Hired Guns

From the “Now It Can Be Told” file, the campaign finance reports recently filed in Minnesota include a treasure trove of interesting information.  There is so much data involved, if you dig deep enough, you can uncover all kinds of amazing coincidences.

Take, for example, a handful of transactions reported by the Democrats in the state senate, officially the Minnesota DFL Senate Caucus.

It turns out that in 2012 and 2013, the senate Democrats paid a total of $30,250 for “research” to a company listed as “Enlighten Enterprise” of 254 Wheeler Street in St. Paul.

Records on file at the Minnesota State Secretary of State’s Office show that a company called “Enlightened Enterprises” was registered at that address on July 25, 2012 by a Shawn Towle.  The first payment from senate Democrats to Enlighten Enterprise occurred on July 26, 2012.

As pure coincidence would have it, a Shawn Towle is listed in both the 2012 and 2013 editions of Capitol News Coverage Directory as an accredited member of the senate press corps, representing Checks & Balances.  That Shawn Towle is also listed in the current 2014edition. 

According to the Directory, Senate Rule 16.1(a) reads in part,

The Sergeant at Arms may not issue credentials or day passes under this rule to political organizations.  For the purposes of this rule, “political organization” means an organization owned or controlled by a registered lobbyist, a political party, or any party organization.

So we know that the media’s Shawn Towle can’t be the same one that started the similar sounding company of the senate’s research contractor.

Examining the internet registry for the now-inactive website checksandbalances.com shows that the site was registered by a Shawn Towle of 213 Front Street, St. Paul.  Coincidentally, the site’s administrator is listed as a Shawn Towle of 254 Wheeler Street, St. Paul.

The same day that Enlightened Enterprises was formed, capitol reporter Scott Towle tweeted from his @ChecksnBalances Twitter account,

Scoop on potential @mnsrc [Minnesota Senate Republican Caucus] campaign violations http://checksandbalances.com

The “scoop” apparently involved Republican candidatefor state senate Brandon Anderson, who was running against a Democrat incumbent in 2012.

The next flurry of activity on the @ChecksnBalances Twitter account began August 14, 2012, and concerned allegations that state senate Republicans were organizing candidate literature drops from a room in the capitol.

Starting on October 25th, the @ChecksnBalance’s Towle was flogging a story about Republican state senator David Hann and an alleged conflict of interest involving insurance companies.

The Scott Towle of Wheeler Street received his final check from the state senate Democrats on June 25, 2013.

Less than a month later, the CityPages breathlessly reported that “a boudoir photo” of a former state representative had appeared and

a link to the site was tweeted out by Shawn Towle, a former DFL activist and publisher of the political site Checks And Balances.

Just imagine the other amazing coincidences that await discovery elsewhere in the campaign finance reports.