MN GOP calls poll an illegal campaign contribution

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Can a poll be considered an illegal campaign contribution benefiting IPer Tom Horner?
This is novel. The Republican Party of Minnesota has filed an official complaint with the state Campaign and Public Finance Board alleging that Independence Party gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner received an illegal campaign contribution in the form of a poll.

We told you about the poll yesterday. It shows GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer losing to all three Democrats running for the office. The Republicans beef? The polling firm, Decision Resources (owned by Bill Morris), has done work with Horner's PR firm (Horner placed third in all three match-ups.)

The crux of the GOP complaint: An assertion that Horner got the poll results before the public owing to his relationship with the pollster -- something Horner and Morris both deny.

"By citing polling results from Decision Resources which are not publicly available, it is obvious that Tom Horner and Bill Morris colluded and shared information. We believe that the poll referenced by Horner is an illegal corporate contribution to the Horner campaign on behalf of Decision Resources, which is prohibited under 211B.15, Subdivision 2.,"

Would the GOP be attacking Horner on this front if the polls showed Emmer leading instead of losing to the Democrats? (Horner's a distant third in all three match-ups.) Maybe. But maybe they're also concerned about Horner slicing off GOP support from independents. As Horner bragged:

The best news of the poll indicates that Tom is receiving support from a near equal number of Republicans and Democrats and this race will be decided by the independents, and Horner is winning their support with more than a 41% lead.

That figure is also a source of the GOP's allegations of Horner getting preferential treatment from DR: It didn't appear in the poll results published in the Pioneer Press.

In a statement yesterday, Horner campaign manager Stephen Imholte said, "The survey is available to the Minnesota Republican Party. Perhaps they should use it to understand their candidate's shortcomings in the eyes of Minnesotans."

Morris told the Star Tribune he runs a clean ship:

Morris defended the results of the poll, which he said he conducts in-house quarterly on statewide issues and candidates. "If you read the questions and look at the demographics, there's no bias whatsoever," he said. "People can make their own judgment."

And Bill Salisbury, of the Pioneer Press, defended publishing the poll in light of the Horner-Morris connection:

When Morris released the poll to me, he told me that Horner's PR firm, Himle-Horner, was a client of DRL and that he personally is supporting Horner for governor. But he said neither Himle-Horner nor the Horner campaign paid for any part of the poll, and he assured me that the poll met his usual high professional standards.

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