Republican state senators named in campaign complaint

DFL charge includes senators from metro area

By T.W. Budig, ECM Capitol Reporter

The State DFL Party has filed a complaint with the Office of Administrative Hearings alleging a number of area Republican state senators broke state campaign law by distributing an illegal flyer on caucus night Feb. 7.

“It’s not an issue of how much was spent,” said DFL State Party Chairman Ken Martin on Feb. 14 of the “Legislative Update” flyers.

“They just didn’t go to the line — they crossed it,” Martin said of breaking state campaign law.

A main objection Martin voiced about the flyers, printed at the a cost of $47 to taxpayers, is that they contain a link to a Senate Republican Caucus Web site on which campaign funds are solicited.

Martin argues this is clearly in breach of state campaign law.

A pattern of willfully ignoring the law, said Martin, persists in the Senate Republican Caucus.

The area state senators included in the DFL complaint are Chris Gerlach of Apple Valley, Benjamin Kruse of Brooklyn Park, Ted Lillie of Lake Elmo, Geoff Michel of Edina, Claire Robling of Jordan, Ray Vandeveer of Forest Lake and Pam Wolf of Spring Lake Park.

Senate Republican Caucus spokesman Steve Sviggum, former House Speaker, takes full responsibility for the flyers.

“It was my wrongdoing and only mine,” Sviggum said. Blame should be affixed to him, not to the state senators, he said.

Sviggum maintains the wording in the flyers does not violate state campaign law. The flaw, Sviggum said, was the link to the Senate Republican Caucus Web site listed at the back of the flyer.

He failed to check it, he said.

Wolf said she accepted the flyers from Senate Republican caucus staff with the understanding it had been checked by attorney — Sviggum said it had.

Her flyers were placed on a table at the caucus, she said.

“Didn’t even read it,” she said. “Lesson learned.”

Gerlach said he would happily refund the cost of the flyers he used at taxpayer expense. “The buck stops with me for passing it out,” he said.

Still, Gerlach said only a small amount of money was spent on the flyers. For him, paying back the cost of the flyers he distributed entails writing a check for about $1.25, he said.

Both Gerlach and Wolf indicated that Democrats were justified in pursuing the matter.

Wolf — though expressing a dislike for “gotcha” politics — thought it perfectly OK for everyone to work to make sure that things are on the up and up.

Sviggum said he had the Senate Republican Caucus Web site whose linked is on the flyer removed.

Martin indicated that Democrats are less interested in the size of fines that might be meted out by a judge as a result of the complaint but that a legal body establish that wrongdoing had indeed occurred.

Cost of filing the DFL complaint was $50.