The latest flare up between Republicans and DFLers at the Minnesota State Capitol involves – calendars.
Republicans on Tuesday questioned whether a glossy 2011 calendar showing scenes of Lake Superior that was sent to 200 legislators in Minnesota violated the state’s gift ban. The calendars, with a $13.95 retail price, were given to legislators as part of Duluth and St. Louis County Days at the State Capitol, which is taking place Wednesday and Thursday.
Under state law, legislators are prohibited from accepting a “trinket or memento” costing more than $5 from a lobbyist or person representing a group.
“It appears to be a violation of the gift ban,” said Michael Brodkorb, the executive assistant to Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch and deputy chair for the state Republican Party. He said the organizers of the event – which he said included groups with paid lobbyists – had given “thousands of dollars in calendars to legislators”.
He said Republican leaders intended to notify the state campaign finance board of the calendars, and may file a formal complaint with the panel.
Brodkorb said Senate Republican officials had collected the calendars late Tuesday, and intended to return them to Sen. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth, who wrote a cover letter as part of a packet for legislators that included the calendar.
Reinert dismissed the Republican complaints. “It’s kind of silly,” he said. “It’s sort of to me indicative of the petty politics that are around the Capitol now.”
Cindy Hayden, president of Lake Superior Magazine, which produced the calendars, said the calendars “really have no value” because the 2011 calendar year began six weeks ago. She said the calendars have been deeply discounted from their original price since shortly after Christmas, and now can be purchased for as much as 90 percent off.
Hayden said her cost for the calendars was $2.72 each, and she added that she had donated the remaining calendars for the event.
“By now, they’re down to, usually, anywhere between 50 and 80 or 90 percent off [at stores],” she said. “They really aren’t worth anything .
“They’re going to go to the shredder, and I’d rather have them out working for us instead of just being shredded,” she added.
Billed as the “largest citizen lobbying event in the state of Minnesota”, the two-day Duluth and St. Louis County Days is described as an “annual lobbying and reception event to help grow jobs and opportunities in northeastern Minnesota.” The event includes a “grand reception” at a nearby St. Paul armory and a “legislative breakfast” at the St. Paul Hotel.
The latest flap comes less than a week after a Senate ethics panel cleared Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, of allegations that his office had told constituents that he would only meet with people who supported his election. An ethics complaint had been filed by DFLers.