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City Pages story costs Minneapolis City Council president $200 fine

Kudos to City Pages, whose November exposé resulted in a $200 campaign-finance fine for Minneapolis City Council president Barb Johnson.

Kudos to City Pages, whose November exposé resulted in a $200 campaign-finance fine for Minneapolis City Council president Barb Johnson. Administrative Law Judge Eric Lipman, writing for a three-judge panel, announced the fine Tuesday; his ruling is here.

As readers may remember, Politics in Minnesota publisher Sarah Janecek testified on Johnson’s behalf as a paid witness, supporting campaign reimbursements for Johnson’s hair-styling and dry-cleaning expenses. Strib reporter Steve Brandt said Janecek argued “on the importance of looking good in campaigns, especially for women, whom she said are judged more critically on such things.”

The judges didn’t entirely reject that, but ruled that “not all of the $1,449.54 disbursed for hair-styling and dry-cleaning was reasonably related to the conduct of [Johnson’s] campaign,” adding that “the personal benefit conferred upon Ms. Johnson was so disproportionate as to convert this disbursement to personal use.”

Similarly, the judges agreed with complainant Warren Kaari that $123.85 for a AAA membership was a personal benefit that was not campaign-reimbursable.

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The judges rebuffed several of Karri’s claims, ruling that he did not establish Johnson’s Internet, telephone, cable TV, booster club and food and beverage services were violations. Among those payments was $500 to Johnson’s son-in-law, Jeff Piper, for $25-an-hour bartending services.

By the way, I don’t see anything asking Johnson to pay her campaign back, so I think she still comes out ahead on this financially. The judges did note at the end of their opinion that “the impact of the violation on voters was small,” resulting in Johnson’s “modest sanction.”

Update: Brandt notes the ruling means Johnson must declare the sanctioned expenses as taxable income, or reimburse her campaign.