Last week, the campaign finance spat that Speaker Kelliher got involved in didn’t seem like that big a deal. Thanks to new revelations, though, it’s beginning to feel like this scandal might be with us awhile.
Tony Sutton has used the best analogy I’ve heard yet in explaining why Speaker Kelliher’s “mistake” isn’t the innocent event that Brian Melendez is portraying it as:
Sutton used as simple an analogy as he could to clarify the cash/services issue.
“If I give you $500 for your campaign for governor,” he said, “I can’t then turn around and give you $500 worth of copy paper.”
The laws governing the size of campaign contributions aren’t complicated. Chairman Sutton again puts things in perspective quite effectively:
“These people have been around,” said Sutton. “They know the rules. It’s so basic. When you file to become a candidate, you get a book: Here’s the rules, follow them. It’s not that hard.”
I certainly agree with Chairman Sutton that veteran politicians should know the campaign finance rules. Where I disagree with Chairman Sutton is when he says that he doesn’t think the DFL “did anything wrong.” Chairman Melendez is a high priced attorney at one of the most prestigious law firms in the upper Midwest. He’s also been the DFL chairman for as long as I’ve been following state elections.
I’d want to know whether Speaker Kelliher cut a check for the Voter Activiation Network data before the DFL sent that information to Speaker Kelliher. I’d also want to know whether any other candidates have bought this information. If other candidates’ campaigns cut checks for the information, then that should apply universally.
When this story first broke, Keliher said that 3 people, including lobbyist Rich Ginsberg, had written a check to the DFL to pay for Speaker Kelliher’s access to VAN:
Friday, Kelliher said she made a mistake by directing donors to give to the DFL Party to help pay for her access to the party’s voter database. Kelliher said the party learned the process was illegal and returned $1,500 in contributions.
I’m not a lawyer but that sounds like a great way to get around Minnesota’s finance laws. It also sounds like the DFL was working in concert with the Kelliher campaign. That isn’t the way to build trust with the other DFL candidates. It’s worth noting that R.T. Rybak also got caught breaking Minnesota’s campaign finance laws:
Rybak’s gubernatorial campaign was required by the campaign finance board to return $26,000 to his mayoral campaign.
“Here are the two people many consider their leading contenders,” Sutton said, “and they’re both violating rules. It just shows that the new left doesn’t believe the rules apply to them. In their way of thinking, the end justifies the means.”
What the Rybak would’ve spent the money on isn’t clear but that isn’t chump change. That’s alot of money. While the average voter isn’t going to dig into campaign finance laws, I’m betting that they’ll worry whether people who didn’t follow the rules are worthy of their trust. While I don’t see this as a dealbreaker for Speaker Kelliher, I still think it’s something that’ll dog her the rest of her campaign.
That’s a high price to pay for such a “mistake.”