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Political Notebook: Franken's supporters include Liebling

Minnesota Sen. Al Franken returns to work today for the first time since four women accused him of sexual misconduct.

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A group of 65 elected women in Minnesota issued a statement of support for Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken on Sunday, including DFL gubernatorial candidate and Rochester Rep. Tina Liebling.

The statement reads as follows: "We are longtime supporters of Senator Franken, and our support is rooted in the core values that we share. During his time in the Senate he has been a champion for these values and a steadfast supporter of women's rights. While we are disappointed by these allegations, we appreciate that he has apologized and is committed to regaining the trust of Minnesotans. We believe a Senate investigation into these allegations is the appropriate course of action and will continue to support the Senator throughout this process."

That puts Liebling squarely at odds with two fellow DFL gubernatorial candidates — Rep. Erin Murphy and State Auditor Rebecca Otto. They have both called on Franken to resign. Others signing the list of support include former Minnesota State Auditor Judi Dutcher, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and DFL House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman.

The allegations against Franken emerged after radio host Leann Tweeten accused him of forcibly kissing her on a USO tour. She also shared a photo taken while she slept of the senator posing with his hands grabbing at her chest. Three other women are accusing Franken of grabbing their buttocks while posing for photos during campaign events in 2007, 2008 and 2010.

Mayo spends $1.3 million on lobbying

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Mayo Clinic spent more than $1.3 million lobbying at the state and federal level in 2016, according to its 990 form filed with the IRS. The form does not provide much detail about how those lobbying dollars were used.

The clinic wrote that Mayo officials "had meetings and contacts with federal and state government officials, including members of Congress, state legislatures, and respective executive branch officials to discuss various health care reform proposals and proposed legislation."

In addition, Mayo sent letters outlining its position on proposed legislation and regulations.

Mayo Clinic also spent $1.3 million on lobbying in 2015, according to that year's 990 form.

Sexton leaves lobbying post

One of the most well-known Rochester faces at the Minnesota Capitol is moving on to another job.

Erin Sexton, Mayo Clinic director of government relations, has taken another job at the clinic. She will serve as director of enterprise community engagement. In that role, she will be responsible for community engagement activities in Rochester, Florida and Arizona. The job description states that she will "work in collaboration with social service groups, the business community and local government to advance and support Mayo Clinic patients, staff and the community."

Sexton has served as Mayo Clinic's lobbyist in St. Paul since 2011. She played a key behind-the-scenes role in helping lobbying for passage of Destination Medical Center in 2013. That legislation provides up to $585 million for public infrastructure to support Mayo Clinic's $5.5 billion DMC initiative. The clinic is currently in the process of hiring Sexton's replacement.

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