DFL: Tax money paid for GOP fliers

Responding to a complaint, Republicans say they will use campaign dollars to repay the cost, which is also disputed.

The Minnesota DFL Party on Tuesday filed a complaint against Senate Republicans over fliers distributed at GOP caucuses last week, saying it was partisan material that should not have been printed at taxpayer expense.

DFL chair Ken Martin said the piece -- prepared and printed by Senate staff -- was part of a caucus pattern of "one scandal after another." He alleges the Senate Republicans broke the laws governing campaign materials and the use of state resources for political activity.

Senate GOP spokesman Steve Sviggum said the Senate Republican campaign committee will repay the cost of printing the fliers. Sviggum defended the decision to distribute the fliers at last week's state Republican caucus, saying that Senate counsel had given the OK.

The pieces thanked caucus-goers "for joining this Republican precinct caucus," and said "the Senate Republican majority delivered for Minnesota."

But Sviggum said the hand-outs also included a Web link to the Senate's campaign website, which includes a form to donate to Republicans, and acknowledges that was inappropriate.

"I take complete responsibility for a wrong," said Sviggum, a former speaker of the Minnesota House. He said that the Senate updated the link to a less partisan site Tuesday afternoon.

The complaint, filed with the Office of Administrative Hearings, presents a new challenge for Senate Republicans, at a time when they are still trying to recover from turmoil.

Senate Republicans suffered a tumultuous change in leadership at the end of December when former Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, resigned in the wake of an affair with a subordinate. The caucus' former communications director is threatening a lawsuit over his dismissal and the caucus started the year with a $2 million deficit.

Sviggum put the cost of printing the fliers at $47 and said that amount will be repaid to the state.

But Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said the $47 likely falls far short of the actual cost. He estimated private printing costs at closer to $150 per member.

He and Martin said the issue goes beyond the cost of printing.

"I also think it is important for somebody, some administrative body, to hold these elected officials and this caucus responsible for their actions," Martin said.

The complaint specifically names 12 senators, alleging they used Senate staff and resources to prepare and distribute partisan materials.

Sen. Joe Gimse, R-Willmar, was among the 12. "I thought it was an information piece," he said.

Gimse never did distribute the literature because the packet of material didn't reach him in Willmar.

"It was returned to my office because of insufficient postage," Gimse said.

Rachel E. Stassen-Berger • Twitter: @rachelsb

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