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by Steve Timmer
Jul 5, 2020, 9:00 PM

Political embroidery in SD-7 DFL

In politics, there is nothing new under the sun. A favorite political prevarication is claiming that you have support from groups or individuals when you do not. It is so common and so nefarious that we even have a statute to prohibit it, Minn. Stat. § 211B.02.

FALSE CLAIM OF SUPPORT. A person or candidate may not knowingly make, directly or indirectly, a false claim stating or implying that a candidate or ballot question has the support or endorsement of a major political party or party unit or of an organization. A person or candidate may not state in written campaign material that the candidate or ballot question has the support or endorsement of an individual without first getting written permission from the individual to do so.

This statute is part of the Minnesota Deceptive Campaign Practices Act, and it’s been on the books for over thirty years.

Which brings us to this ad from the Erik Simonson campaign:

False Simonson social media ad

As some of you know, Simonson was beaten — nay, trounced, flogged, obliterated — in the contest for the Senate District 7 DFL endorsement by Jen McEwen. But he’s running against her in the August primary for the DFL nomination.

That’s fine; there’s no crime in that. But when you run a campaign with a false claim of endorsement, it violates the Minnesota Deceptive Campaign Practices Act, in particular, Minn. Stat. § 211B.02 (2019). Understandably, the SD-7 DFL -— the “local DFL organization”  in question — is upset about it. Here’s its statement:

The SD-7 DFL proudly supports our endorsed candidates. Senator Simonson is not endorsed by the SD-7 DFL or any DFL organizations. It is misleading for Simonson’s paid advertisement to claim that DFL organizations are “standing by him.” As required by DFL party rules, DFL organizations stand with the endorsed candidate for MN Senate, Jen McEwen. Jen McEwen received an overwhelming 70% of the vote in our endorsement process and is wholly supported by our party.

In the primary contest, Erik Simonson is not entitled to the DFL trademark; Jen McEwen is. It’s deceptive for Simonson to claim otherwise.

As recently as 2017, the Minnesota Court of Appeals has upheld Minn. Stat. § 211B.02 against a constitutional challenge by Michelle MacDonald, thrice unsuccessful candidate for the Minnesota Supreme Court. I have some familiarity with the case, since I am one of the people, along with Barbara Linert, who brought the complaint against MacDonald.

Here are the facts that gave rise to that case, from a LeftMN story at the link:

In summary, attorney Michelle MacDonald ran against incumbent Supreme Court Justice Natalie Hudson in 2016. She was endorsed by the Republican Party of Minnesota for a run against Justice David Lillehaug in 2014, but she didn’t receive the party endorsement in 2016. It was an obvious show of flagging enthusiasm by the RPM for the oddball MacDonald.

Perhaps recognizing this gaping hole in her story, MacDonald supplied information to the Star Tribune newspaper that she had received the endorsement of, as noted, the “GOP’s Judicial Selection Committee 2016.” There were some teeny problems with this. [You’ll have to read the story to see what they were.]

The Office of Administrative Hearings found that MacDonald’s claim violated the statute and fined her $500, which I thought was charitable. As noted, she appealed, unsuccessfully.

Endorsed candidates, the parties, and the public have an interest in the truthfulness of endorsements. Simonson should publish corrective advertising, on Facebook and Twitter and perhaps elsewhere, and if he doesn’t, a deceptive campaign practices complaint ought to be filed against him.

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