The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board (CFPD) has wrapped up the case brought by the Senate DFL Caucus concerning Sen. Karin Housley’s omissions in her campaign finance reporting last year. The board found the omissions by Housley’s campaign were inadvertent and won’t be subject to a civil penalty.
Housley, R-St. Marys Point, squeaked out a victory last November in Senate District 39 over former Rep. Julie Bunn by 1.37 percent. The race saw heavy spending from independent spending groups and significant fundraising from the candidates themselves.
The reporting omissions in question concern Housley’s pre-general election campaign finance report that documented 2012 campaign activity through Oct. 22.
The Senate DFL Caucus in November 2012 issued a complaint that Housley had been using a truck owned by her realty company as a “traveling billboard advertisement” for her campaign, but didn’t list it on pre-general election report.
Mike Kennedy, the director of the Senate DFL Caucus, also called on the CFPD to investigate an October fundraiser held on a rented yacht docked on the St. Croix River that wasn’t disclosed in the report. Kennedy noted that coverage of the yacht fundraiser appeared in a segment on Twin Cities Public Television.
Marlon Gunderson, treasurer of Bunn’s campaign, submitted a supplemental letter to the CFPD raising concerns about the transparency of Housley’s campaign finances. “Ms. Housley’s handling of the pre-general election report completely circumvented our legitimate right to examine her expenses and determine that she would be able to stay within her spending limits and be accountable to that requirement.”
Housley on Nov. 1 amended to her pre-general election report that provided the detail on the truck, which was prior to her receipt of Kennedy’s complaint. The campaign didn’t correct a $300 obligation for the yacht rental until the year-end report, according to the CFPD findings that were made public at its meeting on Tuesday.
Housley in February told the board that her campaign had put the correct report in the system but “had accidentally checked the wrong button for which the report was to be filed.”
The board found that the reporting errors were inadvertent and had been corrected. “Because of the inadvertent nature of the errors the Board finds that a civil penalty is not warranted,” according to the board’s findings.
As part of the investigation the board looked into the price paid for renting the boat, which was lower than the amount advertised on the company’s website. But the CFPD didn’t find any violations because the boat didn’t leave the dock and the boat company frequently discounts its rates to groups during off periods. Another part of the investigation was whether the campaign paid a fair price for locating the truck on corporate property. The board found it has “no basis” for thinking the methods the campaign used to determine the value of the advertising from the truck were unreasonable.