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Michael Brodkorb

Minnesota politics and beyond.

Ortman received temporary legislative immunity from campaign lawsuit

Former Republican U.S. Senate candidate and current State Senator Julianne Ortman requested and received temporary legislative immunity from appearing in conciliation court during the Minnesota Legislative Session after being sued earlier this year for an unpaid debt from her 2014 campaign for the U.S. Senate. 

In an email to Judge Richard Perkins on March 12, 2015, Ortman requested the lawsuit "be postponed/continued for hearing until after adjournment of the Minnesota Legislative Session." Ortman sited Minnesota Statute §3.16 which excuses "Members, Officers, and Attorneys" employed by the legislature from court duty during the session. 

Judge Perkins granted Ortman's request and in an email to a Carver County court administrator, Perkins wrote "[i]t is automatic under the law. Must continue." 

David Schultz, who teaches law at the University of Minnesota and is also a political science professor at Hamline University said, "this law was never intended to prevent legislators from appearing in court for civil or criminal proceedings involving their behavior." Schultz added Ortman was "clearly abusing" the actual intention of this law. 

Ortman did not respond to a request for comment.

In the last few years, the Minnesota Legislature has debated what some argued is a loophole which allows lawmakers immunity from arrest during the legislative session

Ortman's campaign and treasurer were named in a lawsuit filed in conciliation court in January regarding an unpaid bill of $4,483.14 owed by her U.S. Senate campaign for lawn signs and a banner made by Century Promotional Advertising

The lawsuit was settled in June after Ortman's campaign agreed to pay $2,000 of the debt owed to Century Promotional Advertising. Ortman announced in May she would not seek re-election to a fifth term in the Minnesota Senate.

Ortman's campaign fined by FEC, sued by vendors for unpaid bills

The campaign of former Republican U.S. Senate candidate and current State Senator Julianne Ortman was fined by $1,090 by the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) earlier this year for failure to file an October Quarterly Report by the required deadline. 

Recent campaign finance reports filed with the FEC show Ortman's campaign is over $45,000 in debt. Public court filings also list that representatives of Ortman's campaign, including Ortman, have been sued by multiple vendors over the last year for unpaid bills owed by the campaign. 

According to Ortman's July Quarterly Report, Century Promotional Advertising settled a bill for over $4,000 with Ortman's campaign for $2,000 only after a claim was filed in conciliation court in Carver County. Ortman's campaign owned Century Promotional Advertising for printing campaign sings and a banner.

Ortman officially ended her campaign for the U.S. Senate on June 2, 2014 when she formally withdrew from the primary election, just days after she failed to receive the Republican Party of Minnesota's endorsement for U.S. Senate at their state convention in Rochester. 

Businessman Mike McFadden won Republican Party of Minnesota's endorsement for the U.S. Senate, but was later defeated by U.S. Senator Al Franken last November. 

Problems with Ortman's campaign finance surfaced after she was no longer a candidate for the U.S. Senate and Ortman has loaned or contributed almost $14,000 to ensure her campaign remains solvent. 

After a series of questions were raised about the accuracy of her campaign finance reports, Ortman disclosed a payment made by her U.S. Senate campaign to rival candidate Monti Moreno. Moreno claims that he received the payment for endorsing Ortman's candidacy at the Republican State Convention this past summer.  

Finally, reports filed with the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board show Ortman's state senate campaign owes over $13,000 to Winthrop and Weinstine for legal fees. Ortman announced in May she would not seek re-election to a fifth term in the Minnesota Senate.

Picture source: Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

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