My favorite local news story in recent days was the one about Ted Mondale finally agreeing to a $50,000 clawback of a $150,000 loan he got from Ponzi king Tom Petters back in 2005. The original Strib story was a terse recitation of the known facts. Mondale and Petters shared several business ventures. Petters openly traded on the Mondale name in the process of expanding his nefarious empire. The loan in question was never repaid.
Then a couple of days ago Strib columnist, Jon Tevlin, weighed in, with a juicier telling of the tale, along with mating it to Mondale’s breezy assurance that e-pulltab revenue would help cover the “public share” of cash for the new Vikings stadium, generally believed to be about $348 million.
A couple of key lines from Tevlin’s column: Asked whether Mondale was cooperative, the receiver on the clawback, Doug Kelley said, “It was a long and tortured path for us to come to an agreement with Mr. Mondale.”
And this: “The business Petters helped fund and Mondale ran, Nazca, promoted itself as a software company that could track real estate transactions for clients. Mondale promised it would be working in six months, but three years later he hadn’t delivered. By 2008, the company has losses of $5.7 million.”
And finally this: “During testimony in his trial, Petters said that he used the Mondale name to solidify his company’s reputation. Mondale held several positions at Redtag, which did business in Asia. His father, former Vice President Walter Mondale, had served as ambassador to Japan, and Petters said in court that the affiliation ‘opened up incredible doors’.”
I bet it did.
Now, I’ve never met Ted Mondale. I was introduced to brother Bill once, if I remember. I ran into their late sister Eleanor a couple of times in Los Angeles and did a feature story on her here after her first bout with cancer, and I’ve interviewed Dad, The Veep, a couple of times. So no deep familiarity. But enough with Eleanor to detect a rather thick strain of entitlement. Not obnoxious. Not even off-putting. (She knew how to play the boys.) Just the vibe that, “I deserve this”, which in her case was the attention for being a fun, good-looking gal … with a famous name.
It’s a shame there isn’t a serious city magazine left in town, because this Mondale-Petters story is full of tantalizing facets. Obviously the two were far more than passing acquaintances. Each, I speculate, saw opportunity in the other. That neither fulfilled it for the other only adds to the drama.
But it is striking that Mondale, who may not have Tom Petters-in-his-prime kind of dough, doesn’t have the wherewithal to get a loan … to pay back the Petters loan. Or, even better, a well-heeled pal who’d bail him out, to spare him the public embarrassment of fighting Kelley and looking like a guy who saw no good reason to part with easy money pulled from a massive fraud. I ask you, how much better off would Mondale’s reputation be if he had cut a deal with rich buddy so as to be able to put out an “official story” that he had “fully cooperated” with Kelley, and “in the interests of being an example for others, quickly and completely repaid” the $150,000?
Anyhow … I was delighted … yeah, “delighted” … to see Tevlin take on the story. I like Jon. He’s a very good/sometimes terrific writer. But post-Nick Coleman, the Strib mandate was pretty clearly for a less polarizing choice of column topics. Assuming they know better than me what the reading public wants in a metro columnist, (not likely), all I can say is that I have far (far) less interest in feel-good homilies on community spirit than vanity and connivery among the entitled elite … whose famous names have them in positions to spend vast amounts of our money.