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Lunchbag-gate: MNGOP illegally using Capitol office for campaign work, email indicates

Senate Republicans can't even eat lunch without getting in trouble.
Senate Republicans can't even eat lunch without getting in trouble.

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In the latest in a long-running string of embarrassments for the MNGOP, an email sent by Senate staffer Maureen Watson indicates the party is using a room just off the Senate floor for campaign work.

That's a violation of Minnesota law, which states: "An employee shall not use state time, supplies or state-owned property and equipment for the employee's private interests."

The email indicates the Republican Senate Caucus has been supplying lunches to volunteers who drop by Senate Room 208 around 11 in the morning. In exchange, volunteers grab a pile of campaign literature that they use to door-knock in support of Republican Senate candidates. The Lunch Hour Lit Drops have apparently been going on for some time -- in fact, more were planned for this week, though plans may have changed now that the practice has drawn media attention.

The story was first reported by Fox's Tom Lyden. Via Lyden's report, here's the email Watson send "SRC'ers" last Thursday:

From: Maureen Watson [Email Redacted]
Date
: August 9, 2012 11:41:43 AM CDT
To: [Sent to Emails Redacted]
Subject: THANK YOU!!

SRC'ers,

Wanted to thank all of you who were able to help out this week with our lunch hour lit dropping and phoning! We had over 40 people out over the three days - so super turn out. Senator Lillie and Senator Daley have both emailed me thanking you for volunteering. It really let's [sic] them know we are in this together - and is the incentive they need to hit the streets and door-knock - again!

We have a similar plan in store for next week - going out lit dropping on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Please let me know when you would like to join us. If you are new to our Caucus and to our Lunch Hour Lit Drops - please consider joining us. It really helps out our Caucus and it is fun. If you have someone to pair up with great - if not, just show up in 208 about 10:45/11 - and you can join one of the groups. It is a great way to get to know your co-workers.

Of course - as always, lunches will be ready for you in Room 208 starting at 10:45.

Also - if you don't have a lot or any comp time or vacation - consider going out one day a week. If you take your lunch and breaks at your desk the rest of the week - you should be able to get about 2 hours for a lit drop on one day without losing any hours.

Again - thanks for your efforts this week - and here's to a successful next week!

Maureen

P.S. I know that there are several of you from our staff out on Salary Savings - doing the Lord's work on campaigns near and far - I just don't want to take you off the email list since you are still a part of our family! We miss you!

Undercover camera footage later showed folks walking into Room 208 empty-handed, but walking out with brown sacks of lunch.

Lyden strolled into Watson's office to question her about the email and the footage, but she didn't want any part of him.

With an anxious look in her eyes, she said, unconvincingly, "I'm not organizing [lunches] here." She then took a call on her cell phone and walked away from her desk without saying a word.

Yesterday, DFL Chariman Ken Martin asked Senate administrators to investigate the allegations. Republicans deny wrongdoing.

"A group of people getting together on their own time for a sack lunch is not an infraction of Senate rules," said SRC spokesman Peter Winiecki, according to a Pioneer Press report.

Martin said that if nothing else, the SRC is guilty of stupidity.

"If this is not corruption, it must be incompetence at the least," he said. Raising further bewilderment is the fact that the SRC actually has an office in the nearby Kelly Inn, meaning the MNGOP could easily conduct its train wreck from a space near the Capitol without getting itself in trouble. 

Watson currently works as an assistant for Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem. She used to work as a legislative assistant for Amy Koch, the Michael Brodkorb-tainted former Speaker.

Room 208, in fact, used to be Koch's office. Take about a haunted house!


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