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Minnesota GOP says $550,000 contribution to the DFL is illegal

The Republican Party of Minnesota, investigated in the past for its contributions and accounting methods, says it will file a complaint against the Minnesota DFL State Central Committee challenging contributions it received and accounting methods.

The complaint, to be filed with the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board and the Office of Administrative Hearing, alleges that a $550,000 contribution to the DFL from the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) violates state law because it came from a fund that commingles corporate and individual contributions. Corporations cannot contribute to Minnesota political parties or candidates.

In its financial report filed on Monday [PDF], the DFL attached a one-page summary listing some of the DLCC contributors, all individuals. But in reports filed with the IRS, the DLCC lists multiple contributions from such corporations as AT&T, Astra Zeneca, Reynolds American and the National Beer Wholesalers Association.

Pat Shortridge
Pat Shortridge

“The bogus report made it look like they took only individual contributions, but if you’re going to file campaign reports, you have to file the whole report,” said Pat Shortridge, Republican Party chair. “You can’t cherry-pick 10 donors and say, ‘This is all.’ ”

Furthermore, Shortridge said, even if none of the DLCC contribution came from corporations, segregating individual contributions still doesn’t comply with the law. “The interpretation [by the Campaign Finance Board] has always been, if you take any corporate money, it’s all tainted,” he said.

Ken Martin, chair of the DFL Party, issued a statement Friday evening, saying in part:

“At the eleventh hour, the Republican Party is scrambling to change the narrative.  Their latest attack is just a desperate effort to to distract voters from the real issues in this election.

“The Republican Party is trying to create controversy where none exists. The public record is clear that the funds we received from the DLCC consisted of contributions from individual donors. The only corporate spending happening in this election is the millions of dollars the Republicans’ allies are spending to smear Democratic candidates across the state.”

Republicans have a comparable organization, the Republican State Legislative Committee. But, Shortridge says, the RSLC “plays by the rules and does not give to the party.” 

The contribution from the DLCC is the DFL’s third-largest in the reporting period.

The penalties are stiff if the DFL were to be found in violation of the law. The party could be fined up to four times the amount of the contribution, or more than $2 million.

In the complaint, the Republican Party of Minnesota is asking the board to consider just such a penalty.  “It’s an attempt to mislead the Campaign Finance Board and the public,” Shortridge said.

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Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by Mike Franklin on 11/02/2012 - 09:32 pm.

    Martin didn’t deny it

    Now the fundraising disparity makes sense!

  2. Submitted by Cynthia Bemis Abrams on 11/03/2012 - 09:56 am.

    Tobacco Money

    While it will take others to figure out if these donations are illegal or not, it should be noted that Reynolds American is TOBACCO money. Very disappointing that either party would accept money from Big Tobacco, given that smoking related illness cost our state nearly $3 billion in healthcare costs. We all pay the price!

    • Submitted by Chris Hughes on 11/20/2014 - 03:54 pm.

      Big Tobacco

      Interesting position Cynthia, considering the war against ecigs that you participated in as a board member of Clearway Minnesota, and continued this week as a member of the Bloomington City Council, puts money in the pockets of BT, by discouraging smokers from making the switch to a reduced harm product.

      So in essence, you don’t like people taking money from BT, but you don’t mind personally doing your part to protect their bottom lines.

  3. Submitted by Eric Paul Jacobsen on 11/04/2012 - 04:33 pm.

    This looks bad for both the DLCC and the DFL.

    I’m a monthly contributor to the DFL, partly because I want the parties to belong to the people and not the corporations.

    I’m very disappointed in the carelessness of the DLCC, which should have acted in accordance with Minnesota law and contributed only donations from individuals to the DFL. The DFL should have checked where the DLCC’s money came from, too. Did Democrats at the state and federal level really believe nobody would notice this? Did they think nobody would care?

    There is no excuse for this. “The other party does it, too,” doesn’t count. Sure, I’ll vote for the DFL again on Tuesday, because I consider it marginally less corrupt than its Republican counterpart. But winning elections like this is no way to improve the system.

    As our political parties and associated political action committees accept larger and larger donations from smaller and smaller groups of donors, particularly corporate donors who don’t even have to disclose their names, the system gets more and more corrupt. The big losers are all the rest of us who can’t afford to keep up with the increasingly anonymous big spenders. I can understand why a party dedicated to increasing the power and influence of the rich would try to get as much support as possible from unnamed corporate donors, but I cannot understand why so many Democrats still think this is a winning strategy for them. It certainly won’t be in the long term.

    Indeed, if a court finds that the Democrats have broken campaign law, I say stick them with the full two-million-dollar fine. As a Democrat, I’m happy that this won’t have an effect on Tuesday’s election, because I am convinced that the other party sells itself even more cravenly to the highest bidder, but as an American, I am ashamed at how corrupt our electoral system has become, and how little my vote, or even the small amount of money I contribute to the party of my choice, seems to matter.

  4. Submitted by Biff Pow on 11/04/2012 - 07:04 pm.

    Well Is It?

    This article would be helped immensely by a simple statement: the Republicans maintain that the contribution “violates state law because it came from a fund that commingles corporate and individual contributions.”

    Is this a fair statement of the law or not? If it is, the article should say so, and the Democrats would appear to be in violation. If not, this is a shoddy partisan piece by a former (?) Republican activist.

    Is this too much to ask of Minnpost?

    • Submitted by James Hamilton on 11/05/2012 - 09:19 am.

      In all fairness,

      we can’t expect a legal opinion from a reporter. And if we get one, we shouldn’t trust it.

      Remember that laws are written by legislators, often about as clearly as they write their campaign materials.

      • Submitted by Phil Dech on 11/05/2012 - 09:43 am.

        Of course

        I wouldn’t expect her to render her own opinion, but she could have contacted someone who studies election law and would be qualified to comment on the validity of the accusation.

        • Submitted by Biff Pow on 11/05/2012 - 11:08 am.

          I’m not asking for judicial analysis

          The article contains no information on the applicable statute. There are cases where the law is ambiguous in wording or application. Fine, let us know that with the relevant language is.

          But many times the language is perfectly clear and you don’t need to be a specialist to understand its meaning.

          To report without any information on the law is, as I said, shoddy and lazy.

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