Notes On Richard Davis

A few days ago, the following letter appeared in the Strib.

On July 18, Minneapolis Institute of Arts members will vote on a slate of 10 nominees for vacant three-year positions on the board. One of the nominees is Richard Davis, the CEO of US Bancorp and a major architect of the current disastrous Minnesota Orchestra lockout.

Unfortunately, MIA members must vote on the entire slate rather than for or against individual nominees. We therefore urge all MIA members concerned about the future of the arts in the Twin Cities to contact the MIA and request that Mr. Davis withdraw his name from the ballot.

We are proud to live in a city noted for its philanthropy (both corporate and individual), and appreciate those who volunteer to lead our nonprofits. But orchestra fans horrified at the catastrophic damage inflicted by this board’s tactics do not want to see Davis governing another Minnesota gem. Even under the most charitable interpretation of his actions with the orchestra, the continuing stalemate and controversy make him a very unwise choice for another local arts board.

This letter was signed by the following members of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts: Jackson Bryce, St. Paul (Marjorie Crabb Garbisch Professor of Classical Languages and the Humanities Emeritus, Carleton College); Carolyn Hawkins, Minneapolis; Christine Gregory Knutson, Minneapolis (associate director of development, MIA, 1989-1993); Nita Krevans, St. Anthony; Sheila McNally, Minneapolis (Professor Emerita of Art History, University of Minnesota); Philip Sellew, St. Paul; Patti Stuhlman, Edina, and Stephanie Cain Van D’Elden, Minneapolis.

So while the Strib’s on the topic… Let’s talk a little bit about Richard Davis.

***

There’s little of depth on the Internet about Richard Davis, especially for someone who is desperately curious about why he’s on the board of the Minnesota Orchestra. This bare-bones biography from the Financial Services Forum is typical. I want to draw your attention to one paragraph:

Davis’ enthusiasm for his industry is equally prevalent in his civic and philanthropic commitments. Davis serves on the boards of the American Red Cross, Minnesota Orchestra, Minneapolis YMCA, Minneapolis Art Institute, the University of San Diego, the Business Council, the University of Minnesota Foundation, Minneapolis/Saint Paul Regional Economic Development Partnership and Minnesota Business Partnership. He also is a member of the Financial Services Roundtable, the Financial Services Forum and the International Monetary Conference (IMC), and is the representative for the Ninth District of the Federal Reserve serving on its Financial Advisory Committee. He is a director of Xcel Energy Inc. and serves as chairman of the board of U.S. Bancorp.

That’s a crapload of commitments there. In fact, that’s fourteen commitments outside of his incredibly demanding day job. Let’s say that Richard Davis works a forty-hour week (unlikely, I know, for someone as busy as the CEO of US Bancorp, but bear with me). Let’s say that on top of that, he devotes an additional ten hours a week to his “civic and philanthropic commitments.” To put this into perspective, that would mean that Davis spends forty-two minutes a week per commitment.

In other words, six minutes a day.

In other words, 360 seconds.

I don’t get this. I’d get if he chose to donate generously to each organization. I’d get that. And I’d applaud that. I’d get it if he chose one or two or even three organizations to oversee. I’d get that. And I’d applaud that. But I don’t get why he wants to have a hand in directing all these organizations, quite a few of which are far far outside his area of expertise. Especially when he’s come under fire for his handling of the lockout debacle.

I’d like to have another explanation besides the fact that Mr. Davis is blissfully unaware of his limitations. Or manically power hungry. But so far I’m coming up with a blank.

***

Not many people know that, once upon a time, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty planned on vetoing the $14 million in state money to renovate Orchestra Hall.

From the Strib, 4 February 2010:

DFLers want $14 million to $17 million apiece to renovate Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis and St. Paul’s Ordway Center — projects Pawlenty rejected.

A few weeks later, in March 2010, Pawlenty changed his mind. He never explained why. The request passed and the project began.

***

Richard Davis is a Director at the Financial Services Roundtable. (John G. Stumpf, CEO at Wells Fargo, is the Chairman.) The Roundtable describes its mission this way: “To Protect And Promote The Economic Vitality And Integrity Of Its Members And The United States Financial System.” (It’s crucial to capitalize every word.) Another unstated goal? To lobby for big banks in DC. The Roundtable’s former chief lobbyist, Scott Talbot, was interviewed in the Oscar-winning documentary Inside Job, where he defended financial executives’ high compensation levels, and claimed that all Americans regardless of income have equal representation in government, and that the financial services industry absolutely doesn’t have out-sized influence in American politics. Talbot is now the senior vice president for public policy at FSR, and, amusingly, proudly lists his appearance in Inside Job in his biography. I imagine Davis has similar political views.

Coincidentally, the Financial Services Roundtable hit the headlines soon after the Minnesota Orchestra lockout began. In September 2012, Tim Pawlenty resigned his position as co-chair of the Romney campaign to take a job as CEO at the FSR. According to this article, the salary can run up to $1.8 million a year. It stretches credulity to imagine that Davis didn’t have something to do with Pawlenty’s selection…especially given the governor’s lack of experience in the financial services industry and the federal government.

***

Is there any concrete proof that Davis twisted Pawlenty’s arm to get the money for the hall, or other favors, and then eventually pushed his colleagues to give Pawlenty a cushy job? Of course not. Even if this is true, you can bet your life they’d never breathe a hint of it to the public. But surely it would be naive to assume there wasn’t some discussion behind closed doors. Pawlenty didn’t change his mind about the hall renovation in a vacuum. This relationship between Davis and Pawlenty – and maybe Campbell and Pawlenty – would explain quite a few things, including why Davis is still a leader on the MOA board, even in the face of his catastrophic failure of leadership.

***

This report, The 1% vs. Democracy in America: Following the Money Behind the Voter ID Amendment in Minnesota, was put out by progressive group TakeAction Minnesota in February 2012. If you weren’t clear on these men’s political and economic beliefs before the lockout started, this will help clarify some things.

Davis and Campbell lead two powerful organizations. Davis, as we’ve already seen, is involved with the Minnesota Business Partnership as Chairman, while Campbell is involved with the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce (he was named Chair in 2011). In 2010, the Partnership and the Chamber came together to help finance a PAC: Minnesota Forward. In January 2010, MinnPost wrote, “In fact, the Chamber and Business Partnership diverted millions away from the Republican Party into Minnesota Forward, a PAC that directly supported [Tom] Emmer, the Republican candidate for governor.” Minnesota Forward endorsed four Republicans and three DFLers, but according to the records on the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board’s website, a full 98.2% of Minnesota Forward’s contributions went toward defeating Democrats.

And therefore, labor.

***

As a coda… Richard Davis is very eager for everyone to know that US Bancorp does not do business with pornographers. In fact, they say their consciences have cost them a whopping $200 million.

Just so you know.

Of course one immediately wonders: what might happen if US Bank started doing business with pornographers, and then funneled those profits into the Minnesota Orchestra endowment?

12 Comments

Filed under My Writing

12 responses to “Notes On Richard Davis

  1. Amy Adams

    Well, that would be one truly well-endowed orchestra.

  2. Wow. Just … wow. Thanks for all of the work you put into this blog, Emily – it’s amazing.

  3. Sarah

    Graydon Royce has nothing on you, girlfriend. Certainly not the ovaries.

  4. Performing Artist52

    You have done it again Emily! Your detective work is outstanding! It all sounds so corrupt doesn’t it?

  5. Sarah

    Matt Taibbi and Senator Warren need to know about this.

  6. Jan

    Great work, Emily! What a tangled, ugly web!

  7. Elizabeth Erickosn

    As usual, brilliant work, Emily. It’s hard to believe Richard Davis has any time to run US Bank. I’d be curious to hear from some of these many organizations he has his mitts into. What kind of “contributions” (non financial) does he make to each and every one of them.. Thanks again for keeping us informed.

    • Concerned

      I’m guessing it amounts to showing up to once a month board meetings. If that many times.

      Out of curiousity, how often does the MOA board meet? The reason I ask is that it’d be easier to ignore incompetance and mismanagement (if board members attained their positions do to anything other than genuine ability *cough*) the fewer times they meet, and the more “outside commitments” each individual board member has.

      :(

  8. Amy Adams

    Well, just think about the logistics, there. How easy is it, really, to pull together more than 80 people? That’s one mighty big boardroom. Probably very seldom, and only after the executive committee has done the behind-the-scenes work.

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