Minnesota Gov.-elect Jesse "The Body" Ventura was on the ropes until a tiny community bank entered the ring.
With the Nov. 3 election just two weeks off, the third-party candidate and ex-professional wrestler could not find a bank willing to lend money to his long-shot campaign. It seemed just a matter of time before Mr. Ventura's cash-rich opponents would body-slam him with television and radio ads.
Enter Jim "The Banker" Shadko, chief lending officer at $48 million- asset Franklin National Bank, Minneapolis.
On Oct. 22, Mr. Shadko did what more than a dozen other bankers and venture capitalists had refused: He lent Mr. Ventura's campaign $305,000, though state election laws prevented the candidate or anyone else from guaranteeing the credit. The campaign used the money to air populist ads that helped drive Mr. Ventura to victory.
"Character is quite important," said Mr. Shadko. "If for some reason (Mr. Ventura's) dream came apart, we believed that he and the campaign would stay in business long enough to raise money from individuals to repay the loan."
Franklin Bank had more to go on than character, though. Under Minnesota's campaign finance law, Mr. Ventura needed to get just 5% of the general election vote in order reap a state subsidy of $310,000. A survey released shortly before the loan was granted showed Mr. Ventura at 21%.
Both sides said the bank got a good deal, including a high interest rate, a substantial origination fee, and a promise of repayment within two months.
"We thought, 'Geez, this is no different from a gap financing or a timing loan for a nonprofit,'" said Mr. Shadko.
Robert Maline, the campaign's treasurer, could not understand why other banks turned him down.
"In my naive thinking, I thought that bankers were professionals at dealing with risk," said Mr. Maline, a 3M Co. engineer. "We said, 'You name the rate, you name the closing costs to make it worth the while for your risk,' but they wouldn't go near it. That shocked us."
Things got so desperate that the campaign asked Lloyd's of London to insure a loan, but the bankers still would not bite, Mr. Maline said. The campaign was rejected by TCF National Bank, Minneapolis; Western Bank, St. Paul; State Bank of Loretto; and Midway National Bank, St. Paul, according to Dean M. Barkley, Mr. Ventura's campaign manager.
"The irony is, (TCF) is where we do our daily campaign banking," said Mr. Maline, who noted that William A. Cooper, chairman of TCF's holding company, is chairman of the Minnesota Republican Party. A TCF spokesman said party politics did not influence the bank's decision.
Stephen C. Erdall, president of $192 million-asset Western Bank, said he might have lent Mr. Ventura the money if the campaign had been more persistent. Still, he said, he was concerned by the lack of a guarantor and had lingering doubts about the candidate. Mr. Ventura might have dropped out of the race prematurely, Mr. Erdall said, or refused to repay Western from the state subsidy.
"We wanted somebody" to be accountable, he said.
Bradley K. Meier, senior lending officer at $38 million-asset State Bank of Loretto, said a large unsecured loan was simply too risky for his small bank.
"A $300,000 loss for me is about one year's profit," he said. "If I was a $300 million bank, it would've been much different."
In the end, the Ventura-Franklin tag team was mutually benefited. Franklin not only cleared a tidy profit but also developed a good relationship with the state's top elected official.
"We now, of course, do much more of our banking with Franklin National Bank," said Mr. Maline, the campaign treasurer.
And Mr. Ventura now answers not only to "The Body" but also to "Governor."