By Mike Kaszuba

State Republicans renewed their attempt Thursday to see whether Independence Party candidate Tom Horner should have compensated a polling firm for allegedly getting polling data in advance.

Saying the episode raised "deeply troubling questions", the state Republican Party filed a complaint with the Office of Administrative Hearings over Horner's alleged special access to polling data compiled by Decision Resources and Bill Morris, a Horner supporter and business customer.  The Republicans said Horner should have paid for the data, which typically is available through political polling that costs "tens of thousands of dollars", and that not doing so amounted to an illegal campaign contribution.

Republican officials said Thursday the polling data amounted to an in-kind political contribution that would likely exceed $26,000.

Horner spokesperson Marti Jones dismissed the complaint, calling it "bogus and a waste of taxpayer's dollars".  Jones said the complaint was an attempt to divert attention away from Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer's own political shortcomings. 

Decision Resources and Bill Morris, the state Republican Party said, has retained Himle-Horner -- Horner's own company -- as a major client.  The poll, released earlier this month, showed more support for Horner than polls published in other media outlets, Republicans said.  Horner's "twitter" account, the complaint said, released information that showed that the candidate had special access to data that allegedly had Horner winning sizeable support among independent voters.

In asking for an expedited hearing, which could come next week, Republican Party lawyer Matthew Haapoja said the case was unique because much of the evidence being submitted by party officials consisted of postings on blogs, twitter accounts and emails.  "It's interesting in this era, just from a legal perspective," said Haapoja.  "Our evidence is bloggers. . .tweets [and] emails."

The complaint came a week after the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board said it would not rule on the issue, citing a lack of jurisdiction.  The board, in its letter to party officials, however added that "initially, it is unclear whether the facts you allege would, if substantiated, constitute transactions that result in a contribution."

Michael Brodkorb, deputy state Republican Party chair, said the data should clearly be viewed as a political contribution -- and that the time had passed for Horner acknowledge that the data was a contribution.  "This is an advantage that the Horner campaign had," Brodkorb said of the data.  "He received expanded or different data" than was released to the public.

"There's no question that would be a benefit to a campaign," said Brodkorb.