Jacob Frey’s bid to use the money he raised as a council member to run for mayor of Minneapolis survived Tuesday in front of the state’s Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, setting him up for a wide mayoral fundraising lead on the day that 2016 campaign finance reports are due in Hennepin County.

Despite a challenge from attorney Carla Kjellberg arguing the board does not have authority to adopt an advisory opinion and that the move by Frey bucks historical precedent, the board voted 4-1 to adopt the opinion, which was released a week ago.

State law, they said, is not clear enough for the board to tell Frey he cannot repurpose his council committee as a mayoral committee.

“Money equals speech when you talk about election campaigns,” said Gary Goldsmith, a senior staff member for the board. “The reason we say we don’t tend to interfere with a candidate unless there’s a clear legislative mandate to do that, is because we might be interfering with his First Amendment rights.”

Frey’s opponents could still challenge the decision in court, but the advisory opinion should give him confidence that he can spend the more than $100,000 he raised as a council member in the race for mayor.

Board Member Emma Greenman offered the lone dissent, arguing the statute is too muddled and First Amendment rights were beyond what the board should have been considering.

“I think that way oversteps what we need to or should be doing in this case,” Greenman said.

In the race for mayor, Frey is challenging Mayor Betsy Hodges, as are civil rights activist Nekima Levy Pounds, State Rep. Raymond Dehn and filmmaker Aswar Rahman. The election is in November.

 

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