A state Office of Administrative Hearings panel rejected claims by Matt Entenza that Minnesota State Auditor Rebecca Otto lied when she said she had not voted for legislation requiring voter identification.
In an 11-page order issued Thursday, the three-judge panel rejected the official campaign complaint filed by Entenza, who is challenging Otto in a DFL primary Aug. 12. Entenza, a former House minority leader, filed for the office in the last moments before deadline, surprising Otto, a former House colleague, and many DFLers.
Entenza filed the complaint in June based on a Facebook comment Otto posted, after she was asked if she voted for Voter ID as a state legislator. Otto responded to the post saying "No, Lauren. It was not around in 2003. No one can find a bill on the issue when I served."
Otto wrote that no one could find a 2003 voter ID bill that she had opposed, as Entenza had claimed.
"Matt will say anything," she said in the post.
According to the ruling, two bills proposing the requirement of identification at the polls were presented on the House floor during the 2003 legislative session. Then-state Rep. Keith Ellison at the time presented an amendment removing the voter identification language from the legislation, which Otto voted against. Of the two bills, Otto voted against one that would require voter identification and in favor of another requring voter ID. However, the Voter ID language was stripped from the language in conference committee and Otto voted in favor of the revised version.
Otto said that the statement on her Facebook page was in reference to the highly- controversial proposed Voter ID amendment to the state constition defeated by voters in 2012, not the 2003 bills, which provided an exception for individuals without identification. Otto also maintained that she did not recall "Voter ID" being an issue when she served in the Legislature, and that her Facebook page is not "campaign material."
In dismissing the case, the panel concluded that "there are no disputed facts in this matter--only differing interpretations of the meaning of the phrase "voter ID," which is not sufficient for Entenza to bring a case.
"Ms. Otto's quick response to the Facebook post tends to support the conclusion that she subjectively understood her response to be truthful," the panel wrote.
Entenza campaign manager Dave Colling, who brought the complaint on the candidate's behalf, said Thursday that Otto's record on voter ID remains an issue for the campaign.
"Even though the case was dismissed it didn't go as far as to say she did not vote for voter ID," Colling said. "At the end of the day it doesn't change the fact that she voted for voter ID in the Legislature twice."
In a statement issued by the DFL, Otto's attorney, Charlie Nauen, called the ruling "a complete victory for Rebecca Otto over Matt Entenza's misleading claims and distortion of the facts."
"I have never voted for Voter ID," Otto said in the statement. "In fact, I campaigned against it."
"Rebecca Otto had it right," DFL Party Chair Ken Martin said. "Matt Entenza will say anything to get himself elected."
Read the ruling here:
Last year, Gov. Mark Dayton earned $352,601, a little less than half of which came from capital gains, according to tax returns he released on Wednesday.
The DFL governor, who has released his tax returns every year since 2010, gave $10,000 to charity and paid $76,008 in federal taxes and $29,932 in state taxes, for an effective tax rate of 30 percent.
The heir to the Dayton's department store fortune earned $116,092 from his state salary and $73,062 from dividends.
In 2012, Dayton earned a similar amount from similar sources but only gave $1,000 to charity. He said at the time that he was" disappointed in myself," because of his lack of charitable contributions. He gave ten times more in 2013 than he gave in 2012. His total giving equaled about 3 percent of his 2013 income.
Releasing tax returns is not a requirement of Minnesota politicians. State law mandates only minimal release of economic interests.
Zellers’ spokeswoman Caitlyn Stenerson said he will not release his until post-primary because getting them ready would take too much precious time during the heated run-up to the August 12 election.
GOP candidate Marty Seifert declined to release his tax information last year and did so again this year.
"I don't think our income tax return is anyone's business, but can assure you our household income is less than the other GOP candidates and much less than Governor Dayton," Seifert said in a statement.
The four Republicans will vie in an August primary. The winner of that contest will face Dayton in the fall.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson is expected to be "back to normal health in a matter of days," according to information released by his campaign Tuesday.
On Monday, Johnson, a Hennepin County Commissioner, went to urgent care with stomach pain and doctors quickly determined he needed surgery. He was taken to Maple Grove Hospital where surgeons repaired "a small perforation" in his stomach.
His campaign quoted Maple Grove Hospital's Megan Fasching as saying that the condition from which Johnson suffered, a peptic ulcer, was fairly common.
"He tolerated the surgery well and is on the road to recovery. He should be back to normal health in a matter of days with no long term effects," Fasching said.
His campaign said he would be back on the trail soon.
Johnson faces a four-way primary in August against former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, Rep. Kurt Zellers and Wayzata businessman Scott Honour.
Photo: Mayo Clinic for Medical Education and Research
Republican candidate for governor Jeff Johnson on Monday underwent unexpected surgery for a perforation in his stomach.
According to his campaign and staff at Hennepin County, where he is a commissioner, Johnson had stomach pain on Monday morning and went to urgent care. Shortly thereafter doctors decided he would need immediate surgery and he was moved to Maple Grove Hospital.
During surgery, doctors found what his campaign said was a "small perforation in Jeff's stomach. The perforation was repaired." By Monday afternoon, Johnson was out of surgery and recovering.
"Commissioner Johnson is in the Maple Grove Hospital and is expected to be there for about a week," according to an email from Hennepin County's director of public affairs Carolyn Marinan.
Gregg Peppin of the Johnson campaign said that Johnson had not previously had stomach problems.
The campaign cleared Johnson schedule for the rest of Monday and is expected to clear it for Tuesday. Peppin said the rest of the schedule is unclear.
He will have little time to recover before facing four-way Republican gubernatorial primary next month. On Aug, 12, he will vie against former House Speaker Kurt Zellers, former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert and businessman Scott Honour.
Over the weekend, Johnson was on the campaign trail and tweeting about his activities.
Met my dad at the Otter Tail County fair in Fergus Falls this afternoon. On to Wadena pic.twitter.com/C16MBGyvOR— Johnson for Governor (@Jeff4Gov) July 19, 2014
Johnson's primary opponents wished him their best:
Best wishes and speedy recovery for Jeff Johnson. Was great to see you and your folks yesterday.— Marty Seifert (@seifertmn) July 21, 2014
Thoughts & prayers for @Jeff4Gov and his family as he recovers from surgery. Look forward to seeing you on the campaign trail soon!— Scott Honour (@ScottHonourMN) July 21, 2014
Gov. Mark Dayton began a Monday afternoon conference by wishing Johnson his best.
“I hope that he has a speedy and complete recovery,” Dayton said.
Johnson is not the only Minnesota candidate to have election year surgery.
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton had hip surgery earlier this year to repair a detached tendon in his hip, one of three Mayo Clinic procedures he has had done since taking office four years ago. Back in 2006, when she was making her first run for office, Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar had two hip surgeries.
National Democrats are calling in reinforcements for U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan’s re-election campaign in the Eighth Congressional District.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has added Nolan to its Frontline program — a support system for House Democrats’ most vulnerable incumbents.
Nolan returned to Congress in 2013 after a 32-year hiatus, defeating a first-term GOP incumbent to win the seat representing northeastern Minnesota.
Republicans are looking to flip the seat once again, returning it to GOP control. Their candidate is Republican Stewart Mills III, a vice president in his family’s Fleet Farm retail chain.
Mills has raised outraised Nolan in three of the last four fundraising cycles, but Nolan still holds an overall cash-on-hand advantage.
Mills has reached the top level of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s “Young Guns” candidate training program. As challengers ascend the ranks, they’re more likely to receive financial and campaign aid from the NRCC, the campaign arm of House Republicans.
The Rothenberg Political Report and Cook Political Report rate Nolan as a slight favorite to win re-election.
As Election Day nears, outside groups are expected to step up their spending in the race. In 2012, party committees and political action committees invested nearly $10 million in the Eighth District race. This year, conservative groups have already spent more than $500,000 backing Mills’ campaign.
Nolan’s assignment to the Frontline program will pair him with a familiar face: Fellow Minnesota U.S. Rep. Tim Walz chairs the initiative. As part of the effort, Nolan’s campaign will have to ramp up its fundraising, volunteer recruitment and online networking.