A lifelong resident of Minnesota, Michael Brodkorb is an experienced communications, social media, public affairs & research consultant and is an observer of all things political. He also blogs at politics.mn. He lives in Eagan with his family.

Posts about Politics

Candidate charge: Ortman advisor paid for endorsement

Posted by: Michael Brodkorb Updated: November 21, 2014 - 6:38 PM

According to two former Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate, Andy Parrish, the campaign manager to then-Republican U.S. Senate candidate Julianne Ortman had conversations with them at the Republican State Convention in Rochester earlier this year, about the candidates endorsing Ortman’s candidacy in exchange for the payment of campaign debt by Ortman’s campaign.

In multiple interviews, Monti Moreno of Marine-on-St.-Croix and Phillip Parrish of Medford, confirmed Andy Parrish [no relation to Phillip Parrish] approached them both separately during the balloting for the Republican Party of Minnesota‘s endorsement for U.S. Senate with a request to endorse Ortman.

Both said Andy Parrish voluntarily inquired of each candidate about any campaign debt they may have and the possibility of repaying some of the debt in exchange for their endorsement of Ortman.

Moreno accepted the deal he claims Andy Parrish made and endorsed Ortman’s candidacy for payment of $5,000 – an amount Moreno said he never completely collected. Phillip Parrish refused to even discuss the specifics of any formal payment of debt and voluntarily endorsed Ortman. 

Ortman declined an opportunity for a phone interview, instead requesting that all questions be submitted in writing. 

During an email interview process that lasted over six hours, Ortman initially claimed she had “no personal knowledge” regarding any potential conversations between Andy Parrish and the payment of any campaign debt to candidates that endorsed her at the Republican State Convention.

But in further questioning, Ortman later acknowledged being “horrified and shocked” when she learned about Moreno’s belief that Andy Parrish had agreed to pay the campaign debts of Moreno in exchange for Moreno’s endorsement of her campaign.

Ortman confirmed the assertion Moreno made in our interview, that he called her this past summer to discuss the agreement he claims he made with Andy Parrish. 

In response to a question about her phone conversation earlier this year with Moreno, Ortman wrote, “I had no idea whether it was true. I told him I was not aware of it and would never have authorized it and I would never have put him in that position.”

When asked how she addressed the issue with Andy Parrish, Ortman wrote, “I told Andy he needed to resolve it and was adamant with him that he had never been given any authority to talk with Moreno on behalf of the campaign, and would never have that authority.”

Ortman declined to answer a question regarding whether Andy Parrish ever solved the disagreement with Moreno over claims to pay his campaign’s debt or if Andy Parrish provided her with an update on her request to “resolve” the issue. 

Both Phillip Parrish and Moreno said they did not have any information that would make them believe Ortman knew in advance about discussions they had with Andy Parrish at the Republican State Convention about endorsing Ortman’s candidacy in exchange for the payment of campaign debt by Ortman’s campaign.

Ortman declined to answer numerous questions during our interview, responded to only a few questions asked of her via email about the endorsements she received at the Republican State Convention, her conversations with Andy Parrish, and questions about her campaign’s recent filings with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).   

After receiving the endorsement of both Moreno and Phillip Parrish at the Republican State Convention, Ortman was eliminated from the balloting after the fifth ballot.

Republican businessman Mike McFadden defeated St. Louis County Commissioner Chris Dahlberg on the tenth ballot to win the Republican Party of Minnesota’s endorsement for the U.S. Senate.

The information involving offers to pay the campaign debts of candidates who endorsed Ortman came during a review of her campaign finance reports after inconsistencies were made public by the FEC.  

In September, the FEC notified the treasurer of Ortman’s campaign committee that a cash balance discrepancy of almost $130,000 appeared in reports filled with the FEC. Ortman said earlier this week that the error was caused by an “apparent miscommunication between the Treasurer and the FEC Compliance expert” and updated reports had been filed.

In our email interview, Ortman declined to provide copies of her updated FEC reports, writing the “reports will be available in a couple of days on the FEC website.” Charles P. Erickson, who serves as Ortman’s campaign treasurer and is a member of the Waconia City Council, did not respond to a request for comment.

An intelligence operations and analysis professional, who is currently working in Europe, Phillip Parrish was the first candidate to confirm Andy Parrish approached him about endorsing Ortman.  

Phillip Parrish said Andy Parrish spoke with him during the counting of the third ballot as he was standing at his campaign table in the hallway of the Mayo Civic Center, where the Republican State Convention was being held. 

“[Andy Parrish] started off the conversation by…talking to me about the dynamics of the [vote totals] and that to get Julianne to stay in, that if I bowed out, it would maybe get Julianne past the next round [of voting],” said Phillip Parrish.  Phillip Parrish added that Andy Parrish said, “With your support…we can get Julianne at least through another round [of voting].”

Phillip Parrish informed Andy Parrish that he would support Ortman and that he made the decision to support Ortman’s candidacy “back when we were first doing our speeches.”

But during the course of the conversation, Phillip Parrish said Andy Parrish’s demeanor changed to “cagey” as Andy Parrish then said that Ortman’s campaign would "make it worth my while” to endorse Ortman’s candidacy. Andy Parrish then inquired about the size of any debt held by Phillip Parrish’s campaign.

In our interview, Phillip Parrish said he believed Andy Parrish was suggesting Ortman’s campaign would pay off any of Phillip Parrish’s campaign debt, declaring “that is how I interpreted the direction he was headed with the conversation.”

Phillip Parrish quickly extinguished any discussion of exchanging his endorsement of Ortman’s candidacy for the payment of any campaign debt, as he claims he immediately told Andy Parrish, “Andy, I don’t need anything to convince me to support Julianne.”

According to Phillip Parrish, he had a brief meeting with Ortman before he formally endorsed her campaign on the stage at the Republican State Convention. Phillip Parrish said he did not discuss with Ortman any payment of campaign debt in exchange for his endorsement of her candidacy.

The picture to the right was tweeted out during the Republican State Convention and Phillip Parrish said in his interview that he talked with Andy Parrish moments before this picture was taken. 

The second candidate who claims he was contacted by Ortman’s campaign was Moreno, who said Andy Parrish approached him as he was in his truck ready to leave the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester. Moreno had been dropped from the balloting according to the rules of the convention when he failed to receive the minimum required percentage of votes on the second ballot.

“He was asking ‘what do you want’ [for endorsing Ortman],” said Moreno, who claims he responded to Andy Parrish’s pleas that he wanted nothing and just wanted to leave the convention.

As Moreno continued waiting with his wife in his truck for volunteers to bring his campaign signs out, Andy Parrish next offered him an opportunity to serve on Ortman’s steering committee, which he declined.

Moreno said Andy Parrish inquired if he had any campaign debt, to which Moreno responded that his campaign currently was in debt.  Moreno said Andy Parrish offered to pay “up to $5,000” of his campaign debt and he would write a check from Ortman’s campaign account on the following Monday to Moreno. 

Moreno said he accepted the offer from Andy Parrish and endorsed Ortman’s candidacy.

Moreno commented about what he thought at the time about the agreement, saying in our interview, “for $5,000, I can go in and give a speech and endorse Julianne at the end and get my campaign debt paid…so that’s what I did at the state convention.”

In the days following the Republican State Convention, Moreno said he called Andy Parrish numerous times to collect the money he was promised for endorsing Ortman. Annoyed with not receiving a return call, Moreno said he drove to Ortman’s campaign office to speak with Andy Parrish.

Upon arriving at Ortman’s campaign office, Moreno said he was informed Andy Parrish was having lunch at a nearby restaurant. Moreno then drove to the restaurant and confronted Parrish about the payment he was owed for endorsing Ortman.

Moreno said he then left the restaurant and traveled back to Ortman’s campaign office, where Andy Parrish then wrote him a check for $400. Moreno said he expressed his frustration with the amount he was paid, as he was promised “up to $5,000” by Andy Parrish to endorse Ortman. 

Moreno said he explained to Andy Parrish that his campaign debt was more than $400, but Andy Parrish said Ortman’s campaign had bills that needed to be paid, but that he would give Moreno additional money at a later time.

To date, Moreno claims he has received no additional payments from Andy Parrish or Ortman’s campaign. Moreno estimated the total of his remaining campaign debt to be $2,800.

Jack Rogers, President of the Minnesota Tea Party Alliance, confirmed a claim from Moreno that he owes $400 to the Minnesota Tea Party Alliance for an advertisement that appeared in their magazine. Rogers also substantiated Moreno’s statement that he instructed Rodgers to contact Andy Parrish to pay his bill and Rodgers said, “Andy indicated to us that he paid Monti Moreno.”

Moreno said he would “love” to be paid by Ortman’s campaign. Moreno added, that Andy Parrish was “working as an operation officer of the campaign, making promises for the campaign and seeking my services to endorse [Ortman].”

In response to a request for a comment about his conversations with Moreno and Phillip Parrish about their endorsement of Ortman and the discussion of payments of campaign debt, Andy Parrish replied in an email, “out of respect for candidates I do not speak publicly about private conversations.”

David Schultz, a Hamline University political science professor who teaches classes on numerous subject areas, including election law said, “if the facts as alleged are true, paying somebody money for the purposes of getting them out of the race, or paying someone money to endorse you is a felony under federal and state law.”

According to the FEC, a candidate's committee may contribute no more than $2,000 per election to another candidate's authorized committee. The FEC has also yet to receive updated finance reports from either Moreno or Ortman’s campaign, so additional information will be available in the coming weeks.

Picture source: Andy Parrish, Julianne Ortman for U.S. Senate 

Moments after sentencing hearing, MacDonald vows to run again for judicial office

Posted by: Michael Brodkorb Updated: November 12, 2014 - 3:58 PM

Moments after being sentenced on charges stemming from a traffic stop for speeding and suspicion of drunk driving in 2013, Michelle MacDonald declared today she would again run for office as a judicial candidate - as early as next year.

In September, MacDonald was found not guilty of drunk drinking, but was found guilty of refusing to submit to breath testing, obstructing the legal process and speeding.

MacDonald was the endorsed by the Republican Party of Minnesota for the Minnesota Supreme Court, but lost to incumbent Justice David Lillehaug by just 7 points - 53 percent to 46 percent.  

When asked about her political future today, MacDonald said, "I am running again." MacDonald added that "nearly 700,000 Minnesotans voted for me and I feel that if I had the backing of the [Republican Party of Minnesota State Executive Committee] I would have been elected."

MacDonald received the highest vote percentage any Republican statewide candidate for office on Election Day, a fact mentioned by MacDonald in her post-sentencing interview. MacDonald repeated statements made by her attorney in September that she would appeal her conviction on all charges.  

MacDonald said she would like to have a "heart-to-heart" conversation with Republican Party of Minnesota Chairman Keith Downey to "plan a strategy to get a Supreme Court Justice sitting on the bench who wants justice for all Minnesotans, and that would be me." MacDonald said she would again seek the endorsement of the Republican Party of Minnesota and her sentencing today would not "dissuade" her from running for office again.

The margin of the race between MacDonald and Lillehaug was surprising to many political observers, including the Republican Party of Minnesota. MacDonald said "from the moment I learned that I had 47 percent of the votes...I was looking [for opportunities to run again], as soon as next year." 

Jon Cummings, the founder of Minnesotans for Safe Driving, which is a victims advocate group focused on the dangers of drinking and driving, attended MacDonald's trial and her sentencing hearing today.

Cummings said, "we have these laws for a reason and if [MacDonald] would have just taken the test, we could have avoided all of this." Cummings added that MacDonald showed, "horrible judgment...I don't think anybody with judgment like that should ever sit on the Supreme Court or any other kind of [judicial] bench." 

The Republican Party of Minnesota did not respond to a request for comment on MacDonald's sentence or about her request to meet with Downey. 

Picture source: Michelle MacDonald for Minnesota Supreme Court

Election Day Live Blog - November 4, 2014

Posted by: Michael Brodkorb Updated: November 5, 2014 - 12:11 AM

UPDATE: The live blog is closed for tonight. I'll have more analysis tomorrow morning. Thank you all for following.

I'll be live blogging Election Day in Minnesota. Please check back for updates and analysis.  

Live Blog Election Day Live Blog - November 4, 2014

Franken addresses coordination controversy

Posted by: Michael Brodkorb Updated: November 3, 2014 - 5:42 PM

As first reported by the Star Tribune yesterday, U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden's campaign will be filing a lawsuit with Federal Elections Commission today "alleging Democratic Sen. Al Franken's campaign is illegally coordinating with a Super PAC."

Allison Sherry detailed the concerns raised by McFadden's campaign:

At issue are two ads released roughly the same time that are similar in composition and message. One was launched and paid for by Franken's campaign, the other launched and paid for by Independence USA PAC, an outside group bankrolled by former New York City Mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg.

In an interview on FOX 9 television this morning, Franken was asked about the pending complaint from McFadden's campaign. Franken said "we did not coordinate", but Franken then said the images "are public domain, you put those up." Franken added "those [images] are loaded up to public domain and any independent expenditure can use them. We did not coordinate."

In a statement from McFadden's campaign, spokesman Tom Erickson said, "Senator Franken seems to be making our own point for us. It's shocking to hear Franken admit that his campaign put these videos online so that super PACs can use them in support of his campaign. We’d like to know when this coordination began and if Senator Franken personally authorized it."

I have requested a comment from Franken's campaign about his interview this morning and I will update this post with any comments I receive. 

Picture source: Mike McFadden for U.S. Senate, Office of U.S. Senator Al Franken

In last debate with Dayton, Johnson struggles to offer specifics

Posted by: Michael Brodkorb Updated: October 31, 2014 - 11:23 PM

Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson participated in his last debate with Governor Mark Dayton this evening, but he struggled to offer specifics on what he would do if elected governor next week. 

The debate showcased Dayton's strongest attempt at getting Johnson to detail where he would prioritize government spending in realistic terms. For Johnson, this was his last big opportunity to change the dynamics of the race before next Tuesday's election.

Dayton's performance in the debates with Johnson have been stronger than Republicans expected. Dayton has shown a strong grasp of issues facing the state and has provided specifics on what Minnesotans can expect if he is elected to a second term as governor next week. Johnson needs a Hail Mary pass to win the election next week, but tonight his team didn't even take the field. For Johnson, time is running out.  

Picture source: Office of Governor Mark Dayton, Jeff Johnson for Governor

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