A new website set up by Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, to promote her bill to block unionization and paid for by her campaign committee may violate state campaign finance laws.
The site touts Franson’s Family Freedom Act, which would block unionization of self-employed individuals. The legislation stems from Gov. Mark Dayton’s earlier effort to unionize in-home child daycare providers who get subsidies from the state.
Local labor groups pushed the idea. This coming legislative session, workers who provide home care to the elderly and disabled want the Legislature to pass a bill that would allow them to unionize, and the Service Employees International Union is backing the effort.
“While a battle was won in 2012 the war on families continue,” Franson’s website says. “AFSCME and SEIU are now gearing up to unionize moms and also unionize family who receive state dollars to take care of their vulnerable family member.”
But the website is paid for by Franson’s campaign committee, Patriots for Mary Franson.
Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board Executive Director Gary Goldsmith says the website amounts to a lobbying activity because it asks people to sign a petition and contact Dayton to discourage him from unionizing daycare and in-home care workers.
“Under chapter 10A, it’s my opinion that there’s nothing that would permit that kind of use of campaign money,” Goldsmith said, citing state law that outlines what campaign funds can and cannot be used for.
In response to MPR’s inquiry, Franson said it was a “simple oversight.” And though she’s not convinced that her site violates campaign finance law, she’s having her web developer change the website’s language.
“It’s going to say something to the effect of ‘If you support my legislation, sign the petition,'” she said.
Here are a few screen shots of Franson’s website, prior to the changes she mentioned.
UPDATE: Franson’s site has already been updated. Now it reads:
“According to Minnesota Campaign Finance Law I can’t run a “petition” so instead of calling it a “Petition” I am asking you to sign up for “updates” on my legislation and “updates” on what the Governor and his union political allies are up to. Again it’s not a “petition” it’s an “update” – There that should satisfy the bureaucrats in St. Paul.
See more here.