District 22 Senate race heats up further
WORTHINGTON -- The Republican Party of Minnesota brought complaints to the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board this week, alleging the Minnesota DFL coordinated with several of its candidates to produce campaign literature -- a violation of campaign finance rules.
The complaints involve five Democrats running for state senate, one of which is District 22 candidate and Worthington Mayor Alan Oberloh. All candidates in question are considered to be in tight races with Republicans.
A GOP spokesperson explained that any campaign literature not sent out directly by the candidate is considered an independent expenditure. Candidates aren't allowed to have any part in these, he said. Furthermore, candidates must not have knowledge of the literature being produced.
In accordance with these guidelines, photographs used in independent expenditures must be taken from a public source, such as the photo-sharing website Flickr or social media sites.
The GOP alleges the photos in question weren't available online, so it's claiming the DFL appeared to have coordinated with the candidates to produce the literature. It said the issue is one of campaign finance law, which both parties must follow.
Oberloh denies coordination with party
Oberloh denounced the complaints against him Friday as invalid, and said he learned of them through an online source that morning.
"I don't know where the photos came from," Oberloh said. "A number of people have been taking my photo for the past several years since I've been mayor."
Oberloh contends he didn't coordinate with the DFL, and no one asked his permission to use the photos.
"I don't even know what Flickr is," he remarked.
"To squabble and make a big deal over a photograph is pretty darn childish in my view," he continued. "If that's what they want to do is stir up negative headlines for a qualified local candidate, we're in a sad state."
Oberloh referenced several pieces of campaign literature that have attacked him over the course of the past several months.
"Now (a mailing) comes out that's positive toward me and (Republicans) take exception to it right away," Oberloh said. "It was nothing that I sent out."
Weber: No knowledge
Bill Weber of Luverne, Oberloh's opponent for the District 22 Senate seat, said he wasn't aware of the complaints brought forward by his party.
"I have not seen the com-plaints and until I've had a chance to see it, I wouldn't comment," he said.
"Certainly negative things do take away from real issues," Weber admitted. "Unfortunately both sides do it."
"(Oberloh's) party has had things out on me that really aren't any different. It's unfortunate, but what you come to learn as a candidate is that you have no control over these kinds of things."
Personally speaking, Oberloh said he hasn't put out any negative campaigns against Weber or Republicans.
"I want to talk about the issues -- real things, real problems, real solutions for the state of Minnesota," Oberloh said. "Bashing people because they have a different view than you, that doesn't get anywhere."
"The whole reason behind this is the Republicans are concerned that this is a very close race and it could go either way," Oberloh said. "They are pulling out all stops to keep this seat Republican."
Football and politics?
Ben Zierke, executive director of the Republican Party of Minnesota, compared the complaints to a football game, saying both sides must follow the rules.
While Zierke admitted there are big issues at stake aside from squabbling over campaign finance laws, he said voters deserve to know if those laws are being violated.
"We're doing this because we want to hold everyone to the same standards and same set of rules," Zierke said. "It's a close race, which is all the more important that people follow the rules."
He said the finance board won't meet again until after elections, at which time they will conduct investigations. A fine may be imposed if the complaints are found valid. If not, they will simply be dropped.
"I've never been involved in anything like this, so I don't know what happens from here," said Oberloh, adding that he won't change his campaign strategy moving forward.
"The voters can see past the negative stuff," Oberloh said. "The people around here that know me know that's not my style. I will get things done in St. Paul, and I won't play the party games."