Auditor: Dayton used state plane for politics

A state audit released Friday says DFL Gov. Mark Dayton’s political campaign should have reimbursed the state for two trips he made in 2013, because they combined official business with politics.

Minnesota Legislative Auditor James Nobles said Dayton used a state airplane on both occasions in Oct. 2013. The governor conducted official business, but he also attended side events that “appeared to be political.”

Nobles said Dayton attended two AFSCME conventions, where the public employee union’s endorsement of his re-election campaign was mentioned.

“This was in our view a political event,” Nobles said. The public should not pay the extra cost for the governor to use the plane to go to the event. That cost should be covered by the campaign.”

Dayton’s political campaign has agreed to reimburse the state $1,688.

But in an official response to the audit, Dayton’s office disagreed the finding that the events were political. Chief of Staff Jaime Tincher said the governor had attended the annual union conferences every year.

“In our judgement, the fact that last year was an election year did not change the nature of the events, the invitations for the governor to appear, or our decision to accept them,” Tincher wrote.

House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said Dayton’s use of the state airplane was inappropriate. He said he was glad to hear the governor was reimbursing the state.

“Frankly, it shouldn’t have happened in the first place,” Daudt said. “He should be very careful to keep his campaign operations separate from official state business.”

The Legislative Auditor has raised concerns before about Dayton’s travel.

Nobles issued a report in January 2014 that said the governor wrongly allowed a campaign aide to fly with him on the state plane in 2012. The governor’s campaign also had to reimburse the state for three trips that year that included some political activity.

 

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