The campaign manager for state Rep. Ernie Leidiger must pay a $300 fine for improperly reporting a $178 campaign expenditure used to pay a speeding ticket for the lawmaker.
Leidiger is a first-term Republican from Mayer, just west of Hennepin County.
The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board ruling found that Steven Nielsen, the treasurer of the Citizens for Leidiger Committee, initially reported the money paid for Leidiger’s speeding ticket was a transportation expense and a “noncampaign disbursement” on the campaign’s 2011 report.
A complaint filed by the DFL had claimed that labeling the fine a transportation expense was a “knowing attempt to deceive the Board, and by extension, the public.”
The board’s report says that Leidiger was returning home from a
late session of the Legislature in March 2011, when he received a speeding ticket in Hennepin County.
The campaign’s response to the complaint, the board report says, show that, because the representative was returning home after a late session:
“Leidiger therefore rationalized that the fine could be characterized as an expense for serving in public office, which is an allowed noncampaign disbursement. Although Mr. Nielsen did not initially agree with Representative Leidiger, Representative Leidiger ultimately persuaded Mr. Nielsen that this characterization was justified…
“According to Mr. Nielsen’s statement, Representative Leidiger did not want to call the payment a speeding ticket because he did not want to draw attention to the fact that he had paid this expense with campaign funds. Representative Leidiger eventually convinced Mr. Nielsen that they should use the word ‘transportation’ to describe the payment on the year-end report.
“Mr. Nielsen states that, in hindsight, it was poor judgment to call the expense ‘transportation.’ But Mr. Nielsen argues that the year-end report itself shows that there was no intent to deceive anyone because the report correctly identifies the payee as Hennepin County and lists the court’s address…
“Finally, Mr. Nielsen points out that Representative Leidiger subsequently reimbursed the committee for the expense.”
Just hours before the complaint was lodged, Neilsen amended the campaign report and disclosed the real reason for the expenditure.
Still, the board found the Nielsen knowingly omitted required information when he filed the 2011 campaign report and levied the $300 fine on him.