DFL hit with hefty fine for cheating; MNGOP wonders if it cost them Senate majority

david hann rect.jpg
Hann, the MNGOP's Senate leader, said the ruling shows that "the people of Minnesota cannot trust Democrats to be truthful and lawful in the conduct of their political campaigns."
Yesterday, the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board hit the Senate DFL caucus with a $100,000 fine for illegally coordinating activity between DFL candidates who were running for Senate seats last year.

SEE ALSO: MNGOP accuses DFL of "using racist tactics" by darkening photo of Republican candidate

The crux of the controversy is a photo shoot involving 13 candidates, 11 of whom ended up winning their elections, that produced images ultimately used by the Senate DFL caucus in campaign fliers.

As an Associated Press report explains it, "The Senate DFL and state Democratic Party operations were accused of sharing photos of 13 candidates for printed ads, which amounted to improper cooperation for units supposed to be operating independently... Republicans argued that photos taken in professional shoots amounted to 'active participation' by the candidates and therefore couldn't be used in mailings that were construed as independent ads."

None of the candidates involved or the state Democratic Party were fined, but in its ruling, the Public Disclosure Board concluded, "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."

SEE ALSO: DFL uses unflattering photo of Rep. Mary Franson in new ad

Republicans filed their complaint about the coordination in October 2012, a month before the election that resulted in the MNGOP losing its Senate majority to the DFL. And as you'd imagine, as news circulated yesterday of the $100,000 fine -- among the three largest fines levied by the Public Disclosure Board over the past 11 years -- MNGOP officials wondered aloud whether last year's election might have turned out differently had the DFL played by the rules.

"With today's historic penalty from the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board it is clear the DFL has an ethics problem," Senator Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, wrote on his Facebook page. "The question really needs to be asked, 'Would they have won the majority if they hadn't cheated?'"

MNGOP Chairman Keith Downey lost his Senate seat to Melisa Franzen, one of the DFL candidates involved in the controversial photo shoot. In a statement included in the AP's report, Downey also wondered how much the illegal coordination cost the MNGOP.

"We will never know how this illegal coordination would have impacted the results in these races and ultimately control of the Legislature," Downey said. "They cheated, they won, but at least they are being held accountable now."

But in a statement of his own, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, D-Duluth, maintained that despite the fine, the DFL did nothing wrong.

"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," Bakk said (via MinnPost). "Although we respectfully disagree with the Board's position, we believe it is better to put this matter behind us."

Another DFLer involved in the photo shoot, Jim Carlson, D-Eagan, told the Star Tribune that all the candidates involved were "under the same misunderstanding."

Carlson acknowledged sitting for the photo shoot, but told the Strib he didn't realize the photos were going to be used by the Senate DFL caucus for campaign materials until a friend of his received one of the fateful fliers in the mail.

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at arupar@citypages.com.

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24 comments
swmnguy
swmnguy topcommenter

Well, I was going to vote for the Republican in my Senate district, except there wasn't one on the ballot.  There was an Independent.  But then I saw this exquisite photo, and I just couldn't keep myself from voting for the Democrat.

Ran Dazzle
Ran Dazzle

at least our leader wasn't having an affair with a staffer as they shoved family values down our throat..how much has Amy Koch cost us MN now?

Michael Marshall
Michael Marshall

LOL! The GOP is saying this!? Wow. Hypocrisy knows no bounds. Unreal.

theoko
theoko

Are the GOP saying they were defeated because someone took a group photo of 13 DFL candidates?  Wow- that's one heck of a photo!

Keith Morioka
Keith Morioka

I can get behind Campaign Finance laws that make sense, but this just doesn't to me. This is trivial compared to saying that "Corporations are people" and can literally give hundreds of thousands of dollars...

Keith Morioka
Keith Morioka

So, if they did their photos individually with the same photographer, just at different times, so they weren't all there at the same time. And paid this individually. This would have been okay?

TweetsAreYours
TweetsAreYours

Yeah, significant fine. You need a meaningful fine to get the party's attention, but seriously, Keith Downey, you think improper photos cost you the election? I know it stings to lose your seat to a Democrat in a conservative district, but quit looking for excuses as to why you lost. Perhaps you're not the best man for the job, regardless of the party flag. Is that a possibility? Yes, yes it is. #TweetsAreYours

Matt Touchette
Matt Touchette

Its how the photo's were used versus how the costs were accounted for that makes it against campaign finance law. Having been a treasurer for a state candidate, I can tell you that the campaign finance laws are probably more complicated than they need to be and my bet is that a majority of politicians are knowingly or unknowingly breaking the rules.

Nicholas Olson
Nicholas Olson

Remember when MNGOP spent so much money on 2010 that it couldn't pay vendors, they are still in the red and the party chair resigned in disgrace? I bet that behavior had no affect on that election.

Danyce J Roppe
Danyce J Roppe

Craig B, without left leaning politics, there would be no art to critique.

digitalprotocol
digitalprotocol topcommenter

the mental capacity and the audacity...

Cräig Benttimäki
Cräig Benttimäki

I am really disliking the extreme liberal bias that City Pages publishes. How about reporting negative news about the left? There is no shortage. Or, just stick with art and entertainment and local or regional fluff. You kids have shown that you are not yet mature enough to handle politics.

Kelly McNutt
Kelly McNutt

I'm always willing to come down hard on misbehaving politicians but this is seriously weak. If they were judged to have done something wrong, fine. The chance that it impacted the election in any measurable, meaningful fraction of a percent in the margin of error? No and no no no.

barbertj23
barbertj23

Header should read:

DFL fined for working together, MNGOP sue for intellectual property rights on how to work with others.

Margie Stephens
Margie Stephens

they continue to grasp at straws--anything to discredit and obstruct instead of changeing their policies and behavior--the gop has to evolve or it is doomed--dont really know which i would prefer

Keith Morioka
Keith Morioka

Seriously? How is taking pictures with other candidates cheating? It's a photo shoot. Ooooo, we all had our photos taken at the same place at the same time. Yes, having photos taken together won them the election...

TweetsAreYours
TweetsAreYours

Hey you, yeah you, over here: look at this shiny object. Never mind this dull, brassy object here. Look at the shiny new object.

marevitals
marevitals

Sense-Maker Craig (with an umlaut?) - You do realize that the article highlights the DFL getting fined for their behavior during last campaign season? That Kool-Aid you be drankin' must be fool proof......

MicheleBachmann
MicheleBachmann topcommenter

@marevitals Republicans are just boring stupid crybabies.  There isn't a single Republican on here that ever says anything interesting or funny.  

mingtran
mingtran topcommenter

You're entertainment value is immense. I can't look away.

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