Republican Senators Ted Lillie and Ray Vandeveer, who currently represent portions of the Stillwater area, violated campaign finance laws by using taxpayer money to print partisan campaign literature in Senate offices, according to a ruling from a panel of administrative judges.
Also found in violation were 10 other Republican caucus members, including Senate Majority Leader David Senjem. GOP communications coordinator and former House Speaker Steve Sviggum and the Minnesota Senate Republican caucus were also found in violation.
The caucus members violated Minnesota election law when they distributed "Legislative Updates" at Republican caucuses in February that included links about donating money to the Republican Party, according to the ruling.
The three-judge panel found that the Republicans used state resources, without identifying the source of the literature, to prepare the campaign literature and failed to reimburse the State for these costs.
The literature in question was handed out six months ago, Sviggum told Stillwater Patch Wednesday afternoon. Before it was handed out, he said it was .
“It was not campaign material,” Sviggum said. “The complaint was wrong—and the ruling was wrong and inappropriate. It changes the standard of what constituent material and campaign material is … this will put a chill on delivery of information to communicate with constituents.”
Each Senator must pay a $75 fine; Sviggum must pay a $200 fine.
The Minnesota Legislature paid for the cost of printing of the Legislative Updates, which was less than $50 for each legislator, according to the ruling. That estimate for printing the Updates does not include staff time or other resources that went into creating them.
The senators found to have violated the Fair Campaign Practices Act, in addition to Lillie, Vandeveer and Senjem, include Sens. Al DeKruif, Chris Gerlach, Gretchen Hoffman, Benjamin Kruse, Claire Robling, Pam Wolf, Michelle Fischbach and John Pederson. In February, MPR reported on the nearly 5,000 “Legislative Updates” that were printed in Senate offices at the Capitol and distributed exclusively at Republican precinct caucus locations.
The ruling follows a complaint filed by the Minnesota DFL Party against the Senate Republican Caucus on Feb. 14.
“Sometimes you just have to rise above, pay the $75 fine and move on,” Sviggum said. “If it was a serious violation, the fine would have been thousands of dollars. This is a slap on the wrist.”
DFL Chair Ken Martin released the following statement on the panel's conclusion:
“The conclusion by the court affirms what we have been saying since February: the Senate Republican Caucus broke the law when they decided to use our tax dollars to print partisan campaign literature. This finding comes as no surprise, especially not to anyone who has paid attention to the escalating pattern of lawlessness that has come to define this Republican legislature.
“The laundry list of lies, scandals and illegal activities the Republicans have brought to the Capitol in the last year alone is appalling. That the taxpayers should have to foot the bill for all of it is even worse. These Republicans continue to prove they will say and do anything to keep control of the state legislature, even if it means breaking the law and then handing Minnesota taxpayers the bill.”