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Doug Wardlow committee fined $46K for overspending in Attorney General campaign

The Republican ultimately lost to Democrat Keith Ellison.

The committee to elect Doug Wardlow as Minnesota's Attorney General has been handed a civil penalty of more than $46,000 for overspending during last November's election campaign.

Wardlow ran against ultimate winner Keith Ellison for the position, but the Republican's campaign spending came under scrutiny recently by the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board.

In a finding published this week, the board said that The Doug Wardlow for Attorney General Committee had a base spending limit of $864,072.

However, a study of the committee's 2017 and 2018 year-end reports found that it had actually spent $910,489.53 over a two-year period.

In a settlement agreed between Wardlow and the board, the committee must pay a civil penalty totaling $46,417.53, the same as the excess amount of spending.

In explaining the overspending, the committee's legal counsel Richard Morgan said they were "overwhelmed by a surge in fundraising late in the campaign."

"Because the committee hired an outside firm to conduct much of its fundraising and compensation paid to that firm was based on the amount of receipts, the surge in fundraising caused both the committee’s receipts and its costs to dramatically increase," Morgan explained to the board.

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The report notes the committee spent over $200,000 on radio and television ads in October 2018 alone, with Morgan saying the committee "did not anticipate the rapid increase in fundraising expenses and did not realize it would exceed the spending limit until after it had placed the ad buys for the final days of the campaign."

Wardlow, a former Minnesota lawmaker who previously worked as an attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom, agreed with the board that the penalty would be paid in full by April 1, 2021.

The civil penalty comes days after Rep. Ilhan Omar was ordered to repay almost $3,500 and fined $500 after being found to have violated spending rules for campaign payments made to a law firm and reimbursements for travel expenses.

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