DFL says it moved quickly to end controversial Kelliher contribution plan

The DFL’s executive dirctor, Andrew O’Leary, has written a letter (PDF) to the state’s Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board saying that it ended its financial arrangement with the gubernatorial campaign of Margaret Anderson Kelliher as soon as it realized the process was not legal.

Issues surrounding the arrangement became public last week.

Under the plan, donors who already had made maximum contributions to the Kelliher campaign were told by her workers that they could make contributions to the DFL that would defray the costs of her campaign using the state party’s voter file. Typically, gubernatorial candidates are charged about $13,000 for use of that data.

In his letter, O’Leary said he was approached by the Kelliher campaign in August about the plan.

O’Leary wrote, “I was operating under the mistaken belief that the Party had received a legal opinion during the 2006 gubernatorial campaign that such an arrangement was permissible. The Party accordingly credited some such fundraising toward the Keliher campaign’s fee for the voter file.”

It was not until earlier this month, when he was approached by a second gubernatorial campaign about arranging such a deal, that he realized there was a problem. O’Leary said.

“A second gubernatorial campaign approached me in December 2009 about paying its fee for the voter file under a similar arrangement, but asked me for confirmation of the opinion that I believed the Party had received,” he wrote. “I could not find any such opinion and, upon consulting legal counsel, learned that the arrangement was not permissible. I so informed that campaign, as well as the Kelliher campaign. I also reported the facts to the state-party chair, Brian Melendez, who instructed me to immediately correct the situation.”

That has been done, he wrote. O’Leary said he has “offered to return any contribution that was wholly or partly credited to the Kelliher campaign’s fee for the voter file.”

Some of the contributors, O’Leary wrote, did not want a refund, but the party has refunded $1,500 in donations.

Last Friday, Kelliher, too, was quick to acknowledge that a mistake had been made and that improperly raised funds would be returned.

The state’s Republican Party has filed a complaint with the board regarding “potential illegalities concerning campaign finance activities” of the Kelliher campaign.

Tony Sutton, chairman of the Republican Party, said Friday he didn’t think that the DFL had done anything improper, laying the whole matter at Kelliher’s feet.

A number of DFL gubernatorial campaigns were upset when learning about the Kelliher-DFL arrangement, claiming it showed the party was “playing favorites.”

Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 12/14/2009 - 05:29 pm.

    What we see here is a reliance on authority, a legal opinion which as it turns out probably does not exist, instead of logic or just plain common sense.

    Campaign finance rules are complex, and sometimes obscure. But a pretty good rule of thumb to follow is that you shouldn’t try to do indirectly, what you can’t do directly. In this case, you can’t pay the obligations of a campaign, if for whatever reason, you can’t contribute to the campaign.

  2. Submitted by David Day on 12/15/2009 - 11:13 am.

    The stories being reported in the newspapers indicate that we are not getting the whole story in relation to the D.F.L party’s participation in this screwy deal. Chairman Melendez has basically thrown everyone under the bus in regards to responsibility for the mistakes made. Also, this is not the first time that his “group” has been accused of favoritism. Andy O’Leary’s story has gaps which strain credulity. All in all, progressives and good Democrats are left to wonder about their party leadership’s integrity. Politically, what is most interesting is the Republican Party’s, (Sutton), decision to attack Kelliher rather than the D.F.L. party leaders. It almost appears that they would prefer that the Democratic Party leaders would remain in power.

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