Spending practices of the debt-ridden Minnesota Republican Party have triggered a DFL complaint against a state senator who worked for the GOP while he was running for office and since he has served in the Legislature.
The DFL filed a campaign finance complaint against Dave Thompson, a lawyer and former radio host from Lakeville who was elected to his first term in the Senate in November 2010. DFL state Chair Ken Martin said Thompson should have listed his work for the Republican Party on state disclosure forms.
"Was Senator Thompson hiding the fact that he was being paid $70,000 by his own political party to run for the state Senate?" Martin asked.
Thompson said Monday that he began working as an independent contractor for the party in October 2009, well before he knew there would be an opportunity to run for the Senate, and continued until the end of 2011. He said public officials are not required to disclose income for services provided as independent contractors, as opposed to being direct employees.
Martin submitted the complaint to the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, which enforces state laws on campaign finance reporting. It accuses Thompson of violating the state law requiring him to report outside income and asks that he be fined for not doing so.
Martin said the DFL based its complaint on a story last week by Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) on spending practices by the Republican Party under former Chair Tony Sutton. MPR reported that Thompson, who had lost the race for party chair to Sutton in June of 2009, was paid $70,000 by the party for work as a communications consultant. Thompson said he does not know the exact amount he was paid.
Martin said the DFL has a policy of not paying candidates or elected officials. "It raises questions in people's mind, the general public, as to whether these people are being paid to run for office," he said. He called the relationship between Thompson and the Republican Party "highly bizarre.''
Sutton, party chairman until December, said Monday that it was not unusual for people who work for the party to decide to run for office. He said he did it himself in 1988, when he was a party field worker and filed for a House seat in Hibbing. He said the complaint is "just politics by the DFL."
Sutton said Thompson provided communications consulting for candidates as well as fundraising consulting. He described Thompson's duties as "working with candidates on how to give speeches and how to work with the media.'' Thompson said he continued doing communications advising and being paid by the party during his first year in the Legislature but ended the work when he learned of the party's financial difficulties.
Sutton stepped down amid concerns about those difficulties. An internal review revealed nearly $2 million in debts or obligations, much of it previously unreported, and a veteran political consultant, Pat Shortridge, was elected chairman last month to fix the problems.
Jim Ragsdale • 651-925-5042