STATE OF MINNESOTA
CAMPAIGN FINANCE AND PUBLIC DISCLOSURE BOARD
FINDINGS IN THE MATTER OF A COMPLAINT REGARDING
THE JETSPORTERS ASSOCIATION
On June 4, 2001, Matt Entenza ("Complainant") filed a complaint with the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board ("Board") alleging that the Jetsporters Association ("Respondent"), violated certain provisions of Minnesota Statutes Chapter 10A by conducting fundraising activities on behalf of Dale Walz during the 2000 election year, and failing to register a political committee or political fund, as required under Minn. Stat. §10A.14.
The Complainant alleges that the Respondent conducted a letter campaign, which solicited contributions to support candidate Dale Walz, and that this solicitation constituted fundraising activities on behalf of the candidate. The Complainant further alleges that these activities constituted in-kind contributions in excess of $100 from the Respondent to the candidate, and that the Respondent failed to register a political committee or political fund with the Board within 14 days after making these contributions. The evidence submitted by the Complainant consists of copies of several articles from a publication the Respondent sends to its subscribers, and the Respondents Articles of Incorporation filed with the Minnesota Secretary of State.
By letter dated June 5, 2001, the Respondent was notified of the complaint and afforded an opportunity to respond.
Correspondence received in the Board office on June 25, 2001, and believed to be from Carl Bullen, states that the magazine article, referred to in the complaint, is incorrect and that it confuses two different events. It states that the purpose of the 30,000 pieces mailed was to solicit membership into the association and includes a press release dated June 1, 2001, correcting a statement printed in the March-April edition of Jet Sports Magazine that referred to fundraising letters sent to Minnesota residents. The correspondence also states that the letter encouraging people to vote for and contribute to Dale Walz did include an independent expenditure disclaimer and that it was sent out personally by an individual.
In another letter dated July 7, 2001, Carl Bullen provided a copy of the May, 2000, mailing soliciting membership. Mr. Bullen further states that all expenses associated with the letter encouraging people to vote for and contribute to the Dale Walz campaign were paid for by himself and his wife, and that the letter went to about 400 people. He estimated that the cost to prepare and mail the letter was $147.
Staff requested a copy of the solicitation letter, sent on behalf of Dale Walz, from Carl and Patti Bullen, and from the Complainant. However, neither party was able to provide a copy of that letter.
The Board directed legal counsel to subpoena Mr. Bullen for a copy of the solicitation letter and a list of those individuals the letter was sent to.
Mr. Bullen signed, under penalty of perjury, an affidavit that states that the letter and mailing list no longer exist.
The Board considered this matter in executive sessions on June 26, July 24, August 28, September 25, October 23, December 11, 2001, and January 25, 2002.
Based on the record before it, the Board issues the following:
STATEMENT OF THE EVIDENCE
1. The Respondent is not an association that is registered with the Board as a political committee or political fund.
2. In May of 2000, the Respondent mailed membership solicitation letters to 30,000 personal watercraft enthusiasts. The mailing included a copy of the May 2000, Jetsporters Association of Minnesota publication, a membership application, and a contribution card.
3. A spring 2001 publication of the American Watercraft Association included an article stating that the Respondent mailed 30,000 fundraising letters to Minnesota residents on behalf of candidate Dale Walz.
4. On June 1, 2001, the American Watercraft Association issued a press release correcting certain inaccuracies contained in the above referenced article, and stated that the letters were not used to solicit political donations for any candidate.
5. Minn. Stat. §10A.14, subd. 1, states that an association must register a political committee or political fund with the Board within 14 days after it has made or received contributions or made expenditures in excess of $100. Minn. Stat. §10A.01, subd. 6, defines an association to mean of group of two or more persons, who are not all members of an immediate family, acting in concert.
6. A letter sent to approximately 400 persons during election year 2000, encouraging voters to support candidate Dale Walz and contribute to his campaign was prepared and paid for by Carl and Patti Bullen. The total cost of the mailing is estimated to be $147.
7. A copy of the solicitation letter sent on behalf of Dale Walz was not available from the Complainant or the Respondent.
8. The Board received a signed affidavit from Mr. Bullen that states that he no longer has a copy of the letter or the mailing list in his possession.
9. Because Carl and Patti Bullen are members of an immediate family, they are not an association as defined in Minn. Stat. §10A.01, subd. 6, and do not need to register a political committee with the Board.
Based on the above Statement of the Evidence, the Board makes the following:
FINDINGS CONCERNING PROBABLE CAUSE
1. There is no probable cause to believe that the Jetsporters Association conducted fundraising activities on behalf of, or made contributions to, Dale Walz during election year 2000.
2. There is no probable cause to believe that the Jetsporters Association was required to register a political committee or political fund with the Board because of its activities associated with a mailing conducted in the spring of election year 2000.
3. There is insufficient evidence to determine if the independent expenditure disclaimer was included in the solicitation letter sent by Carl and Patti Bullen.
Based on the above Findings Concerning Probable Cause, the Board issues the following:
The complaint regarding the Jetsporters Association is dismissed and the record in this matter is entered into the public record in accordance with Minn. Stat. §10A.02, subd. 11.
Dated: February 1, 2002
Douglas A. Kelley, Chair
Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board