District 20 Republican Senate candidate Mike Dudley will be before a panel of judges on Wednesday defending himself in a case that accuses him of violating state law because of some of his campaign literature.
Thomas A. Rees of New Market Township filed the complaint in August. Rees believes Dudley violated state law when he didn’t include a disclaimer on campaign material stating who paid for the material, according to the complaint filed with the Minnesota Office of Administrative hearings.
During a telephone conference on Aug. 23, an administrative judge found there was probable cause to believe that Dudley violated Minn. Stat. 211B.04, setting up Wednesday’s hearing.
In an email to Dudley's campaign site on Aug. 9, which Rees has posted on a website he created about the incident, Rees wrote:
I received a mailing with something about Mr. Dudley. However, I could not find who paid for it. Usually when I receive political mailings there is something that says who paid for it, you know like on tv when Mitt Romney says he approves of this message and he paid for it. Did you send me this mailing? Thanks for the help.
Dudley responded a few hours later, writing:
I paid for it. Fed law requires candidates to say they paid for it, state law does not. If a candidate does not pay for it, then it must say "not paid for by any candiate (sic)..."
Thanks for your interest
Rees inquired with the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, to which a Gary Goldsmith with the organization replied:
Mr. Dudley is incorrect in his understanding that state law does not require a "prepared and paid for" form of disclaimer. It does."
If found in violation of state law, Dudley could be fined up to $5,000.
Dudley told Patch on Monday that he and the person who printed the mailers didn't realize that they didn't have the disclaimer on them. When Dudley received the inquiry from Rees, he asked a staffer involved in the creation of the mailers about the disclaimer and Dudley said he was told that state law didn't require it but rather that it was just common practice. In the end, Dudley told Patch that he received bad information and it was an honest mistake.
The Dudley for Senate campaign sent the following statement to Patch:
In August the Dudley for Senate campaign distributed a campaign primary piece by mail and or by hand delivery. The statutory disclaimer was inadvertently left off the piece. A complaint about the piece was made to the Office of Administrative Hearings. (OAH)
This matter arose because the volunteer who created this piece for the Campaign inadvertently forgot to put “Prepared by and paid for by Mike Dudley…” on the literature. Mike Dudley also missed that fact when he approved the piece, as did the printer. One could easily tell the piece came from the Dudley campaign since the campaign logo and website were displayed prominently on both sides of the literature and because the piece only mentioned Mike Dudley and did not mention or disparage any other candidate. Mr. Dudley self-reported the issue to the OAH, when he became aware of the problem; the Campaign also added the proper disclaimer before continuing to distribute any more items. OAH indicated that someone would have to make an official complaint before any action would be taken.
The Campaign received only one question or complaint about the error, that person, a Republican activist, pursued the matter and made an official complaint, leading to the upcoming hearing by the OAH.
At the probable cause hearing held by OAH in August, Mr. Dudley admitted that while “Prepared by and paid for by Mike Dudley…” disclaimer was inadvertently left off, the law recognizes that there can be substantial compliance, even if the exact words are not used. The Campaign feels that the prominent display of the campaign logo and website on the piece as well the content made it clear who was responsible for the piece. Dudley wants to emphasize that the error was inadvertent, and minor as is evidenced by the fact that only the one complaint was received. Mr. Dudley stated: “I am sorry for this inadvertent error. While it may have technically violated the rules, no one was hurt by it, nor did I gain any advantage. I also took immediate steps to correct the problem when I learned of it. You try to avoid such unintentional errors but if they happen you correct them and accept responsibility.” Mr. Dudley also noted that he agreed to waive a full blown, expensive hearing, but that offer was not accepted by the complainant.
Dudley is the second legislative candidate seeking to represent Northfield and the surrounding area to be accused of violating state law this campaign season. DFLer David Bly, who previously served in the Minnesota House, is accused of violating state law by using old campaign signs that say “re-elect” Bly to the House, though he is not an incumbent. Also, with redistricting, Bly is not running for the seat he previously held.