I first met Shawn and Becky Otto about 20 years ago. A friend worked for a company known as Fresh Paint, a non union shop owned by Shawn and Becky Otto. The purpose of this introduction was to go over the details of the construction of a two story addition to the farm house owned by Shawn and Becky Otto in Lake Elmo located on Manning Trail. My friend at the time, Steve Dreher, was laid off and unemployed and was to assist me in the construction of the work on the Otto residence. As I recall, Steve was receiving unemployment compensation, after being laid off from Fresh Paint, and was being paid in cash, for the work done by the two of us.
Since then I had worked on a rental property in downtown Stillwater owned by the Otto's in which the order of the day was to get things done as quickly and as cheaply as possible.
Shawn Otto is a poet, writer and entrepreneur. He and
his wife Becky own and operate Fresh Paint Inc, a
commercial painting contractor, which they established
10 years ago. They also own several historic
commercial properties which they have restored.
In my opinion, none of the work I have ever seen on an Otto property was ever performed by a union contractor or employee, nor was it intended to contribute to the community but only to benefit the Otto's. “Commercial properties” meaning property they rent or lease for profit.
Five or so years later, I bumped into Shawn in the parking lot of a hardware store. Shawn had said that the farm house had been sold and he asked if I would finish up the work needed in the main floor bathroom. I told him it would be no problem and would be glad to help. I took a look at the work needed, called Shawn and gave him a price and he gave me the go ahead. Upon completion of the work, along with some extras that the new owner had requested, I gave Shawn a call to let him know the work was completed as he asked along with the extras. Shawn said to me, “It's going to take about thirty days to pay you as the money is in escrow.” My response was something like, “Damn Shawn, it would have been nice if you would have told me this up front.” This is when I witnessed a side of Shawn I had never seen before. He had the gall to say, “Watch how you f**king talk to me if you ever want to see a damn dime. You talk to me with respect if you ever want to get paid.” I did the work expected of me and this is how I get treated. Never in my life have I been treated in such a manner after completing a job for someone.
This experience makes me question how their new “green home” was built. Was it built by unemployed people paid by cash under the table or was it built by union contractors? Is it of the quality expected of a union contractor? My knowledge of Shawn leads me to believe that he went with the lowest bids possible. I also question whether he tried to screw any of the people under his employ during construction as he threatened to do with me.
This also makes me question the leadership of these unions,
AFSCME Council 5
AFSCME Council 65
IBEW Local 292
IBEW State Council Local 49
International Association of Fire Fighters Local 21
Minnesota Nurses Association
Minnesota State Building & Construction Trade
Minnesota State Council of Unite Here Unions
SEIU Mn State Council Pol Fund
Sheet Metal Workers PAC #10
State Council of Machinists
UAW MN State CAP Council
Are the leadership of these unions truly aware of who they have endorsed? Is the union leadership that have endorsed and contributed to the Otto campaign aware that Rebecca was the founder and president of a non union painting company named Fresh Paint that employed as many as fifty people? If so, is it only because Rebecca is a Democrat? Do they ignore the fact like hypocrites that she gives lip service to the unions but allows her husband to hire unemployed construction workers to do work on their home at well below prevailing wage? Does anyone of these union leaders believe that Rebecca turns a blind eye to the people employed to work on their home?
According to this site, http://homepower.com/files/webextras/HP47_pg6_Otto.pdf, the Otto's had a “volunteer crew” assemble and erect their wind tower on their property in Marine on St Croix. Who was there to insure that the work done met industry standards or that the work met OSHA safety standards?
Let's take a look at Shawn and Rebecca's political history. You may recall that Rebecca first started out as a state representative in 2003. Shortly afterward, she and her husband were indicted by a grand jury for false campaign practices – essentially lying in an eleventh hour hit piece about her opponent Matt Dean.
“A Washington County grand jury has indicted state Rep. Rebecca Otto, DFL-Marine on St. Croix, and her husband and campaign manager, Shawn Otto, for distributing false campaign material for her special election in February. The offenses are gross misdemeanors. The indictment, made public on Monday by Washington County Attorney Doug Johnson, charged the Otto's with falsely alleging in a piece of campaign literature that Rep. Otto’s Republican opponent, Matt Dean of Dellwood, ‘put his own children in private school.’ In fact, one of Dean’s children was attending a public school and a second child was enrolled to start kindergarten this fall.” (Bill Salisbury, “Grand Jury indicts lawmaker”, Pioneer Press, August 12, 2003)
“Rep. Rebecca Otto, DFL-Marine on St. Croix, and her husband, Shawn, have been indicted on a rare charge of issuing false political campaign material before her special election victory in February. A complaint from House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, spurred a Washington County grand jury investigation that led to the gross misdemeanor charges filed Thursday against the Otto's. They allegedly published campaign literature falsely claiming that Republican candidate Matt Dean had ‘put his own children in private school.’” (Conrad deFiebre, “2nd legislator charged with false claims”, Star Tribune, August 12, 2003)
Also during the 2003 campaign Shawn made what appears to be an attempt at buying an election when he contributed $10,000 to the DFL House Caucus. On the exact same day the DFL House Caucus of his contribution, they began independent expenditures on behalf of his wife Rebecca. Read the DFL House Caucus Campaign Finance Report here..
According to the Campaign Finance Board, Shawn Otto had no prior history of contributing to the DFL House Caucus.
Shawn Otto's contribution to the DFL House Caucus coincided exactly with the start of independent expenditures on behalf of his wife's campaign raises serious ethical questions.
It is illegal in the state of Minnesota to “earmark” contribution money. No one can contribute to a committee and at the same time have any say in how the money is spent.
The beauty of all of this is that the voters saw the Otto's for what they really are, Matt Dean soundly defeated Rebecca easily in 2004.
Having spent some time digging a little deeper into Shawn and Rebecca, this question has been popping up,
“How in the hell can Rebecca Otto claim she can "serve as a watchdog for the citizens of Minnesota"
Issues such as these come up,
According to the campaign finance board, Pat Forciea contributed $250.00 on January 19, 2003 to Rebecca Otto's campaign.
Pat Forciea, a convicted felon, signed on as a "supporter" to a letter defending Otto from the "politics of intimidation."
Shawn Otto is no longer Rebecca's campaign manager, but is active as her campaign treasurer during this campaign cycle in which she is running for reelection for state auditor.
During the 2010 Minnesota State Fair, I did what I always do and stopped by the DFL headquarters where Rebecca was campaigning. The two of us have bumped into each other on occasion the past couple of years. We had a little small talk and it was interesting to note that Rebecca and I have both read Atlas Shrugged. This surprised me and I asked her why she was a Democrat after reading such a great book. I never did get a reply, but, my instincts tell me that her and Shawn decided long ago, if you are to run for office in Minnesota, it's much easier as a Democrat. As Thomas Jefferson once said, “Whenever a man has cast a longing eye on them [offices], a rottenness begins in his conduct.” It reminds me of some irate father watching his son playing little league baseball. The father is living the game through his son. Is it possible that Shawn is living politics through his wife Rebecca? Unlike a child, who has no choice in the situation, Rebecca, as an adult accepts Shawn's behavior in a mutual, corrupt grasp for power, attention, and recognition.