STATE OF MINNESOTA
CAMPAIGN FINANCE AND PUBLIC DISCLOSURE BOARD
FINDINGS IN THE MATTER OF A COMPLAINT REGARDING
THE MINNESOTA DFL STATE CENTRAL COMMITTEE
On March 15, 2000, Steven Sviggum, on behalf of the House Republican Campaign Committee ("Complainant") filed a complaint with the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board ("Board") alleging that the Minnesota DFL State Central Committee (DFL") violated various provisions of Minnesota Statutes Chapter 10A in election year 1998. The complaint is based on the printing and mailing of four specific campaign pieces prepared and paid for by the DFL. In specific, the Complainant claims that the cost of producing and mailing two of the pieces was underreported as in-kind contributions to the Gail Skare Campaign Committee ("Skare Committee"), and that the cost of the other two pieces was improperly claimed as multicandidate expenditures by the DFL.
In support of the allegations, the Complainant provided copies of the four specific campaign pieces, estimates for printing and mailing the campaign pieces, and the Skare Committees Report of Receipts and Expenditures covering January 1, through December 31, 1998. The complainant based the mailing cost on estimates received from a printer located in House District 4A, the same district as candidate Gail Skare, and per mailing size of 10,000 to 12,450 pieces.
On March 23, 2000, Board staff notified Paul Schulte, treasurer for the DFL, of the complaint. By letter dated April 4, 2000, Alan Weinblatt, attorney, responded on behalf of the DFL. The response included copies of invoices from the printers involved in the production of the mailings, and evidence that the size of the mailings ranged from 5,000 to 7,500 pieces for each mailing. Mr. Weinblatt stated that one of the disputed pieces paid for by the DFL was a fundraising piece, and that another was a DFL official sample ballot. As such Mr. Weinblatt believes that the two pieces were multicandidate expenditures and were not expenditures on behalf of, or in-kind contributions to any particular candidate.
The Board considered the matter in executive session on August 8, and August 29, 2000. Mr. Weinblatt appeared on behalf of the DFL. Representative Jim Knoblach appeared on behalf of the Complainant. The matter was considered based on the complaint, documents submitted, and testimony presented.
Based on the record before it, the Board issues the following:
STATEMENT OF THE EVIDENCE
1. The DFL is political party registered with the Board.
2. The complaint relates to four specific pieces of campaign literature prepared and mailed by the DFL. The Gail Skare Healthcare ("Exhibit 1") and the Gail Skare Head Start ("Exhibit 4") were prepared and paid for by the DFL on behalf of the Skare Committee and are reported as in-kind contributions. The Fundraiser ("Exhibit 3") and the Sample Ballot ("Exhibit 5") were prepared and paid for by the DFL and are reported as multicandidate expenditures.
3. Information provided by Mr. Weinblatt shows that the number of literature pieces for each mailing ranged from 5,000 to 7,500, and that the actual cost per piece was less than used in the estimates of the Complainant.
4. On its Report of Receipts and Expenditures covering January 1, through December 31, 1998, the DFL reported making expenditures for Exhibit 1 and Exhibit 4 totaling $2,500, and reported them as in-kind contributions to the Skare Committee. On the same report the DFL disclosed several expenditures attributed to multicandidate fundraising mailings and sample ballots, although none of them are specifically identifiable with Exhibit 3 and Exhibit 5.
5. In his letter dated April 4, 2000, Mr. Weinblatt states that written approval was not obtained from the Skare Committee prior to making the expenditures for Exhibit 1 and Exhibit 4, as required under Minn. Stat. §10A.17, subd. 2.
6. Exhibit 3 and Exhibit 5 each contain a quote by Gail Skare stating in part " Thats why Im writing today to ask for your help." A campaign piece that was made with the cooperation of a candidate is not an independent expenditure. The 1998 Report of Receipts and Expenditures by the DFL does not list any independent expenditure for the Skare Committee. Exhibits 3 and 5 do not contain the disclaimer required for independent expenditures.
7. Upon examination of Exhibit 3, which the DFL reports as a multi candidate fundraiser, approximately 5% of the surface area can be related to fundraising and approximately 23 % of the surface area was used for mailing. The balance of the document relates solely to Gail Skare. The DFL has identified the cost of production and mailing of this piece at $1,250.
8. Upon examination of Exhibit 5, which the DFL reports as a multicandidate official sample ballot, approximately 13% of the surface area of the piece can be related to a sample ballot, with an additional 4% related to multicandidate fundraising, and approximately 21% of the surface area was used for mailing. The balance of the document relates solely to Gail Skare. The DFL has identified the cost of production and mailing of this piece at $1,250.
Based on the above Statement of the Evidence, the Board makes the following:
FINDINGS CONCERNING PROBABLE CAUSE
1.Invoices submitted by the DFL show that the size of each of the four mailings, which are the subject of this complaint, range from 5,000 to 7,500 pieces and not the alleged 10,000 to 12,450 pieces per mailing. Additionally, the printer production price of the pieces was less than the cost estimated by the Complainant.
2. There is no probable cause to believe that costs associated with preparing and mailing Exhibit 1 and Exhibit 4 were under reported by the DFL or the Skare Committee.
3. There is probable cause to believe that Exhibit 3 and Exhibit 5 each contain material whose primary purpose is to influence the election of Gail Skare. This material is in addition to the party fundraising effort on behalf of three or more candidates found in both Exhibits 3 and 5, and the official party sample ballot found only in Exhibit 5.
4. There is probable cause to believe that the DFL incorrectly reported the cost associated with the preparation and mailing of Exhibit 3 and Exhibit 5 as multicandidate expenditures, because a portion of each piece is an in-kind contribution to the Skare Committee. The DFL identified the production and mailing cost of each piece to be $1,250. Approximately 72% of the surface area of Exhibit 3 and 62% of the surface area of Exhibit 5 is related solely to Gail Skare. Therefore, the costs associated with the preparation and mailing of these pieces should be apportioned as in-kind contributions to the Skare Committee. This increases total in-kind contributions from the DFL to the Skare Committee by $1,675 ($900 for Exhibit 3 and $775 for Exhibit 5).
5. There is probable cause to believe that the DFL violated Minn. Stat. §10A.17, subd. 2, when it did not obtain written authorization prior to making expenditures for Exhibit 3 and Exhibit 5 on behalf of the Skare Committee.
Based on the above Findings, the Board issues the following:
1. The DFL is ordered to amend its 1998 Report of Receipts and Expenditures covering January 1, through December 31, 1998, to apportion costs associated with preparing and mailing Exhibit 3 and Exhibit 5 as in-kind contributions to the Skare Committee, within 10 days of notification of these findings.
2. The Boards Executive Director shall refer this matter to the Ramsey County Attorney for civil enforcement for the violation of Minn. Stat. §10A.17, subd. 2.
3. The Board investigation of this matter is concluded and entered into the public record in accordance with Minnesota Statutes 10A.02, subdivision 11.
Dated: ___________________ __________________________________
Wil Fluegel, Chair
Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board