The County Attorney's Reply to my Complaint

January 4, 2000

Mr. Harry Welty
Duluth Public Schools
215 North First Avenue East
Duluth, MN 55802

Re: Complaint Against "Put Children First" Committee

Dear Mr. Welty:

We have received and reviewed your complaint concerning the "Put Children First' 'Committee. We understand your complaint to be that "Put Children First" accepted a $1,500 contribution from the Minnesota Education Association. You contend that that contribution violates the contribution limits contained in Minn. Stat. 211 A.12. You enclose the financial reports regarding "Put Children First" which show expenditures for a printing and mailing.

Your letter paraphrases Minn. Stat. 211A.12 as requiring contribution limits from $100 to $500. The important point in our review of this statute is that the contribution limits only apply to "candidates" or a "candidate's committee." The relevant portion of Minn. Stat. 211A.12 states:

A candidate or a candidate's committee may not accept aggregate contributions made or delivered by an individual or committee in excess of $300 in an election year for the office sought and $100 in other years; except that a candidate or a candidate's committee for an office whose territory has a population over 100,000 may not accept aggregate contributions made or delivered by an individual or committee in excess of $500 in an election year for the office sought and $100 in other years.

(Emphasis added). The term "candidate's committee" is not defined in chapter 211A. The term "candidate" is defined in 211A.01, subd. 3, to mean, "an individual who seeks nomination or election to a county, municipal, school district or other political subdivision office." The term "committee" is defined in subd. 4 of that same section to mean, "a corporation or association of persons acting together to influence the nomination, election, or defeat of a candidate or to promote or defeat a ballot question."

It appears clear that "Put Children First" is a committee. However, it is not clear that "Put Children First" is a candidate's committee. There is no information in the financial reports or in the statement of expenditures which would indicate that "Put Children First" is a committee formed by or acting on behalf of a candidate. In fact, the mailing you attach to your letter states, "this is an independent expenditure not approved by any candidate paid for by the `Put Children First' Committee, Mary Schroeder, Treasurer." In addition, the mailing does not support any single candidate, but rather supports three different candidates.

Based on the information that we have, we cannot conclude that "Put Children First" is a candidate's committee and, thus, cannot find probable cause to believe that the "Put Children First" Committee has violated Minn. Stat. 211A.12.

If you have any additional information in this regard, we would be happy to review it. In addition, should you have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact me. Should I receive no further information from you in this regard within ten days, we will close this file and take no further action. Thank you.

Sincerely,

ST. LOUIS COUNTY ATTORNEY
SHAUN R. FLOERKE

Assistant County Attorney      MY REPLY TO SHAUN FLOERKE