In the November 2012 election, Representative Bob Barrett (R-Lindstrom) defeated Rick Olseen by fewer than 400 votes, with Barrett earning "10,644 votes, or 50.87 percent. Olseen saw 10,251 ballots cast for him," according to the Forest Lake Times.
We'll never know how much false information circulated by the Barrett campaign contributed to that narrow victory. The flyer--mailed in the last week of the campaign--will cost the Lindstrom Republican $1000.
A panel of three administrative law judges ruled last week that "clear and convincing evidence Barrett and his campaign committee violated Minnesota Statute 211B.06, and observe the violation of that statute is a misdemeanor" and slapped a civil fine of $1000 on Barrett and his committee according to Barrett fined for false campaign flyer, ECM staff writer Derrick Knutson's article in the East Central Post Review:
The mailing, sent to voters in newly formed District 32B, among other statements said that “Bob’s opponent didn’t serve on the Education committee while a state senator even though our schools need help.”
In fact, Olseen served on the Senate’s Education Policy Committee from 2007-2008. . . .
A three-member panel of judges concluded Barrett and his team prepared and disseminated false campaign material with reckless disregard as to whether it was false.
Barrett learned of the panel’s findings Monday and expressed regret in an interview with the Times.
“They’re the experts,” he said. “I respect their decision and apologize to Mr. Olseen.” . . .
“I looked it up and didn’t see his membership, but obviously, according to the judge, I should have,” Barrett told the Times. “It was an honest mistake, and shouldn’t have happened…I remember looking and I remember confirming that particular bullet point, and we were just wrong.” . . .
Earlier, his approach to the OAH panel was somewhat different: accusing Olseen of misusing public resources in filing the complaint (see embedded opinion below):
The Panel also finds troubling Representative Barrett’s suggestion that Mr. Olseen had improper motives in filing this campaign complaint and that he was “using public resources and this judicial process to obtain his personal goal.” Any individual has the right to file a complaint under the Fair Campaign Practices Act if they believe a person or committee has violated a provision of the Act. In this case, Mr. Olseen has established that Representative Barrett and his committee violated Minnesota Statutes § 211B.06 by disseminating false campaign material about him. Mr. Olseen’s complaint is grounded in law and fact and should not be viewed as an inappropriate use of public resources or this administrative process.
That's a good one from the candidate whose campaign couldn't even figure out how to use the very handy Minnesota Legislators Past & Present page kept by the cheerful and professional staff at the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library. It's the number two hit on a google keyword search for "Rick Olseen."
Fortunately, Olseen has a new job he's happy with, the papers report--and as a good government guy, he's thinking about the larger need to reform campaign practive law in Minnesota, he tells the ECM papers:
Olseen wonders how the mailing might have affected the voting Nov. 6, though he is quick to add he is content position as a field representative for U.S. Congressman Rick Nolan.
Barrett did not recall the document’s mailing list. If it was sizable and even 1 percent of recipients changed their vote, Olseen said, it may have been the tipping point in the election that came down to fewer than 400 votes.
“I think it’s important that elected officials and candidates understand there’s a responsibility on their part when they put information out there that’s incorrect,” Olseen said Monday.
He also worries that the punishment is not strong enough to ensure those running for office stand behind all campaign material.
Read the lengthy article at the paper.
Here's the OAH panel's opinion:
Photo: This meme was still popular when Rick Olseen served on the Senate Education Committee in 2007-2008 (above); Bob Barrett, R-Lindstrom (below), Present Master of Mad Innertube Research Skillz; Bluestem wants to the HRCC to raise funds by staging a research royal rumble on twitter featuring Barrett, Mary Franson, Glenn Gruenhagen, Cindy Pugh and Jim Newberger. Who would fish up the best misinformation?
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