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Hoeven and Corporate Campaign Contributions PDF Print E-mail
Written by Chet   

Have you ever eaten at Maxwell's restaurant in Fargo? Enjoyed your steak and shrimp? If so, maybe you asked to be added to their email list?  If you are on their email list, one week ago right about now (Monday of last week) you received a "mailchimp.com"-generated email from Maxwell's, inviting you to the Cass County Republicans' event called "Harvest with the Hoevens." 

HoevenHarvest001

Maxwell's didn't care what your political affiliation is or was; if you're on Maxwell's email list, you got the partisan political email promoting a Republican fundraiser.

The event was Tuesday night.  (Sorry, you missed it.)  Maxwell's also advertised it on their website, as well. (Let me know if they pull the ad. I've PDFed it and will post that if they pull it.)  According to the website, if you donated enough money ($50) to the Fargo area Republican organization, Maxwell's gave you a $25 gift card for their restaurant.

Who cares, right?

Well... I suppose that depends. I suppose corrupt people don't care. People who don't care about corruption in politics probably don't care. Despite that, the use of a mailing list is generally considered an "in-kind" contribution. Maxwells is a Limited Liability Company, one of the types of businesses barred from making political contributions.  

I'd also suggest to you that giving $50 GOP donors a free $25 Maxwells gift card -- a sort of donation rebate -- is a $25 in-kind contribution to the NDGOP. Are the Cass County Republicans paying Maxwells $25 for every $50 donation they get?  I kind of doubt it.  (It'd be money-stupid for them to do that, don't you think? They'd make more money on a $40 contribution than a $50 contribution if they are.)

Are the Cass County Republicans paying Maxwell's for the advertisement on Maxwell's web page?  Advertisement is also generally considered an "in-kind" contribution.  If so, maybe there's no big deal.  If not, then there might be a problem. Possibly a criminal problem.

According to the North Dakota Secretary of State's website, Maxwell's is a "trade name" owned by M Foods Group, LLC.  M Foods Group is a corporation.  The domain name for Maxwell's website is registered to a fellow named "Michael Marcil, 1380 9th Street East, in West Fargo, ND."  

Despite what everyone might think of the Citizens United case, corporate campaign contributions "for a political purpose" still appear to be illegal here in North Dakota.  The North Dakota Century Code still includes this sentence:

A corporation, cooperative corporation, limited liability company, or association may not make a contribution for a political purpose.

NDCC 16.1-08.1-03.5(1)

Violation of that provision appears to be a Class A misdemeanor.  (NDCC § 16.1-08.1-07)

I'd suggest to you that a donation to the Cass County Republicans fundraiser would be a contribution "for a political purpose."

So all of these donations to the Cass County Republican Party by Maxwells -- the free use of their email list, the advertising on their website, the ad on Maxwells website (and maybe some or all of the catered food and/or drink) -- appear to be illegal campaign contributions. 

My experience is that police don't investigate apparent crimes like this at all.  But if they do, they only do if someone complains about it. Maybe someone in Fargo should consider filing a complaint about this.  

Also, keep in mind that John Hoeven was involved with this.  It shouldn't surprise anybody one bit if Hoeven just got some dupe to forge a check to Maxwells to pay for the apparent illegal campaign contributions.  It certainly wouldn't be the first time the corrupt senator had a dupe do that to cover for him.

But will anybody step up and notify the authorities in Fargo?

And, if they do, will "law enforcement" enforce the law against the political party that runs North Dakota state government?

Waiting patiently.


Comments (15)add comment

MFT said:

...
Which law enforcement agency would you recommend contacting? I would think this hot potato would end up on the Attorney General's desk, right? Local call for you...
 
August 26, 2013
Votes: +0

Mike Marcil said:

Fargo Resident
My name is Mike Marcil and I was the person who personally donated the catering and gift cards to the event with the Hoevans. I did the contribution as an individual and wrote a check from my personal checking account that will be reported as required. Maxwell's in no way made any contribution to this event and simply provided the catering services. Any marketing of the event should have made it clear that I was personally donating gift cards. I also do this local charities and I think the people on the newsletter like to know when gift cards are being given away. I have let the people at Maxwell's know that they should have made the individual donation more clear.
 
August 26, 2013
Votes: +1

Jamie said:

...
I contacted Maxwells webpage and Mike Marcil promptly called back stating the donation is an in kind contribution from him personally. If that is how it is done it is legal.
 
August 26, 2013
Votes: +0

nimrod said:

Senator Hoedown's Hoedown
The Wall Street dome of banker immunity settles peacefully over a sleepy Cass County. [chirp, chirp]
 
August 26, 2013
Votes: +3

Chet said:

Well... that addresses the gift cards.... but...
Thanks, Mike. We appreciate the update. Did you also donate the use of the LLC's email list and the LLC's web advertisement?

Also a little curious about when the check was written. Was it the day of the fundraiser? Or this week?

Thanks.

 
August 26, 2013
Votes: +2

Mike Marcil said:

Mike Marcil
The e-mail list was set up in 2008 in my name and I have always maintained control over it and paid for it. However, in retrospect the marketing group should not have sent the e-mail out promoting the event nor should they have made any mention of it on the Maxwell's website because it was political. No excuses here, I personally take full responsibility for this error and had a meeting today with the marking team to addressed the conflict of interest and potential adverse impact to the Maxwell's and the dedicated employees as a result. This is a talented young group of well intentioned people (both Democrats and Republicans) who usually focus on promoting non profit causes and other interesting events for the restaurant. Unfortunately they did not understand there are completely different rules when an event involves political fundraisers. This was a very good learning experience for us all. I want to thank your website for doing a great job in bringing this to our attention. I personally appreciate your dedication to the public interest.
 
August 27, 2013
Votes: +0

Mike Marcil said:

Mike Marcil
Also, after this situation was brought to my attention I asked the general manager of Maxwells what the final amount was for the event and if my wife had paid the invoice. He indicated that they had not yet sent the final invoice out. Therefore I need to correct my earlier statement indicating I had already paid the invoice. I have not and will do so when I receive the invoice. I am 100% open to providing your site with the full invoice details and copy of my canceled check once it goes out.
 
August 27, 2013
Votes: +0

Chet said:

Gosh
Mike: I'm not entirely sure what the best way is to respond to your comments. They remind me of people who commit a crime and then -- once caught -- come up with a way to undo the crime. Imagine, for example, someone who embezzles from their employer but then -- once caught -- promises to pay all the money back, swearing that they never meant to do anything wrong or that it was "just a loan." Or imagine the person who intentionally kicks in the front door of your house and then -- once caught -- offers to pay for the repairs, swearing they didn't mean to hurt or scare anybody. Imagine the teenage kid who gets caught leaving your store with their pockets stuffed full of toys and then -- once caught -- offers to pay for everything, swearing they had forgotten they put the stuff in their pockets.

First you say you've already reimbursed Maxwells for all their in-kind contributions for the Cass Republicans, but then -- upon further inquiry -- you admit you haven't been "invoiced" yet. (I'm not sure how this "invoicing" is going to work, either.) First you say the email list is your personal property, and then you say employees of Maxwells sent out the emails. (Which is it?)

You've said the LLC you own is going to invoice you, personally, for the fair market value of everything they donated provided to the Cass Republicans. This would, presumably, include the use of your email list, but it's yours, so why would Maxwells bill you for the use of your own email list? Or are you going to ask the Cass Republicans to consider the use of your -- ehem -- "personal" Maxwells email list to be an "in-kind" contribution, and report it as such with their quarterly disclosure? If so, what value will Maxwells you put on the in-kind contribution?

I'm not sure whether you've addressed the in-kind advertising on Maxwell's website, but it's apparently registered to you -- personally -- and so why would Maxwells invoice you for that? Or is that not what you were saying? Is the Web advertising on Maxwells' -- er -- your website going to be reported by the Cass Republicans as an in-kind contribution? Did you work this all out with them in advance?

But why are you -- personally -- running an email list and website for Maxwells? Are you -- personally -- contracting with Maxwells to provide that service? If so, do they pay you? Or do you just do it because you're a nice guy? If you don't, isn't there a bit of a blurring of the lines between your LLC and you personally? Doesn't that open up questions of liability and questions regarding the propriety of the joint personal/corporate political campaign contributions? (Imagine I set up an LLC and then treat it like it's my personal business, and not an LLC, and then I make a political contribution using the business to do it. Wouldn't it be reasonable for folks' to have questions?)

And why didn't any of the pre-fundraiser advertising indicate that the $25 gift card was (in hind-sight, allegedly) a contribution match from you, personally. Wouldn't you agree that the promotional material (from Maxwells, on your personal email and on your personal website for Maxwells) makes it look like Maxwells is throwing those in, don't they? But the ad on your site says it's "paid for" by the treasurer for the Cass Republicans. Right? I thought you said you were paying for that. Or are you billing the Cass Republicans for the ad? If so, did they agree to that in advance? And what did they agree to pay? And, if there was no such agreement in advance, wouldn't this all just look you're making it up after-the-fact to cover up a crime?

Can you understand why people might be confused about this?

You've indicated this blog post was helpful to you, but it's also helpful -- a teachable moment -- when the police interview an embezzler. Your comments here look like an admission that you didn't know making an illegal campaign contribution was illegal, and now you do. But it also looks like making illegal campaign contributions is a "strict liability" offense. That means it doesn't matter whether you (or Maxwells) had read the law. We're all presumed to know the law. It doesn't matter whether you're a nice guy when you violate a strict-liability law.

And why shouldn't people -- I -- question whether you're billing the Cass Republicans the fair market value of the catered goods Maxwells provided?

Lastly, this whole thing is a text-book example of why the Citizens United decision is a problem. Caught making an illegal campaign contribution, all a corporation has to do is find someone who's willing so say, "Aw, shucks. I forgot this was a crime." Or "It was Mickey's fault, and Mickey doesn't work here anymore." Or to do like Hoeven's campaign person -- Johnsen -- did; forging a check to pay for an illegal campaign contribution after-the-fact. How can you hold a corporation responsible for intentionally breaking the law when a corporation never acts with a specific intent?

Corporations are specifically designed to make it possible for people to avoid accountability and liability. That's what they do. It's virtually impossible to hold a corporation accountable for engaging in criminal misconduct; especially when it has to do with making illegal political campaign contributions. If this weren't a strict liability offense, how would the authorities EVER prove that the corporation "intentionally" or "knowingly" violated the law. All the corporation has to do is make up a bunch of after-the-fact excuses for why they did (or didn't do) what they did (or didn't do). A corporation's intent -- like many of Mike's comments, here -- is a moving target.

Just some food for thought.

Tips appreciated.
 
August 27, 2013
Votes: +1

nimrodent said:

Whaa?
Nice shell game, CCRs.
 
August 27, 2013
Votes: +1

Jim said:

...
Chet, you probably won't be hearing back from Mike on this one. I'm guessing his lawyer has now told him he has said too much already.
 
August 27, 2013
Votes: +2

Mike Marcil said:

Mike Marcil
Chet,

A lot to digest in your comments. As I have said in my previous post, I take full responsibility for the way this was handled. I will make the appropriate disclosure of the in kind contributions to this event once the final amounts are received this week. Here is my response to your points:

1. Even though I am the owner of the restaurant I am still charged the same as any other customer on all my meals or catering orders. I pay separately for for those purchases including sales tax. We do not co-mingle personal use from business use. There are many reasons for this, but setting the political discussion aside any purchases I make unless they are directly related to business and unrelated to me personally are charged to my personal account not the business. The charges for this event will be compiled and reported appropriately as required under the law. Since the event happened last week and I was out of town until Monday it was being handled this week.

2. The marketing staff member who sent out the e-mail and posted the information on the Maxwell's website IS NOT an employee of Maxwell's, he is a direct employee of Engage Media Solutions ww.engagemediastrategies.com and does contract work for Maxwell's. I use this agency to do the marketing for the six companies I own. As I have said before the person who sent the e-mail out and posted the event on the website uses the same format for all the charity and other events at the restaurant. He has never done a political event and had no idea there were special disclosure requirements for "in Kind" donations. He is absolutely devastated over this situation and the trouble is has caused. However, I have told him it was my responsibility to inform him of the disclosure requirements and therefore the responsibility falls on me not him.

3. I am more than willing to report the value of the e-mail that was sent out. I am not sure what the value would be since we have never solicited advertising for the list. I guess I could report a few hundred dollars on the in kind disclosure.

4. Again, the information was posted on the website and neither myself or the event coordinators new in advance of the posting. Not sure to value the posting, but again if there is value I am more than happy to be generous in the value in the disclosure.

5. As I have indicated in prior comments the e-mail at a minimum should have made clear references to the fact this was a personal donation and in retrospect the e-mail probably should have not been sent out. No excuses, but I can see the points you have made.

6. Again, in the past I have personally donated gift cards to various charities and "non political" fundraisers. The marketing team did not make the appropriate disclosures and that is a problem. To be frank, I was not involved in any of the details of the event other than approving my donation. I had no idea how they were promoting the event. In hindsight I should have reviewed all the material that was getting distributed.

7. When I agreed to make the donations I made it clear it was a personal donation. Maxwell's as a business had no role in the "in Kind" donation.

 
August 27, 2013
Votes: +0

nimrodent said:

...
Chet, watch out! It's a brain-eating trap if you follow the breadcrumbs Mikey keeps leaving.
 
August 28, 2013
Votes: +0

Chet said:

Talking past each other.
I'm saying I think Maxwells broke the law but that it's easy for a corporation to avoid responsibility by having its owners/operators deflect responsibility (including by pointing the finger at "devastated" contractors) and by saying nobody meant to break the law and, besides, they're happy to make it right now that they've been exposed.

Mike just keeps proving my point.

I'm fine with all of it.

And I'm surprised Jim was wrong.
 
August 28, 2013
Votes: +0

Stanton said:

...
wouldn't that mean that any personal donation of an owner of a business using his business resources, even if he privately pays for them, would be illegal?

That would say that half of every fundraiser for both parties would be illegal.
 
August 29, 2013
Votes: +0

Alan Tibor said:

...
"In hindsight I should have seen that State Trooper on the on-ramp as I blew past it on the Interstate going 95 mph...."
 
September 05, 2013
Votes: +0

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