MNGOP staffer claims to be Democrat in letter to editor, urges DFLers to vote for write-in candidate [UPDATE]
Stephen Sundquist works for Dale Lueck (left), but wrote a letter to the editor claiming to be a Democrat who doesn't support Lueck's DFL opponent, Joe Radinovich (right).
On October 23, the Brainerd Dispatch published a letter to the editor written by a self-proclaimed Democrat named Stephen Sundquist.
Sundquist's letter expresses disappointment with Joe Radinovich, the DFL-endorsed candidate in House District 10B, and urges "all true Democrats," a set of people including himself, to vote for a write-in candidate instead.
But it turns out Sundquist isn't who he said he is. He's actually a paid MNGOP staffer working for the campaign of Dale Lueck, the Republican candidate running against Radinovich.
A simple Google search of Sundquist yields the following (his actual LinkedIn profile has been deleted):
The DFL filed a complaint with the state Office of Administrative Hearings alleging that Sundquist's letter violates the Fair Campaign Practices and Campaign Finance Acts.
Write-in Strand 10B
I have watched and listened to the Minnesota House 10B debates in the last few weeks and was dismayed to hear Joe Radinovich, a Democrat, agrees with most everything Dale Lueck, a Republican, had to say.
I didn't vote for Joe in the primary, so he could turn around after he won and say whatever he thinks independent voters want to hear, and take our hardcore Democratic votes for granted.
In the primary Joe Radinovich said he would stand up for the Democratic platform and now that he has gotten the letter D next to his name on the ballot, he has decided to try to pander to the Republican voters by not saying things he thinks will be unpopular: Climate change, anti-marriage amendment , and Increased gun control.
I, for one, do not want to wait see which Joe we will get if he is elected. I will be writing in David Strand on my ballot and I encourage all true Democrats to do the same.
In his articles in the Aitkin Age, which you should all read, he faces off against Tom Emmer. He publicly stands up for all the principles that make me a Democrat. He would be the best candidate for office because of his courage, competence, and unwavering support of democratic principles. He may not win but we can send a strong message to Joe Radinovich that he can't take our votes for granted.
In a press release, DFL chair Ken Martin characterizes Sundquist's letter as "blatantly dishonest" and an "attempt to fool voters."
"This letter was clearly an attempt to benefit Dale Lueck's campaign, and this kind of unethical campaign behavior is unacceptable in Minnesota," Martin said.
Sundquist's party affiliation isn't the only thing he lies about in the letter. The DFL says he doesn't even live in District 10B, meaning it would've been impossible for him to vote in the primary as he claims to have done... unless he was was committing the thing that gives Minnesota Republicans night sweats: voter fraud.
To read the text of the DFL's Campaign Practices complaint, click to page two.
:: UPDATE, 12:05 p.m. ::
Sundquist has been fired by the Minnesota House Republican Campaign Committee, the Associated Press reports.
STATEMENT REGARDING NATURE OF VIOLATION OF MINN. STAT. 21113.06
This complaint presents a violation of the Minnesota Fair Campaign Practices Act by Respondent Stephen Sundquist. On or about October 23, 2012, Stephen Sundquist submitted a letter to the editor to the Brainerd Dispatch in which represented himself as a member of the Minnesota DFL Party and encouraged DFL voters to cast write-in ballots supporting David Strand rather than voting for Joe Radinovich, the duly endorsed and nominated DFL candidate for House District 10B. Sundquist is not a member of the DFL Party. Sundquist is an employee of the House Republican Campaign Committee ("HRCC") and is campaigning on behalf of Dale Lueck, the Republican candidate for House District l0B as part of his duties as an HRCC employee. Sundquist is intentionally misleading Voters in an attempt to reduce the votes cast for the DFL candidate and violated Minn. Stat. 2llB.O6, Subd. l in the process. The OAH should find a prima facie violation, schedule a probable cause hearing pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 21 lB.34, and assess appropriate penalties against Stephen Sundquist.
On or about October 23, 2012, Stephen Sundquist drafted a letter to the editor which was published in the Brainerd Dispatch... In the letter, Sundquist presents himself as a member of the DFL Party stating that he voted for Joe Radinovich, the Democratic candidate for House District 10B, in the primary election and noting that did not want Radinovich to "take our hardcore Democratic Votes for granted." Sundquist is not a member of the DFL Party. He is employed by HRCC and, as part of his employment, campaigns for Dale Lueck who is the Republican Candidate for House District 10B... Moreover, Sundquist does not reside in District 10B and could not have voted for Joe Radinovich as he asserts in his letter. It is believed that Sundquist drafted the letter in furtherance of his duties as an employee of HRCC.
The letter addresses Joe Radinovich's political character and is designed to injure Radinovich's candidacy by encouraging DFL to cast write-in ballots rather than voting for Radinovich.
Minn. Stat. 21 lB.06, subdivision l prohibits the intentional "drafting of a letter to the editor with respect to the personal or political character or acts of a candidate . . . that is designed or tends to elect, injure, promote, or defeat any candidate for nomination or election to a public office . . . that is false, and that the person knows is false or communicates to others with reckless disregard of whether it is false." Only statements of fact are subject to this prohibition. See Fine v. Bernstein, 726 N.W.2d 137, 144 (Minn. Ct. App. 2007). Whether the paid political advertising sets forth a statement of fact or an opinion is determined by the Context in which the statement is made. Id. (citing Janklow v. Newsweek, Inc., 788 F.2d 1300, 1302-03 (8th Cir. 1986).
The statements that Sundquist is a member of the DFL Party and that he voted for Joe Radinovich in the primary are false statements of fact; they are not opinions. The statements are not inferences drawn from facts. Rather, they establish the premise for Sundquist's appeal that DFL voters should not support Radinovich.
Moreover, as noted above, the statements are demonstrably false. Sundquist is an HRCC employee and campaigns for Dale Lueck, the Republican candidate running against JoRadinovich . Sundquist is not a member ofthe DFL Party. Sundquist also could not have voted for Joe Radinovich inthe primary because he does not reside in District 10B.
Finally, Sundquist had to have known that the statements were false at the time they were made. The statements relate to Sundquist's own party affiliation and voting history. Sundquist has knowledge of the falsity of his assertions but chose to disregard the facts and draft letter to the editor in a brazen attempt to influence voting at the November 6, 2012, general election.
In light of the foregoing, Ken Martin respectfully requests that the Office of Administrative Hearings determine that this complaint establishes a prima facie Violation of Minn. Stat. § 2llB.06, Subd. by Stephen Sundquist, schedule a probable cause hearing pursuant to Minn. Stat. 211B.34, and assess appropriate penalties.
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