Fact-check: Emmer and the Political Contribution Refund

GOP Rep. Tom Emmer sent out an e-mail to supporters recently asking for an end of year contribution to his campaign for governor. In it, he also wrote that he has been opposed to raising money through the Political Contribution Refund (PCR). Before the program ended in July, Minnesotans who donated to a candidate for state office were eligible to receive a tax refund of up to $50 for individuals and $100 for couples. Emmer criticized the practice in his e-mail to supporters:

When I filed for the governor’s race, I made the decision not to participate in the contribution refund program. While other politicians were scrambling to collect taxpayer money for their campaigns before the program ended, I refused. I will not run a campaign funded by your hard-earned tax dollars. As governor, I will demand that state agencies operate with less of your money, so why not lead by example and start now? Although this position affected our fundraising numbers, I believe it was the right decision. I know it’s not about winning the next election or advancing my political career, it’s about sticking to my principles. You don’t just show up, you have to stand up for what is right.

It’s true that Emmer won’t run a campaign for governor with funds from the PCR, but not entirely because he’s taking a stand against it.

In July, Gov. Pawlenty eliminated funding for the PCR when he cut spending to balance the budget. Pawlenty announced his unallotment plan in June, several weeks before Emmer filed paperwork to run for governor. (Update: Emmer’s team correctly points out that he can start raising money up to two weeks before he files paperwork)

But that’s not the whole story…

Emmer’s opposition to the PCR may be a recent phenomenon. Campaign Finance reports show that Emmer’s supporters earmarked $12,209 in tax refunds for his campaign for State Representative since 2004.

2009 – Info not available

2008 – $2,790

2007 – $2,150

2006 – $1,000

2005 – $883

2004 – $5,386

What makes this interesting is that Emmer had to agree to qualify for the refund. The Department of Revenue said only candidates who “signed an agreement with the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board (formerly Minnesota Ethical Practices Board) to observe state campaign spending limits qualify for the refund.”

Several folks have pointed out Emmer’s relationship to the PCR, but it was first raised by Koochiching GOP Chair Terry Stone. Stone, who said he’s backing Marty Seifert for governor, said he’s “offended” by Emmer’s claim.

“It’s so blatantly groundless. The whole idea that he is ethically or morally opposed to running a campaign with taxpayer subsidy is flatly not correct.”

Stone also said Republican activists in his district or elsewhere are “in no mood for politics as usual” and want straightforward statements from all of the Republican candidates.