Over the past year, Gov. Mark Dayton’s re-election campaign has repaid Minnesota $4,700 for his political use of state resources.
The payments — for an aide’s travel, for Dayton’s use of the state plane for campaign stops and for a reception he had at the governor’s residence — are unusual but didn’t raise eyebrows among the state’s campaign finance regulator or several Republican lawmakers who were asked about them.
“It sounds like the governor’s office is acting with caution to avoid the perception even that the state is used for campaign purposes,” said Gary Goldsmith, executive director of the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board.
Dayton spokeswoman Katharine Tinucci said the same. “These are each examples of the governor being scrupulously honest about the use of state funds,” Tinucci said.
The payments each have a different story, according to Tinucci and campaign staffer Julie Hottinger.
In September, Dayton hosted a reception for Robert Haselow at the governor’s official residence, which is Dayton’s primary home. The reception was not unusual; the governor “hosts any number of social receptions at the residence over the year,” Hottinger said. But Haselow is the founder of Minneapolis Radiation Oncology, which has spent $3.5 million since 2008 successfully lobbying for a moratorium on new free-standing radiation facilities in 14 counties. This week, Dayton signed legislation extending that moratorium to 2020.
Haselow and his wife also have been major donors to Minnesota political causes. Last year alone they donated more than $260,000 to Minnesota campaigns, and Dayton, like many Democrats and Republicans, has benefited from the Haselows’ largesse.
“Because Dr. Haselow has hosted fundraisers for the governor previously, the governor decided to have the campaign reimburse the state for this particular reception,” Hottinger said.
Tinucci said the governor’s payment of $974 is the same price a member of the public would pay for use of the governor’s residence.
The governor also paid the state for the $920 cost of bringing Tinucci with him to Washington, D.C., last summer when he received a National Education Association’s “America’s Greatest Education Governor” award. His travel was paid for by the organization; hers was not.
Dayton’s biggest single payment to the state appeared on the campaign finance statement he voluntarily filed Monday: a $2,802 payment to compensate the state for his campaign use of the state plane.
A few weeks before the 2012 election, the governor traveled to Bemidji and International Falls. He did some state-related business in Bemidji but also attended a rally with DFLers. He also used the plane to get to a DFL fish fry in International Falls. His $2,802 payment reflects more than 80 percent of the flight’s $3,312 cost for the trip to the north central Minnesota outposts.
Gubernatorial repayments for travel are unusual but not unheard of. In 2008, Gov. Tim Pawlenty repaid the state $910 for mileage through his campaign fund.
In Minnesota, when asked about Dayton’s payments to the state, Republican legislators — including former House Majority Leader Matt Dean, Rep. Greg Davids, Senate Minority Leader David Hann and the GOP lead on the House Elections Committee, Tim Sanders — said they were untroubled.
“I think he’s an honest man, so I don’t think he is trying to cheat the system or do anything underhanded,” said Hann, R-Eden Prairie. “It sounds to me that he is trying to make a good-faith effort to comply.”
Rachel E. Stassen-Berger • Twitter: @RachelSB