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Senate GOP blasts DFL for ties to paid consultant with press pass

Posted by: under Minnesota campaigns, Minnesota state senators, Democrats, Republicans Updated: April 29, 2014 - 10:12 AM

Senate Republicans are accusing Democratic counterparts of paying a consultant who also has special media access to Senate floor debates.

The Senate DFL’s campaign arm has paid political consultant and blogger Shawn Towle nearly $40,000 in the past several years, including a $1,000 payment last January.

DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk’s "failure to disclose political payments he made to a member of the credentialed press is dishonest and damages the integrity of the Senate,” Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, said Monday. “How can the public trust what’s going on at the Capitol if the reporters are being paid by the politicians?”

Towle said Monday that Hann’s action is political payback for being the first to make public that then-GOP Secretary of State candidate Dennis Nguyen was spotted at a downtown Minneapolis strip club with Sen. David Senjem, R-Rochester.

Nguyen dropped out of the race after the incident went public. Senjem has drawn subsequent criticism for serving on the board of one of Nguyen's businesses and taking a paid trip to Vietnam to see the company's enterprise there.

“Is that my fault? I just happened to put it out there, and now I guess I am a bad man because I tell the truth,” Towle said.

Hann is demanding that Bakk have Towle’s press credentials revoked. The press passes allow journalists to get on the Senate floor during debates, but they do not grant any special access to members.

Despite Hann’s insistence, Bakk had no role in getting Towle his press credentials.

Senate rules dictate that the Sergeant at Arms decides who gets press credentials, not the Senate majority leader.

Towle said he actually got his Senate credentials when the Republicans controlled the body and Hann was an assistant leader.

Around that time, Towle was also on the payroll of the Republican Party of Minnesota’s payroll. The state GOP paid Towle a combined $15,000 in 2010 and 2011, records show.

Towle is a political strategist and community blogger. His political website, Checks and Balances, shut down for more than a year and is now restarting as a blog.

Senate leaders, under both parties, have struggled over who should get press credentials in the rapidly changing media landscape.

In the past, only journalists from major news organizations got Senate credentials. Now Senate leaders have widened their criteria and given passes to more partisan organizations and bloggers.

Republicans have questioned Senate press credentials for the left-leaning The UpTake, while Democrats are critical of press credentials for conservative blogger Mitch Berg.

The Senate DFL declined comment for the story.

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