The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board spent several meetings considering and discussing a complaint by Appleton attorney and DFL activist Brian Wojtalewicz regardingTim Miller, Citizens for Tim Miller (the Miller committee), the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative PAC (SMBSC PAC), and the Renville County Republican Party of Minnesota (Renville RPM).
With the board deadlocking without reaching a consensus about what occurred, the "investigation of this matter is concluded and hereby made a part of the public records of the Board . . ."
Bluestem Prairie first alerted readers to this matter in two posts back in July 2016, Beet coop PAC pours sugar on Renville Co RPM; Renville Co RPM sweetens Tim Miller committee and Did Renville County RPM have money to cover a $4500 check to Miller's committee on 7/17/2016?
Although some folks with complaints will issue press releases about the filings they're making, Wojtalewicz did not do so when he filed this case on October 10, 2016.
As per state law, the board kept the matter confidential as it moved through the process of reviewing whether there was a prima facie case for the complaint (yes), then whether the case merited investigation (yes) and then a report of findings, conclusion and order. Thus, while we had heard that a complaint had been filed, Bluestem had no informaiion until now to report.
The report lays out the case and the investigation in the embedded pdf below. Here's some of the discussion of the evidence:
The SMBSC PAC acknowledges that it wanted to assist Rep. Miller’s campaign financially beyond the $1,000 that it could directly contribute. It initially planned to conduct a fundraising event where cooperative members could make their own personal contributions to the Miller committee. However, there was concern about getting enough members to attend a fundraiser to make it successful for the candidate. Mr. Long contacted Rep. Miller to talk about the problems with holding a fundraiser. There is incons istent testimony as to whether it was Rep. Miller or Mr. Long who suggested that as an alternative to the fundraiser the SMBSC PAC contribute to the Renville County RPM. Mr. Long testified that Rep. Miller suggested that in lieu of a fundraiser a contribution to the Renville RPM would also benefit him, but Rep. Miller denied making this suggestion.
The record also contains copies of email communications between Mr. Long and the members of the SMBSC PAC board on the subject of cancelling the fundraiser for Rep. Miller and instead contributing to the Renville County RPM. In the emails a board member raised the concern that the Renville County RPM could use the suggested donation to support candidates running against Sen. Lyle Koenen and U.S. Congressman Collin Peterson; two DFL candidates that the SMBSC PAC supported. During the exchange of emails a board member also stated that the SMBSC PAC would not be able to require that any part of the contribution be directed to any specific candidate. After these concerns were raised Mr. Long called Mr. Kulberg, the chair of the Renville County RPM. Both Mr. Long and Mr. Kulberg testified that this was the first time
they had ever communicated. During the call Mr. Long informed Mr. Kulberg that the SMBSC PAC was considering making a contribution to the party unit, and he asked for a mailing address to which to send the contribution if it was approved by the SMBSC PAC board. Both Mr. Long and Mr. Kulberg testified that Mr. Long stated that the SMBSC PAC members appreciated and supported the work being done by Rep. Miller. During his testimony regarding the phone conversation Mr. Kulberg recalled that “[s]hortly after he mentioned Tim’s name, [Long] said, I understand, you know, about not being able to control the funds once we make the donation.” Mr. Long provided a similar description in his testimony regarding the phone conversation.
There's more of that in the document-and it proved difficult for the board to come to a decision (and according to a footnote in the document, board members' opinions fell on both sides of the question). Here's the inconclusive conclusions the lack of a four-vote consensus created:
The Board considered and discussed this matter over a period of several meetings, was advised multiple times by Board staff, and heard arguments from legal counsel for the parties at multiple meetings. Board members studied all of the conflicting evidence, assessed the credibility of the witnesses, and drew reasonable inferences where supported by the evidence.
In order to find that one or more violations had occurred at least four Board members would have to conclude that a preponderance of the evidence established the existence of those violations. . . .Three Board members concluded that the evidence was sufficient to find that violations had occurred. Three other members concluded that the evidence did not establish any violations by the required standard of proof. . .Because the concurring vote of four members could not be obtained for either conclusion, the Board cannot resolve this matter by finding either that violations did occur or that violations did not occur.[emphasis added]
Based on the body of evidence before it, the Board makes the following: Findings of fact
- On July 15, 2016, SMBSC PAC mailed a $5,000 contribution to the Renville RPM. The Renville RPM received the contribution on July 18 and on that same day issued its own check to the Miller committee for $4,500.
- Although reasonable inferences could be drawn from the facts in the record to support the conclusion that the contribution was given with the implied condition that it be directed to the Miller committee, other reasonable inferences could be drawn to support the conclusion that the contribution was given without condition on its use.
Based on the above findings of fact, the Board makes the following:
Conclusion of law
Being unable to reach a consensus of four votes for any outcome other than the one expressed in this document, the Board is unable to resolve the question of whether violations did or did not occur in this matter. [emphasis added]
Based on the foregoing findings and conclusion, the Board issues the following:
Order The Board investigation of this matter is concluded and hereby made a part of the public records of the Board pursuant to Minnesota Statutes section 10A.022, subdivision 5.
Here's the report from the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board's website In the matter of the Complaint of Brian Wojtalewicz regarding Miller, Tim; Miller, Tim House Committee; Ren... posted by Sally Jo Sorensen on Scribd. It's an interesting read.
Miller dropped his congressional bid in December, citing how hard it was to raise money. Indeed.
His likely opponent is former Clara City representative and senator Lyle Koenen, who was wrapped up in a 2013 fine for wrong doing by the DFL Senate Caucus in 2012.
Photo: Representative Tim Miller.
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