Category: GOP Politics
Posted: 01/29/14 11:05
by Dave Mindeman
Which is worse - sharing portrait pictures or misrepresenting campaign contributions?
Forgive me...because I am going to wade into the weeds of campaign finance for a few minutes.
The Senate caucus was recently fined $100,000
for a campaign violation that amounted to doing photo shoots with some of their candidates. Yes, that kind of classifies as coordination - but photos? really?
But the Senate caucus has returned fire with a complaint against the State Republican Party which lends a lot to an explanation of why the MN GOP has so many financial issues and a cavalier attitude towards campaign finance in general.
Here is a quote from the DFL complaint to Campaign Finance:Prior to the 2012 general election, the Republican Party of Minnesota made numerous independent expenditures attacking MN DFL candidates as part of the Republican Party's failed effort to retain control of the Minnesota Senate. No fewer than 22 different pieces of literature, and likely many more, were mailed to thousands of homes across the State. However, the Republican Party failed to disclose a single independent expenditure against any DFL Senate candidate on its 2012 Year End Report-- hiding thousands of dollars of electioneering activities from the public. This failure to disclose even a single independent expenditure attacking a DFL Senate candidate cannot be explained by mere inadvertence and is a blatant disregard of the Campaign Finance Disclosure Act.
If you look at their report you can find that the money was reported - at least as far as any one can tell - by expenses for "printing and postage for political mail". This amounted to $144,100.
The spending happened but the MN GOP didn't want to disclose what it was for - a campaign finance violation.
These political mailings are independent expenditures. They are done for local campaigns without the local campaigns having to finance them or count them on their own reports. And locals can say that they had no control over what is said.
Recently, the MN GOP sent an e-mail distribution railing against the flagrant campaign finance practices of the MN Senate caucus - over pictures.
New MN GOP Chair Keith Downey
(who was a Senate candidate in 2012) says..until the CFB acknowledges it is investigating the complaint "it would be impossible to comment." Still Downey says that the Party stands ready to "fix" any problems on their reports.
Might have to fix a lot.
But as long as we are on the campaign finance front, let me go a little further into the weeds and talk about some other problems.
After all, the Campaign Finance Board has books that do not balance
.....Jeremy Schroeder, executive director and lobbyist for Common Cause Minnesota, called the current website "woefully inadequate.".....Improving the electronic data is "key to transparency," said Sherri Knuth, policy and outreach manager for the League of Women Voters Minnesota.....
And what is the problem?.....a Star Tribune analysis that found that one in seven electronic records of donations tracked by the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board is incorrect. The errors stem from one group reporting having given donations that the recipient did not report getting or the reverse. The faulty records mean that groups may have donated as much as $143 million or as little as $122 million, depending on which side of the ledger is to be believed.
That is $21 million in discrepancies.
A lot of this is careless reporting. Some of it is arcane rules from the Board itself. But there is a lot of vague expenditures that do not get the scrutiny they deserve.
Pat Hall of Rosemount ran against Sen. Greg Clausen in District 57 in 2012. Hall lost and his final report had this entry...11/13/212 Automobile Expense...........$4,000
Mileage owed to candidate
Notice the date is after the election. And also note that the $4,000 left his campaign with a final balance of $79.79. Drained the remainder.
Now it is not unusual to have reimbursed mileage expense, but did Hall have a Log Book? And why is this the ONLY entry for mileage expense on his entire report? And why did it just happen to be the amount left in his campaign account?
Maybe Pat gets his ideas from his brother...Sen. Dan Hall who has a similar entry on his finance report....12/12/12 $1500.00
Reimburse Dan for Mileage and other Misc
And here is another side note.
Campaign Finance requires that all political entities utilize the Campaign Finance Software to make out their reports. Since the Board is short staffed, it allows them to do data base searches and find errors quickly.
You even have to fill out a waiver form if you want to do the reports by hand. And the form requires you to give them a legitimate reason.
Yet, Rep. Tara Mack of Apple Valley, who first won election in 2010 has NEVER filed an electronic report. All of her reports are done in writing. That prevents the board from including her numbers in searches unless they take each of her reports and enter the data manually....which is probably not happening.
Why does a sitting legislator - who obviously uses electronic media on the floor and certainly has access to people who can figure out the campaign finance software....how does that legislator get a waiver on electronic reporting?
So again, the MN GOP has made that DFL Senate caucus fine a "big deal". They are the bad guys. While the MN GOP - with the million dollar plus treasury deficit.....the guys who hide independent expenditures....the people who list unexplained expenses....yes, the MN GOP doesn't want you to notice the hypocrisy of what they do.
Again....photos or deceptive practices. Which is worse?