Eleven Republican state senators and a top Senate employee who were involved in printing and handing out fliers at precinct caucuses earlier this year violated state law, according to a ruling from the Office of Administrative Hearings.
The legislators, Senate Leader David Senjem, Al DeKruif, Chris Gerlach, Gretchen Hoffman, Benjamin Kruse, Ted Lillie, Claire Robling, Ray Vandeveer, Pam Wolf, Michelle Fischbach and John Pederson, will each have to pay a $75 fine.
Senate Communications Director Steve Sviggum, who drafted the fliers, will have to pay a $200 fine.
The controversy centers around fliers created for the GOP’s precinct caucuses earlier this year and paid for with taxpayer dollars. The materials described some of the Senate’s legislative accomplishments, outlined some of the GOP’s priorities for the coming legislative session, and criticized Gov. Mark Dayton.
The fliers also included links to the Senate Republican Caucus’ political website, which solicits campaign donations.
The Minnesota DFL Party subsequently asked for an investigation.
The Office of Administrative Hearings found that Sviggum and the senators violated state law because the fliers constituted campaign literature, but did not provide any information about who prepared them or how they were paid for.
The Senate Republicans say that the fliers were not campaign material and were not meant to influence the way people vote.
But the three administrative law judges who investigated the matter said that the fliers were not intended for a general audience but rather voters at precinct caucuses, “inherently political events.”
“The Legislative Updates were disseminated at the precinct caucuses for the purpose of influencing voting in the coming election and constitute campaign material within the meaning of the statute,” the lawyers concluded.
In a written statement, DFL chair Ken Martin said the conclusion comes as no surprise and represents an “escalating pattern of lawlessness that has come to define this Republican legislature.”
Here’s the entire Office of Administrative Hearings finding: