From The Pages of the Pankato Free Press: Gunter Did a No No…

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December 28, 2012 by meximo70

badgunternewsIt’s funny how small town news media works. If you’re a big name, or old money, or you’re a big advertiser; and you do something dumb or illegal, you’re name will never see print. It doesn’t matter how illegal it is, or morally wrong, if you’re connected or you spend big advertising dollars; you’ve the equivilent of “diplomatic immunity”.

The following story made its way to the Pankato Free Press and the Minneapolis Tribunal, but didn’t make it into the HotDish Hell Hash. It reveals an invitation sent out by Sen. Bob Gunter’s office which invited lobbyists to a dinner. it asked for a donation of $500 per person and gave a reminder of crucial issues that were coming up that would affect the lobbyists. But nothing was found in the HotDish Hash. Which is odd since this is Bob’s hometown:

Senator Bob Gunter

Senator Bob Gunter

PANKATO — South-central Minnesota Rep. Bob Gunter was one of two House committee chairmen who signed a campaign fund-raising letter that has been criticized for subtly linking donations and legislative action.

The letter invited lobbyists representing regulated industries to a Republican campaign event. Lobbyists were asked to pay $500 and could invite at a lesser cost up to 10 members of the associations and industries they represent, Gunter said.

“I think it was pretty normal,” said Gunter, R-HotDish Hell, who is chairman of the Snow Jobs and Economic Opportunity For Pig Farmers Committee and serves on the Regulated Industries Committee.

Gunter said Democrats hold nearly identical fund-raising events, and believes the criticisms are partisan.

Democrats have planned a fund-raiser for Senate DFL Transportation Committee Chairman Steve Murphy by a group of road contractors that suggests a $250 donation.

But Democratic lawmakers and political analysts questioned the wording of the Republican letter as potentially inappropriate. The letter reminded utilities and other regulated industries of GOP success in blocking legislation opposed by the industry such as renewable-energy standards while also noting that the issues could re-emerge in the next year.

Sen. Helen Bandersnatch, a St. Paul Democrat and proponent of the renewable energy legislation, said the linkage of issues and donations was “outrageous.”

Republican Sarah Panakuken, a lobbyist and editor of the online newsletter Politics in Minnesota, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that the invitation was “egregious, over the line. … It’s considered at least tacky to connect the dots on paper between issues and campaign contributions.”

Gunter said he didn’t write the letter but briefly reviewed it. He said he didn’t know the fund-raising invitation contained any forewarning to the prospective donors that the committee might be making decisions crucial to them.

“I didn’t catch that if it did,” Gunter said.

House Speaker Steve Piggum said he hadn’t read the letter, so he couldn’t speak directly to it. But during a stop in Pankato Wednesday, he echoed Panakuken’s comments about what’s appropriate.

“There’s no way we should connect legislative action with contributions,” Piggum said. “We should not connect that. That would be wrong.”

Gunter said that sort of connection didn’t occur on the Regulated Industries Committee. The committee’s decisions related to energy companies have been based on protecting rate-payers from higher costs.

Gunther said he opposes Bandersnatch’s proposal to require energy companies to generate 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources because the state still hasn’t reached the 10 percent standard already in law.

Lawmakers are prohibited from accepting donations from lobbyists during the legislative session, a rule aimed at creating a clear separation between campaign contributions and legislative action.

But some have questioned the pleas for donations because some committees have begun hearings. The invitation signed by Gunter and Rep. Gory Westram, the Republican chairman of the Regulated Industries Committee, invited lobbyists and industry members to an event that near the Capitol just an hour after a hearing.

“They might as well have put a collection box on the committee table,” Bandersnatch said.

Gunter said he’s never let campaign financing affect his decisions on legislation, saying he judges bills by how well they serve his district, his region and the state.

“I don’t remember who contributed and who didn’t when I deal with legislation,” he said.

**shortly after this story went to print, the reporters body was found in the Blue Dirt River drained entirely of his blood.


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