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Wellstone brothers devastated by Wellstone Action move to take them off board

February 15, 2018 GMT

Mark and David Wellstone said Thursday that they feel angry, saddened and betrayed by a public dispute with Wellstone Action, the nonprofit created in honor of his father, the late Sen. Paul Wellstone.

A split in the boards leadership became public Wednesday, with the organization announcing it had decided to sever its relationship with the brothers and two other board members who had been personally close to Paul Wellstone, the two-term DFL senator killed in a plane crash in 2002.

Now, Mark Wellstone said, he and his brother David want the family name to be removed from Wellstone Action. Thats definitely one of our main goals, he said. The group has been well-regarded in progressive circles for years for its training program for candidates, operatives and volunteers.

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At this point, I feel such a deep personal sense of betrayal that its difficult to lay out what my goals are other than I know that my brother and I want to get our name back, he said.

In a separate interview, David Wellstone said he expects that he and his brother will be voted off the board on Friday. Until Wednesday, he said, he thought an agreement had been worked out for Wellstone Action to re-brand and change its name by the end of the year, when the siblings would resign.

Im furious. Im shocked. This brings up all kinds of emotions, but particularly emotions of betrayal, said David Wellstone, who provides womens sober housing in Northfield, Minn.

I dont think theres a way to repair the relationship with Wellstone Action, he said. Im going to be adamant about getting my name back.

Mark Wellstone took issue with a statement released Wednesday by the board, which includes co-founder Jeff Blodgett, a longtime political adviser to Paul Wellstone. It said that the Wellstone brothers, along with now-former board members Rick Kahn and Ron DeHarpporte, had taken actions in the past year that indicate that they dont support the long-term vision of the organization.

Mark Wellstone said that his biggest mistake was trusting people who I really felt had our best intentions at heart people who were at one point close to our family.

In his own statement, Blodgett said Wednesday that the actions of certain former and current board members had created an untenable tension over the organizations ongoing emphasis on expanding inclusivity and equity. He said the removal of Mark and David Wellstone was personally and professionally difficult for many on the board, including myself.

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Kahn, the organizations longtime treasurer, told the Star Tribune on Wednesday that the troubles started after he contacted the board after he raised a question about spending of over $200,000 last summer and a sharp decline in the cash balance.

In response, Blodgett released a forensic audit the board commissioned. It included a Feb. 2 letter from Eide Bailly, a Minneapolis accounting firm that stated that the audit found no evidence of any improper payments based on our examination of the supporting documentation.

Blodgett said that it had become clear they no longer supported the mission of the organization. Mark Wellstone said he did not know what that referred to.

A small-business man who lives in Steamboat Springs, Colo., Wellstone said he has had minimal contact with Wellstone Action recently, but he thought that a fair, amicable resolution to differences with the board had been worked out. And then the carpet was pulled out from underneath us, he said.

Mark Wellstone said an end to the familys relationship with Wellstone Action will not damage the legacy of his late parents, who died a plane crash in 2002.

I would hope that their legacy is much larger and much bigger than Wellstone Action, he said. For me, thats just a small piece of their legacy.

Judy Keen 612 673 4234