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DFL files complaint against GOP paying Dave Thompson while a Senate candidate

The DFL filed an ethics complaint this morning against freshman Sen.

The DFL filed an ethics complaint this morning against freshman Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, for failing to report more than $70,000 he was paid by the state’s Republican Party while he was running for his Senate seat.

Typically, political parties don’t get involved in opposing parties’ financial issues; mostly because parties live in glass houses and are reluctant to throw stones.

But on the surface, this case seems to be a clear violation of Thompson’s legal obligation to report all income and income sources as a candidate for elective office.

According to a Minnesota Public Radio report aired last week, Thompson was being paid $70,000 by the GOP at the time it was under the management of former Chairman Tony Sutton.

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The Lakeville lawyer and former talk radio personality was being paid, according to the GOP, for “consulting” and “communications” work.

Thompson was paid that sum from October 2009 to November 2010, when he was elected to the Senate.

Neither Thompson nor the party “reported in a timely fashion,” said DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin at a news conference late this morning. “What are they hiding?”

It appears, Martin implied, that Thompson was being paid by the party to run for office. It’s unclear whether that would be illegal, but it would certainly raise “ethics questions,” Martin said.

By any standard, Thompson was required to report the income. The GOP, which is facing all sorts of bookkeeping nightmares in the post-Sutton era, appeared to report at least some of the money paid to Thompson.

Thompson, who was at his Senate office, said he wouldn’t have a response “until later.”

“I haven’t even had a chance to go through this,” he said, holding up complaint the DFL filed with the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board.

The board has not indicated whether it will investigate the charge.

But the charge again underscores how different things are for the GOP this session from a year ago.

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Last January, the Republican legislators were filled with confidence and vows of “doing things differently” from the way DFLers had.  Thompson, one of the most available GOP pols around, had been chosen as an assistant minority leader to represent the large Republican freshman class.

But, like other leaders, Thompson was replaced by his caucus in the wake of the scandal surrounding former Senate leader Amy Koch.

Martin, the DFL party chair, was magnanimous on the subject of Koch. He agrees with Senate Republican leaders that the senator should not face an ethics panel as this session begins.

“It’s not fair to her or her family to be dragged through the mud,” said Martin. “It’s in the past.”

In fact, the DFL has been almost entirely silent on the entire Koch matter.

“If your opponents are committing political suicide, the best thing to do is stay out of the way,” said Martin.

But the Thompson matter is different, Martin said. It appears to be a clear violation of election law.

Martin said the DFL does not hire its party’s office holders or candidates for office to do work for the party. He called for the GOP to adopt the same policy.

“It looks fishy,” said Martin of hiring office holders or candidates.