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Senate DFL caucus agrees to pay $100,000 fine over disputed 2012 campaign ads

The Senate DFL caucus has agreed to pay a $100,000 fine to resolve a 2012 dispute over campaign ads. 

The fine, levied Tuesday by the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, stems from a complaint by the Republican Party of Minnesota (RPM) last fall, alleging the Senate DFL campaign arm used photos of candidates in campaign lit that were not publicly available online.

That suggested the candidates coordinated with outside spending groups on the ads, which violates state campaign finance rules. 

The fine is one of the largest in recent years, including a $100,000 penalty against former Gov. Tim Pawlenty in 2002 for improper campaign ad coordination. 

“As the investigation developed, it became clear that the communications that were reported as independent expenditures involved active candidate participation in the process of arranging for and conducting the photo shoots that provided images for the communications,” read the board’s ruling (PDF)

The Senate DFL caucus doesn’t have to admit any wrongdoing as part of the settlement, but DFL leaders said they were glad to put the issue behind them.

“I’m pleased to see this matter resolved. We continue to maintain that our candidates and the caucus campaign committee complied with all campaign finance laws,” DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said in a statement. “Although we respectfully disagree with the Board’s position, we believe it is better to put this matter behind us.”

DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin said officials there were “pleased” to put the matter behind them. “Ultimately, it is best to set this distraction aside and allow our members to focus on governing,” he said.

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