The reformer-backed political fund that brought major new money into the Minneapolis school board elections didn't follow Hennepin County campaign law when it began handling money.
That's resulted in a complaint that the county's election office has forwarded to the county attorney's office for review. The election office hasn't yet disclosed who filed it.
Daniel Sellers, listed as chair of the Minneapolis Progressive Education Fund, admits that his group erred in not filing its campaign registration within the 14-day window required after raising or spending $100.
Sellers said Friday that the failure to file on time was an honest mistake, and that as soon as he discovered the omission he was at the county election office with the required filing the following Monday.
But the failure to file meant that campaign material was already appearing in mailboxes across Minneapolis from a group listed on the mailer but not on file with the county. It's not as if the fund's officers had no experience with campaigns and filing requirements; treasurer Seth Kirk chaired the campaign committee for the 2012 re-election campaign of board member Carla Bates.
According to the fund, it got an in-kind donation of staff work from the 50CAN Action Fund worth $438.04 on Aug. 31, meaning that a registration with the county was due by mid-September. The first cash contribution was from former Piper Jaffray CEO Addison Piper of Medina, who donated $1,000 on Sept. 2,
Sellers is also chair of the 50CAN fund, which also spent more than $6,000 in support of electing Josh Reimnitz to the board in 2012. Piper contributed to 50CAN that year as well. Sellers also heads MinnCAN, the Minnesota affiliate of 50CAN, an education reform advocacy nonprofit.
There's also a difference between the finance forms submitted by Minneapolis Progressive Education Fund and Students For Education Reform Action Network Fund. The latter fund shows a contribution of $10,638 on Aug. 11 from the Progressive Education Fund, which would trigger an even earlier registration date . But the Progressive Education group lists the contribution as occurring on Sept. 29.
Sellers said the August date was the date of an invoice but that it wasn't paid until the latter date. Ginny Gelms, who runs the county election office, said it's up to attorneys to determine which action triggers a registration deadline.
Despite a name suggesting a student group, the SFER fund lists former Minneapolis school board member Chris Stewart as chair. It has been criticized by some union teachers as an "astroturf" entity, a perjorative term implying a false pose as a grassroots group.
The Progressive Education group reported $228,300 in contributions, which has sparked controversy, since almost all of the cash cash originated outside Minneapolis. It has supported Don Samuels and Iris Altamirano as at-large candidates in Tuesday's board election.
(Photo above: Daniel Sellers.