Mark Dayton affair rumor: Where's the beef?

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Mark Dayton has a phantom mistress. Or not.
Minnesota Republicans want you to believe that Democrat Mark Dayton had an affair with a former staffer in 1998, and paid her off to boot.

They don't have any proof of this. But they have a carefully orchestrated campaign centered on mysterious documents designed to get the message out.

Luke Hellier, a hardball GOP operative who runs the Minnesota Democrats Exposed website has been teasing the document dump for days.

Fox9 bit on the story, and tried to cover the episode as an example of smarmy campaign tactics. In doing so, it pretty much fell into a trap.

"The October surprise came in Tuesday's mail, nice and tidy in a manila envelope with a Hinckley postmark. Inside: anonymous allegations that Mark Dayton had some type of relationship with a staffer on his 1998 gubernatorial campaign, around the same time as Dayton's divorce from his second wife," Tom Lyden says in his report. "Problem was, there was no proof, no evidence. But the blogger behind Minnesota Democrats Exposed apparently didn't need any."

Lyden: "I don't know if you have any of the facts to back this up yet."

Hellier: "Well, listen, about a week ago I was contacted and made aware that there's an ongoing investigation about Sen. Mark Dayton and a relationship with a former female staffer from his 1998 gubernatorial campaign. I followed up with a couple of former staffers from that campaign, and they did confirm that an investigation was going on."

Lyden: "Well let me stop you right there: an investigation by whom?"

Hellier: "I'm not totally sure if it's a media outlet or some other entity."

Lyden: "Well, this could just be Republicans, right? Just fishing around."

Hellier: "It could be. I received a package in the mail Tuesday, I believe, with a significant amount of public documents related to this investigation."

What public records were either of them talking about? Where did they come from? What do they show? We have no idea because Fox 9 doesn't elaborate, and didn't post the documents to its website. And neither has Hellier, who instead issued this statement:

Contrary to what was repeatedly reported this evening on the Fox 9:00 News (video above), I have not posted a single page of the documents I received in the mail. I am doing what every responsible journalist & blogger would do in this situation. I am working to independently verify and research the claims in the documents.

There's no proof of anything, but now the "investigation" has moved from the blogosphere to the mainstream media. A credible reporter dismissed the rumor as nothing more than a campaign tactic, but that doesn't matter because the story's out. Hellier, meantime, says he just a good guy trying to be responsible.

Score one for the Republicans. MDE posted a promo of the Fox clip on its own YouTube channelthis way: "FOX 9 reported last evening on the details contained in the documents about an investigation of Senator Mark Dayton." Meanehile, Fox9 has pulled the story from its website.

Reached late today, Hellier reiterated his original statement, above, and added that, "I have handled this the way I thought it was appropriate." And he said again that he didn't know the source of the documents.

Here's the clip:

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