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Gov. Dayton Under Fire For Trip On State-Owned Plane

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(credit: CBS) Pat Kessler
Pat Kessler knows Minnesota politics. He's been on the beat long...
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ST. PAUL (WCCO) — Minnesota’s independent state auditor said Thursday that Gov. Mark Dayton broke a law when he took a political trip with a campaign staffer on the state-owned plane.

The report by the Office of Legislative Auditor also said the law is very vague.

The governor reimbursed the state for the Oct. 2012 trip to Bemidji and International Falls, promoting DFL candidates even though the law did not specifically require it.

The problem, according the audit report, is that he improperly brought along his campaign manager — a use of state resources for political purposes.

“There was no official purpose. No public purpose at all,” said auditor James Nobles. “The campaign manager should not be on the state plane with the governor.”

The auditor also says the law is inconsistent, and should probably be changed.

And Tina Flint Smith, the governor’s chief of staff, admitted in a response to the audit that it was an error.

“It won’t happen again,” she said.

Dayton isn’t the first chief executive to come under fire.

Former Gov. Jesse Ventura reimbursed the state for bringing a security detail on his personal book tour.

The head of the conservative group that filed a complaint against Dayton said taxpayers expect more.

“He needs to lead by example,” said Ben Golnik, the director of Minnesota Jobs Coalition. “And if there is any fuzziness, if the lines are at all blurred, I think he should always err on the side of not using state resources for campaigning.”

Dayton, a Democrat, is running for re-election in 2014. Six Republican candidates are already in the race.

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