Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Curious Case of the Not So Former Campaign Chairman

I got up this morning and found an interesting story spreading like wild fire across the MN liberal blogosphere. Yesterday in the midst of all the articles I posted was one about Rep. Buesgens being arrested for DWI. I, like most people, listed him as Emmer's former campaign chairman. It turns out that may not actually be the case.

MN Publius has posted a copy of the letter the Emmer campaign sent to the Campaign Finance and Disclosure Board announcing a change in campaign chair and asking them to update the record. The big question it raises lies in the fact that the letter was sent after the arrest and asks the board to make the change effective a week prior to the date it was sent. The Emmer campaign claims that Rep. Buesgens left the campaign on September 12 and now works as a consultant for the state Republican Party.

Republicans are arguing that you have a window of time to submit that information to the Campaign Finance and Disclosure Board and that this isn't a smoking gun of any kind. I think that's a fair argument. And if that letter were the only evidence of him still working on behalf of the Emmer campaign, I might be inclined to agree with them that it is a non-issue. But that's not the only indicator that Buesgens was still working on official business for Emmer's camp.

The Minnesota Independent reports that Buesgens attended and spoke at a "We The People Rally" hosted by the Forest Lake Tea Party that afternoon. The invitation clearly shows that his title is listed as "Tom Emmer's Campaign Chairman." Those in attendence say that his speech was made in that capacity. Bluestem Prairie reports that that evening he was a speaker at a Wright County GOP hangar party. (This is likely where he was returning from when pulled over after seen driving in the ditch.) To be fair, he's not listed as an Emmer spokesperson on this event announcement. But then you realize that Wright and Meeker counties are NOT part of Buesgens' district. Considering he was representing Emmer at an event earlier in the day, the fact that he was still doing so is the most logical explanation as to why he would have been there.

This raises a pretty obvious question. If this is the case, why did the Emmer campaign lie about it? He constantly bills himself as the "straight talking candidate" and says he's not afraid to tell the truth even on hard issues. Were they worried it would be viewed in light of the fact that Emmer himself has a couple of DWIs well into his past? Do they think they can talk about this supposed cover up the same way they discuss the looming budget deficit? "What deficit? What cover up? Only in Minnesota..." I'm far less confused by the incident itself than the Emmer campaign's response to it. But even if they are lying, they won't admit to it. Admitting you're willing to engage in a cover up for your staff is a terrible campaign strategy to say the least.

Republicans will likely say that this is a non-issue and merely distracting from what the campaign should really be about. To that I raise a single question; if this story were about Mark Dayton's campaign chairman and all signs started pointing to the fact that Dayton's campaign was trying to pull off a cover up,  would they find it fair game to use as a flashpoint to not only question his character but also pull the skeletons involving his previous struggles with alcohol out of the closet? I think we all know the answer.

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