The Potluck

GOP attorney general candidate Doug Wardlow faces campaign finance complaint

By: - July 20, 2022 6:00 am

Doug Wardlow, pictured far right, at the GOP state convention earlier this year. Photo by Deena Winter/Minnesota Reformer.

Republican attorney general candidate Doug Wardlow and an affiliated political committee face a complaint filed with the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board alleging they illegally coordinated advertisements.

Kent Kaiser, who served in the office of the Minnesota secretary of state for eight years under Republican Mary Kiffmeyer and Democrat Mark Ritchie, requested the board investigate. 

The complaint alleges Wardlow’s campaign illegally coordinated with a group called Rescue Minnesota through Thomas Datwyler, who served as treasurer for both Wardlow’s campaign and Rescue Minnesota. 

The right-wing candidate has been an attorney for MyPillow, whose CEO Mike Lindell continues to promote baseless claims that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump. Wardlow’s running against GOP-endorsed Jim Schultz in the Republican primary for attorney general on a platform of stopping election crime and being tough on crime. In 2018, he lost by four points to DFL Attorney General Keith Ellison. 

According to the complaint, Datwyler established the Rescue Minnesota in June as an independent expenditure political committee. 

The following month, Rescue Minnesota purchased and aired radio advertisements — approximately $21,300 worth, according to a report by a media tracking service — in support of the Wardlow campaign. The complaint also showcases several Wardlow Facebook ads posted in July that are listed as being sponsored by Rescue Minnesota.

Rescue Minnesota characterized the spending as “independent expenditures,” meaning it was done separately from the campaign or candidate. According to Minnesota campaign finance law, spending is considered coordinated if two groups share an “agent” — or, in this case, a treasurer — as they are required by law to authorize all spending.

The rule against coordination is in place to enforce campaign contributions and spending limits, which apply to candidates but not outside political committees. 

“It is impossible, furthermore, to believe that in making, approving, or collaborating on spending decisions for one committee, Datwyler was either able or incentivized to ignore operational knowledge of the other committee,” the complaint reads.

After the publication of this story, the Wardlow campaign released a statement about the complaint that reads: “The establishment never-Trumpers will stop at nothing to take down our campaign, because they know we’re leading in the polls. This is what happens when party bosses force a pro-abortion, anti-Trump candidate on the Republican Minnesota voters.”

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Baylor Spears
Baylor Spears

Baylor Spears is a reporting intern with the Minnesota Reformer. A Tennessee-native, she recently graduated from Northwestern University.