Koch complains about lobbyist’s action

GOP Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch says a lobbyist for the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities has violated his code of ethics. Koch is asking the Minnesota Government Relations Council to investigate Flaherty and Hood’s J.D. Burton for asking Redwood Falls city officials to “falsify information to members of the Legislature.”

“At the State Capitol, we take people at their word and expect them to be honest with us, as we are with others,” Koch wrote.

The complaint stems around an e-mail Burton sent to Redwood Falls Mayor Gary Revier that centered around cuts to Local Government Aid. In the Janury 25th e-mail, supplied to MPR News by Koch’s office, Burton urged Revier to not tell lawmakers that they planned for cuts to the state program.

“Please do not tell him the cuts in (sic) OK because you planned for it, even if you did. This will only lead to another massive round of cuts later this session because legislators will believe the first round of cuts caused no harm, and therefore cities should do more to “feel the pain” or “live within their means.”

Local Government Aid has already become a big issue in budget negotiations this year. Governor Dayton vetoed a bill that cut $1 billion in state spending because he said the cuts in LGA would force local governments to raise property taxes. Republicans who supported the bill argued that many local government officials already factored the cuts into their 2011 budgets. Burton says the e-mail wasn’t meant to encourage city officials to mislead lawmakers but to tell them that the LGA cuts would have an impact on their bottom lines.

“The intent of my e-mail to our clients was to ask them to communicate to legislators their opposition to HF 130, which would negatively impact communities, regardless of whether their cities budgeted for them or not.”

Alyssa Schlander, president of the Minnesota Government Relations Council, couldn’t respond to Koch’s complaint because she hasn’t seen it yet. But she says the MGRC has an ethics committee that reviews complaints. But, Schlander says the group can’t do much in terms of penalties.

“We don’t have any ability to fine people.” Schlander said. “Our sandbox is whether someone can be a part of the organization or not.”

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