ST. PAUL, Minn. – A new report alleges Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson used state employees for campaign work, giving raises and promotions to staffers who supported her politically.
Rachel Cohen at The Intercept published a lengthy exposé Monday, detailing accounts from eight former and current employees of Swanson’s office who describe a politicized culture designed to promote Swanson’s political aspirations.
Cohen interviewed staffers who said they felt “pressured” to conduct campaign activities, believing raises and promotions were dependent on their political support for Swanson.
“The lawyers and other staffers in the attorney general’s office interviewed for this article said they felt pressured to carry out tasks like stuffing envelopes for the benefit of the campaign and scheduling campaign events, sometimes during the workday. They said they felt their promotions and pay raises were based partly on participation in political campaigns,” Cohen wrote.
While state employees are permitted to volunteer on political campaigns, Minnesota law prohibits the “use official authority or influence to compel an employee” to take part in any political activity.
A spokesperson for Swanson’s campaign told The Intercept that the allegations are “categorically false” and follow-up questions were denied unless The Intercept would reveal the names of the employees that came forward. Most of the staffers who spoke with The Intercept requested anonymity for fear of retaliation from Swanson.
“Five employees told The Intercept that they believed that advancement in the attorney general’s office was partly tied to participation in political events on Swanson’s behalf, though she never explicitly stated this,” Cohen wrote. “According to these accounts, supporting Swanson politically yielded professional rewards, including promotions and pay raises. One source described other benefits, such as tickets to sporting events.”
Cohen reports state payroll data corroborates the claims, with “seven employees identified to The Intercept as politically tied to Swanson receiving high salaries, and, sometimes, substantial raises in short periods.”
Another red flag reported by Cohen is the surprising lack of spending on campaign staff. Despite reporting nearly $470,000 in campaign expenditures, Swanson had no reported payroll or employee expenses.
Lori Swanson’s employees told me that she’s spent 11 years using office resources and government staffers for campaign work. Then I looked at how much money candidates for governor were spending on staff, and, well, one of these is not like the others https://t.co/KX7UDKAQNO pic.twitter.com/xvaNcsw97c
— Rachel Cohen (@rmc031) August 7, 2018
The bombshell report comes amid other scandals for Swanson. Last month, Swanson’s running mate U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan came under fire for his handling of a former staffer accused of sexually assaulting young female staffers. Liberal groups called for Swanson to part ways with Nolan, but Swanson stood by her running mate, claiming her Democratic opponents were trying to exploit the matter. Swanson has also been criticized for her handling of the Somali daycare fraud that could be funneling over $100 million a year to terrorist organizations overseas.