ANOKA (AP) -- Anoka County deputies seized the computer of a top aide to Republican Sen. Rod Grams as part of an investigation into negative e-mails sent about one of his potential challengers in the fall election.
The e-mails, sent earlier this year to DFL leaders and activists ahead of the party's state convention, accused trial lawyer Mike Ciresi of being too moderate.
They alleged that, while he has emphasized his legal successes in exposing corporate wrongdoing, his law firm has defended many corporate wrongdoers. They also said he hadn't donated enough money to DFL causes.
The messages purportedly come from a concerned DFLer, Katie Stevens, who apparently doesn't exist.
But Ciresi claimed electronic footprints in the e-mails pointed to three members of the Grams campaign. He asked the Anoka County attorney to investigate whether they violated laws that require campaign literature to be labeled with its source.
When asked Friday on WCCO-AM whether he would fire any aides found guilty, Grams replied that it was "hypothetical."
"Maybe in Mike Ciresi's world you're guilty until proven innocent," Grams said. "In my world, you're innocent until proven guilty. I have a lot of confidence ... that the campaign did not do this."
He added, "Right now these are just frivolous charges out there, and I'm going to wait, and we're going to have to let this play out."
Christine Gunhus, a top political adviser to Grams, has hired criminal defense attorney Doug Kelley, who confirmed that deputies seized computer hardware and software from her Ham Lake home on Wednesday.
Kelley described the seizure as routine. County attorneys who receive complaints about campaign practices are required to conduct investigations.
Kelley also described the complaint -- failing to put a disclaimer on a campaign piece -- as relatively minor. He declined to comment further on the case, other than to say, "My client did not violate any laws."
A 1988 state law was designed to prevent anonymous attacks on political candidates. It requires that all campaign material include the name and address of the candidate or committee disseminating any campaign information. Those who act individually and spend less than $300 are exempted. Violators can be punished by up to 90 days in jail and a $700 fine. Kurt Zellers, spokesman for the Grams campaign, said the Grams office and his campaign have not been part of the investigation. In July, Grams confirmed electronic footprints in attachments to the e-mails pointed to three of his campaign aides as authors of the documents. But, he said, the campaign was only doing research on its possible opponents and had "no responsibility" for the distribution of the information.
Outside computer experts have said those electronic footprints don't prove the Grams campaign was behind the mailings, adding that a third party could have easily substituted the aides' names to create the false impression that the senator's campaign was involved in a political dirty trick.
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