A DFL state legislator said Monday he will introduce legislation to explicitly prohibit public officials from receiving "preferential admission" to events at publicly-owned facilities like U.S. Bank Stadium.
State Rep. John Lesch, DFL-St.Paul, said the legislation is in response to learning that House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, attended a Vikings game at U.S. Bank Stadium and was spotted in a suite belonging to Taylor Corporation, a Minnesota company with holdings that include the Star Tribune.
Attendance at Vikings games by political insiders has come under scrutiny at the Capitol after the Star Tribune reported that leaders of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, which manages U.S. Bank Stadium, had invited a number of well-connected DFLers to watch games at two luxury boxes controlled by the authority. Many involved later reimbursed the state.
On Tuesday, a joint House-Senate panel is due to receive an audit of the authority's luxury suite use prepared by Jim Nobles, the legislative auditor.
Daudt said he paid $176 for admission at the game in question. But Lesch said his proposal is intended to "expand the ban on gifts for public officials to prohibit individuals or private associations from giving preferential admission for events held in publicly owned facilities."
"When powerful players at the Capitol such as the Speaker of the House get wined and dined like this, it sends the wrong message to the citizens who ponied up the money to pay to construct the building in the first place," Lesch said.
A spokeswoman for Daudt said Lesch is playing politics with his proposal.
"On the eve of the release of the Legislative Auditor's investigation on misuse of taxpayer-funded suites by DFL cronies, it is no surprise a DFL politician is trying to change the conversation away from his party's abuse of tens of thousands of dollars," said spokewoman Susan Closmore. "We'd respectfully ask Representative Lesch to join us in holding his DFL allies accountable instead of launching baseless personal attacks."