RCVB head apologizes for campaign fundraising email
The Rochester Convention and Visitors Bureau issued an apology Thursday after a staff member sent out an email advertising a fundraiser for DFL Rep. Kim Norton.
In an email to those on the CVB's mailing list, Brad Jones said the invitation "is in no way meant to be a political endorsement" and instead was intended as an announcement on behalf of a hospitality partner's business.
On Wednesday, a mass email was sent to bureau contacts inviting them to a fundraiser on Nov. 5 for Norton. Along with details about the event, the email said, "It is important to support the legislators who care about Rochester's Hospitality Industry and our employees."
Jones said the language in the email came directly from the hosts of the fundraiser — the DoubleTree Hotel. He added that the bureau has sent out these sorts of announcements in the past.
"Whenever our industry partners host events, we try to communicate them in a neutral, respectful and informative manner as we always have done for members of all political parties," Jones wrote.
In an interview, Jones said he had received two calls from people upset about the email.
The CVB doesn't have a policy regarding political emails, and Jones said he plans to research how other bureaus handle political issues and then make recommendations to the bureau's board. He also plans to check with the Minnesota Attorney General's Office on whether the bureau sending out political emails would violate any law.
"We will be looking at a policy related to this," Jones said. "Whether (the board) chooses to adopt it is up to them," he said.
What makes it tricky is that taxpayer dollars are involved. The city of Rochester contracts with the bureau and pays for it with a portion of the city's lodging tax, which is collected from visitors staying at local hotels. The lodging tax provides an estimated $1.7 million to pay the bureau for its marketing efforts and an additional $1.7 million for the city, according to the bureau's website.
Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board Assistant Executive Director Jeff Sigurdson said the bureau would only have to register with his agency if they spent more than $750 to influence the nomination or election of a candidate.
Norton, of Rochester, who was instrumental in winning passage of the Destination Medical Center legislation last spring and is a champion of state funding for the Mayo Civic Center expansion, said she had nothing to do with the email being sent out. "That's really outside my control," she said.