One justice gave to Coleman, another to Wellstone

The campaign donations by the two Supreme Court members predated their appointment to the bench.

One of the state Supreme Court justices who could rule on Norm Coleman's appeal contributed $500 to his two Senate campaigns before the justice joined the bench, and another gave $1,000 to Coleman's 2002 Senate opponent when she was still working as a lawyer.

Justice Christopher Dietzen, who was appointed to the court in late 2007 by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, gave $250 to Republican Coleman in 2001 for his first Senate campaign and again in 2004 for the senator's reelection bid, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Justice Helen Meyer, who was named to the court in 2002 by Gov. Jesse Ventura, gave $1,000 to DFL Sen. Paul Wellstone in 2001 for the senator's campaign the following year.

Word of their contributions penetrated the blogosphere over the weekend, where questions were raised about whether the justices should recuse themselves from hearing Coleman's appeal. Supreme Court officials said such a decision would be made only when the appeal reaches the court. Both Dietzen and Meyer have participated in a number of recount-related rulings over the past four months.

In an interview with the Star Tribune on Monday before the ruling in his election lawsuit was released, Coleman said that donations Dietzen made five years ago should not disqualify him. "I presume every one of the judges also voted, so you'd then disqualify them?" Coleman said. "I presume they have the integrity to put all that aside."

Two other Supreme Court members -- Chief Justice Eric Magnuson and Justice G. Barry Anderson -- served on the state Canvassing Board that oversaw the recount. Those members recused themselves from recount-related high court opinions and are not expected to participate in the appeal. That leaves five justices to hear it.

Dietzen, 62, appears to be the only one of the justices who has contributed to either Coleman or Franken. He became the court's newest member last year when appointed by Pawlenty, a longtime acquaintance. In 2002, Dietzen was Pawlenty's campaign lawyer.

Campaign finance records show that Dietzen gave thousands of dollars to Republicans and the Freedom Club, a conservative political action committee, before he made his last contribution to Coleman in 2004, several months before Pawlenty appointed him to the state Court of Appeals.

Meyer, 55, was a frequent donor to the DFL and its candidates. She contributed $500 to Senate candidate Mike Ciresi in 2000 and gave money to the national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, as well as the Minnesota House DFL Caucus.

Of the three remaining justices, two were appointed by Republican governors and one was elected.

Paul H. Anderson was appointed in 1994 by Gov. Arne Carlson, and Lorie Gildea -- whose husband, Andy, works for the House Republican caucus -- was named to the court in 2006 by Pawlenty. The longest-serving justice, Alan Page, was elected to the court in 1992.

kduchschere@startribune.com 651-292-0164 plopez@startribune • 651-222-1288

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