Reading through the minutes for the March 1, 2016 meeting of the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, we came across this approved request (page 6):
Mr. Fisher told members that on April 15, 2015, Mr. [Benjamin] Skjold registered on behalf of the North American High Speed Rail Group, LLC with the belief that he would lobby on its behalf. However, Mr. Skjold never undertook any lobbying efforts on behalf of the association, was never paid by the association, and never made any disbursements for lobbying purposes. Mr. Fisher said that because Mr. Skjold was not required to have been registered as a lobbyist on the association’s behalf, he was asking to withdraw his lobbyist registration. Mr. Fisher stated that Mr. Skjold had yet to file a lobbyist report for the second half of 2015 and that any late filing fee that would otherwise accrue on this report would be waived if the request was granted.
According to his Linked In profile, Skjold was a member of the Foley & Mansfield law firm. Foley and Manfield is listed as Outside General Legal Counsel in the 2015 business plan that the North American High Speed Rail Group, LLC submitted to the Minnesota Department of Transportation in 2015. Bluestem uploaded the document here.
However, Skjold now runs a private practice, according to the Linked In profile. Elsewhere online, in a panelist bio for the September 29, 2015 Continuing Legal Education panel, The FUTURE of Due Diligence: Integrating Quantitative Analysis to Mitigate Environmental Risk, the attorney-panel's bio begins:
Mr. Skjold is General Counsel to North American High Speed Rail Group, LLC, which is in a significant growth mode establishing rail corridors and developing transit oriented real estate throughout the country. Mr. Skjold also maintains a private practice where he regularly counsels clients on a wide array of corporate and securities matters, including private financings, mergers and acquisitions, and corporate governance. He has an active banking practice, where he has represented some of the largest banks in the country along with numerous regional banks and credit unions.
The panel was part of the Environmental Compliance and Commitment Legal Summit in New York City.
We certainly hope that he's been paid for being the private passenger rail group's general counsel. Readers may remember Heather Carlson's January Political Notebook blog post, Michael: I wasn't paid by private group for consulting work:
Olmsted County rail consultant Chuck Michael said he was not paid by the private company seeking to build a high-speed rail line from Rochester to the Twin Cities.
Michael sent an email to the Post-Bulletin following an article published that reported Michael did some consulting work for North American High Speed Rail Group last year. In the email, Michael wrote, "you should be interested to know that my total compensation from NAHSR was $0."
We begin to wonder whether this is an all-volunteer outfit trying to build a multi-billion dollar private rail line.
Wendy Meadley, the Chief Strategic Officer of the NAHSRG, registered with the CFB as a lobbyist for the organization on September 8, 2015. According to page 9 of the Board's March 1 minutes, Meadley paid a $100 late filing fee for the January 15, 2016 Lobbyist Disbursement Report.
Finally, the corporation's filing with the Minnesota Secretary of State's Office still lists Joseph Sperber as registered agent and manager. As we noted back in January, the Post Bulletin reported that he had left the company back in December.
Photo: Wendy Meadley, North American High Speed Rail Group officer and lobbyist.
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