New evidence is now connecting the well-known conservative group Freedom Club to negative mailings from the obscure Liberty Minnesota PAC.
Days after mailings from Liberty Minnesota PAC targeting Republicans in the Minnesota House of Representatives started to hit mailboxes, questions were raised if Liberty Minnesota PAC was working with another group on the project.
The questions were well founded, as Liberty Minnesota PAC was not considered a well-funded or well-known political committee until the mailings started to appear across the state in September.
According to campaign finance reports, Liberty Minnesota PAC spent less than $3,000 for the entire election cycle in Minnesota in 2014.
In the time since the mailings first started to appear, evidence continues to build and shows Alex Kharam, the executive director of the Freedom Club and the company he founded earlier this year, The Greenbrier Group, worked with Liberty Minnesota PAC on the project.
Earlier this year, Kharam helped launch the website Alpha News. Alpha News has included negative stories on several of the Republican incumbent House members who were targeted in the Liberty Minnesota PAC mailings.
Kharam has also written material critical of some Republican members of the House of Representatives for use by Alpha News.
The Freedom Club is a conservative non-profit organization, which also maintains a state and federal political action committee. According to their website, The Freedom Club was founded in the 1990's and the organization boasts about "supporting hundreds of candidates" and for being "instrumental in electing Republicans such as Governor Tim Pawlenty, Senator Norm Coleman and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann."
One of Freedom Club's founding members, Bob Cummins, was also one of the largest funders of the campaign against same-sex marriage in 2012. In the 2014 cycle election cycle, the Freedom Club raised over $1.2 million from about 50 donors (with nearly 70 percent of the total coming from Cummins and his wife, Joan).
The Freedom Club has been a well-funded group and Kharam's involvement in criticizing incumbent Republicans may be a sign that groups are preparing endorsement or primary challenges to incumbent Republican members of the Minnesota House of Representatives.
This would be a costly distraction to Republicans who hope to save their resources as they face a presidential election next year. Historically, this is a political environment which has been favorable to the Minnesota DFL.
When questioned in October about how Liberty Minnesota PAC funded and organized the mailings, the group's chairman, Karl Eggers, said "everything will be reported" in campaign finance reports next year.
Eggers also declined in October to comment about his discussions with Kharam about the mailings,nor would he offer any specifics on Kharam's involvement.
But it is clear Eggers and Kharam have discussed working on joint projects between the Freedom Club and Liberty Minnesota PAC.
In an email sent in March by Eggers to Kharam and provided by a source for this story, Eggers requested of Kharam that he "[p]lease let me know if there is anything Liberty Minnesota...can do to be of service to you or Freedom Club."
In a phone interview a few days ago, I asked Eggers if he worked with The Greenbrier Group on the mailings which targeted Republicans in the Minnesota House of Representatives, including the Speaker of the House, Rep. Kurt Daudt, R-Crown.
In response to my question about The Greenbrier Group’s involvement, Eggers responded, "yes, that's who we used."
On Friday afternoon, I sent an email to board members of the Freedom Club. In that email, I asked for a comment about the role of a top staffer with the Freedom Club coordinating mailings which targeted Republican members of the Minnesota House of Representatives.
Less than one hour after sending the email to the board members, I surprisingly received an email from Eggers in which he was now claiming The Greenbrier Group was not the vendor used by Liberty Minnesota PAC "to print and mail our recent mailers."
I informed Eggers I would report he was now reversing his position on the role of The Greenbrier Group in working with Liberty Minnesota PAC on the mailings.
I also requested to review the invoices for the mailings to verify Eggers’ new statements. He did not respond to my requests for comments, nor was I provided with the invoices for review.
Neither the board members of the Freedom Club nor Kharam responded to multiple requests for comment. It is possible that Freedom Club members were unaware of Kharam's involvement with Liberty Minnesota PAC.
More evidence of the connection between Freedom Club and Liberty Minnesota PAC arose recently when the Freedom Club sent a mailing into Anoka County against former Republican House member Jim Abeler who is running in the special election for a seat in Minnesota Senate due to the recent resignation of Sen. Brandon Peterson, R-Andover.
The mail permit number on the Freedom Club mailing is the same as the permit number on the Liberty Minnesota PAC mailings. The permit is registered to Mailing Solutions in Blaine and Kharam's involvement with both groups would explain why the same mail shop processed both mailings.
Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, who was targeted in one of the mailings from Liberty Minnesota PAC, did comment about the involvement of a top Freedom Club staffer in the mailings which targeted Republicans in the Minnesota House of Representatives.
"I am intrigued and astonished that the staffer for the Freedom Club whose goal is to elect conservatives is working with a group that has been attacking conservative House members like myself,” said Franson.
Picture source: Liberty Minnesota, Twitter