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Minnesota House candidate accuses opponent of not disclosing financial contributions

FOSSTON, Minn. -- The race between two Democratic candidates for the Minnesota District 1B House seat continues to heat up, now with allegations of breaking campaign finance laws.

On July 28, Erwin Rud submitted a complaint to the state Campaign Finance & Public Disclosure Board accusing fellow candidate Mike Moore of accepting contributions from a corporation and other actions illegal under state law.

“It’s all false,” Moore said in an interview. “None of the accusations are true.”

Moore is the Democratic-Farmers-Labor Party endorsed candidate for the seat. He owns two area newspapers, including The Thirteen Towns in Fosston.

Candidates for state positions were required to turn in campaign finance disclosure forms by July 25 to the state board, and Rud says Moore’s report is not a true reflection of his campaign activity so far.

Rud, a Fosston resident, is asserting Moore has broken the law by running his campaign committee out of the Thirteen Towns office. Public records show the newspaper and Moore’s campaign committee share the address of 118 Johnson Ave. N. in Fosston.

Minnesota law prohibits political candidates from accepting contributions, which can include money, free services from employees and property, directly or indirectly from corporations.

With the co-location, Rud says in the complaint there should be clear accounting of disbursements or loans payable to The Thirteen Towns for renting space and employee time.

Moore said the building is owned by him personally, not the corporation owning Thirteen Towns. Polk County property records confirm Moore’s statement.

Other accusations

Rud also claims Moore has failed to treat their candidacies fairly in terms of his role as a newspaper publisher. Minnesota state law says publications must treat candidates fairly with rates charged for advertisements.

Rud said he submitted a letter for consideration to several regional papers where it ran without charge. In his complaint, he says Moore told him via email his letter was a political advertisement and could not be run for free.

“In order to get my voice heard by a key bloc of voters in my hometown, I paid $91.50 to have my updated and revised letter published in The Thirteen Towns,” Rud wrote in his complaint letter.

Moore said the policy of his papers is not to run self-promoting letters from candidates and considers them political advertisements.

“If somebody else wrote the letter on your behalf, then you have a real honest-to-God letter to the editor,” he said.

Moore’s and Rud’s race previously made headlines when the Polk County DFL Party Board attempted to remove Rud from a board of directors position with the organization for challenging its endorsed candidate. Rud notes in the letter submitted with his complaint that course of action was unsuccessful.

“It’s all sour grapes,” Moore said Monday. “He lost the endorsement. He gave a pledge as we stood up there, he and I together, we both pledged we would abide by the endorsement process. He broke that and now he’s in the primary.”

Moore and Rud are seeking the seat held by Rep. Deb Kiel, R-Crookston, since 2010.

Complaint process

With Rud’s complaint submitted, it’s up to Campaign Finance & Public Disclosure Board to decide if laws were broken.

The board looks into complaints by first determining if there is sufficient information to allege a violation of state law or board rules within 10 business days after the complaint is received.

If the complaint passes that stage, the board then determines if there is probable cause for moving forward. A complaint can be dismissed at either stage but must pass both in order to be investigated.

During an investigation, the board gathers information and evidence to determine if a violation took place within 60 days.

If the board concludes a violation did not take place, the complaint is dismissed. If a law is broken, the board presents its findings, conclusions and an order describing the violation and the penalty.

The penalty can be up to 10 times the amount of the violation, up to $10,000. The cap rises to $20,000 in cases where the individual or corporation knowingly violated the law.

At any time in the investigation process, the respondent can ask for a summary proceeding, which can lead to that person signing a conciliation agreement. Under those agreement terms, the respondent admits to violating campaign finance laws and can agree to pay a penalty and take actions to prevent future violations.

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