ST. PAUL – Today, state Rep. John Lesch (DFL - St. Paul) announced plans to introduce a bill expanding the ban on gifts for public officials to prohibit individuals and private associations from giving preferential admission for events held in publicly-owned facilities. Most recently in December, House Speaker Kurt Daudt and his chief of staff were guests of Glen Taylor in his suite at US Bank Stadium for a Minnesota Vikings game. As Taylor is a “lobbyist principal” due to his ownership interest in the Star Tribune, the Timberwolves, and Minnesota United FC, Rep. Lesch’s bill would remove any questions whether this practice is allowable in the state of Minnesota.
“When powerful players at the Capitol such as the Speaker of the House get wined and dined like this, it sends the wrong message to the citizens who ponied up the money to pay to construct the building in the first place,” Rep. Lesch said. “Many of my constituents don’t have the cash available to buy a nosebleed ticket to a Vikings game, let alone one for a luxury suite full of food and beverage. Speaker Daudt has totally avoided the questions concerning this special treatment, and it’s only fair that the leader of the Minnesota House is held to a strong standard of accountability. My bill ensures the Speaker and others remain free from the taint of special favors from special interests.”
Speaker Daudt and Ben Golnik, House GOP Caucus executive director, claim they paid for the tickets at a face value of $176. However, the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board (CFB) has issued an advisory opinion stating such treatment is barred, since members of the public aren’t afforded the same access to a private suite. Rep. Lesch’s bill cements this opinion into law, and gives the CFB the power to enforce compliance.
“It’s unfortunate that the only way we find out about these backroom deals is when someone like Speaker Daudt gets his hand caught in the cookie jar, but regular Minnesotans should always have the confidence to know that major players at the Capitol aren’t given preferential treatment,“ Rep. Lesch said. “Power in St. Paul is already concentrated so tightly with people like the Speaker, and there’s no reason he should be allowed to receive legally-questionable handouts from corporate influencers.”