Reporting Pat Kessler
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A new television ad from Republican US Sen. candidate Kurt Bills is making waves.
It claims incumbent Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar covered up evidence of massive fraud by convicted swindler Tom Petters.
The ad makes criminal allegations against Klobuchar, which is serious enough.
What makes it more unusual is the Bills campaign says it doesn’t know if the allegations are true.
And lawyers associated with the Petters case are calling it “ridiculous.”
The ad ran during one of Minnesota’s highest-rated television events: The Vikings’ Thursday night game.
It accuses Sen. Klobuchar of shielding Petters.
“He ran one of the biggest Ponzi schemes in history,” the ad begins. “Tom Petters ranked second only to Madoff, and Amy Klobuchar helped keep him out of prison.”
The ad is based on allegations made by a conservative website called “The Daily Caller,” claiming to have new Petters documents.
The Daily Caller story says the documents show Klobuchar knew about the Ponzi scheme, but failed to prosecute Petters because he was a campaign contributor.
“It’s preposterous, and irresponsible,” said Doug Kelley, the court appointed trustee in the Petters case.
Kelley, who is working with the FBI and the US Attorney’s office to recover billions of dollars in stolen money, says the documents are from a twice-convicted felon and “a kook.”
Kelley says the 1999 documents not only don’t show evidence of a Klobuchar connection, they also don’t include any evidence of a Ponzi scheme, which was uncovered in 2008.
Although the ad accuses Klobuchar of a crime, the Bills campaign says it’s not up to them to prove it. The campaign manager, Mike Osskopp, told WCCO; “I don’t know if that story is true or if it’s not true. Until someone proves that it’s not true, we will continue to run it.”
Kelley, a well-known Minnesota Republican and a former federal prosecutor, says the ad illustrates “what’s wrong with politics today.”
“I think if you are running for a high office in Minnesota, you have a duty to do due diligence before you level charges like this,” he said.
Meanwhile, it’s true that Petters was a high roller in political circles.
He donated money to Klobuchar, and when the swindle was revealed, she gave the money to charity and returned it to the court.
But Petters gave freely to politicians of both parties, including Walter Mondale, John Edwards, Tim Pawlenty, Norm Coleman and George Bush.
The Klobuchar campaign is calling the ad “absolutely untrue.”
Here’s what the campaign said in a written statement:
“Representative Bills’s ad is absolutely untrue and the people of Minnesota deserve better than last-minute and desperate attacks based on inaccurate allegations from a convicted felon. He is flat-out wrong on the facts – Senator Klobuchar did not ask her county attorney staff or law enforcement to refrain from prosecuting or investigating Tom Petters. Like many other Minnesota elected officials, she returned the campaign contributions and was praised for her cooperation by the court-appointed trustee.”