Some accusations that several Brainerd City Council and Crow Wing County Board candidates have accepted contributions from a Brainerd area group have been found to be false.
Several letters printed in The Dispatch's Open Forum section claimed Brainerd City Council candidates Ed Shaw, Anne Nelson Fisher and incumbent Frank Asplund; and Crow Wing County Board incumbent candidates Ed Larsen, Gil Dewes and Terry Sluss have accepted donations from the Brainerd area Coalition for Responsible Development.
Coalition member Marcia Ferris today said only two Brainerd City Council candidates, Shaw and Nelson Fisher, have accepted donations from the coalition. Shaw said he accepted $200 from the coalition, and Ferris said Nelson Fisher accepted $100.
"I don't think it's anything they should be ashamed of. It's not illegal," said Ferris, noting the coalition's entire budget is $600.
Minnesota law allows for independent expenditures to be made to candidates as long as they are made without the express or implied consent, authorization, or cooperation of, and not in concert with or at the request or suggestion of, any candidate or any candidate's principal campaign committee or agent. According to state law, an independent expenditure is not a contribution to that candidate.
Sluss, Dewes and Larsen each said today that they did receive a check for $75 from the coalition, but returned the checks back to the coalition.
"That's always been my policy, I don't accept contributions from special interest groups," said Sluss. "We're (the county board) a non-partisan, non-political group."
Larsen said if any group was supporting his candidacy for office it was without his knowledge or consent. He also said he hasn't had any contact with the coalition since they had appeared before the Crow Wing County Planning and Zoning Commission.
"I chose to take the high road in the campaign and I wish more people would do the same," said Larsen.
Asplund today said he received a check for $100 from the coalition but he, too, sent it back, saying he didn't take money from groups.
Shaw, who did accept money from the coalition, took issue with one Open Forum writer's accusation that his involvement with the coalition, and his acceptance of money from them, was in some way illegal.
"Obviously, I'm a candidate and people are free to criticize me or disagree with me," said Shaw today. "I've tried to keep things positive but it seems like a lot of people, instead of writing in support of their candidates, decided to go negative."
Shaw also questioned the tag of "special interest group" the coalition had been saddled with.
Nelson Fisher could not be reached for comment this morning.
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