Is an endorsement letter from former Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe more trouble than it’s worth for Mike Ciresi?
Such a letter from Moe recently appeared in the mailboxes of DFL state convention delegates and alternates. The letter outlined Moe’s reasons for supporting Ciresi in his U.S. Senate bid, generally following the campaign’s talking points about Ciresi’s experience in the legal system and in helping get Democrats elected up and down the ticket in Minnesota. The letter included a postcard, intended to be returned to Moe with a commitment to support Ciresi if the sender is chosen as a delegate to the state convention.
It’s this postcard that presents a problem for the Ciresi campaign. If the campaign paid for the letter to be printed and sent, the letter should contain a disclaimer of this fact (it does not). Otherwise, if Moe paid for the letter himself, giving the caucus commitment cards to Ciresi would constitute an in-kind donation to the campaign, in addition to the initial outlay for the letter possibly representing an independent expenditure.
When asked about the issue, Ciresi communications director Leslie Sandberg said: “When we discovered the error earlier this week, we sought legal guidance and made suggested improvements to our procedures to safeguard against this in the future. We learned we were in the company of many campaigns who have made similar errors.” This seemed like a bit-too-general explanation, so I asked Sandberg for more detail on the following questions:
1.) What exactly was the error (i.e., what exactly was done wrong in the first place?)
2.) Which other campaigns did you find made similar errors?
3.) What now happens with the postcards that were returned?
Sandberg’s response: “We feel that we have addressed the issue, have taken corrective steps and look forward to talking to you on other issues.”
A bit of a sandbag, perhaps. I can certainly understand the motivation to de-emphasize news of a campaign’s errors in favor of discussing what the campaign is doing correctly. These questions, however, strike me as important — will numbers derived from those caucus commitment cards find their way into a pre-convention press release demonstrating Ciresi’s strength? How will the campaign account for the letter and accompanying postcards in its financial filings? The bottom line is this: the infraction is probably not a huge issue as far as the Federal Election Committee is concerned. But without further explanation, it comes off as a moment of misdirection from a campaign that has operated largely on the straight and narrow.
Ciresi campaign manager Kerry Greeley later sent an email to one of the campaign’s lists indicating that some postcards had been marked “Return to Sender” and directing recipients to the campaign’s online volunteer form. It is unclear why any of the postcards would have been returned, and Sandberg declined to divulge how many letters had been returned.