. Maybe it’s the family connection at his law firm with Gehrig’s wife. Maybe it’s that Tony truly does make a hell of an egg nog. Or maybe it’s something else, for some reason.
This is weird. I’m going fishing.
UPDATE: (I didn’t go fishing Sunday after writing this. Got caught up doing too many other things around the yard, etc.)