Since Thursday evening, Michelle MacDonald, the Republican endorsed candidate for the Minnesota Supreme Court, had been contacted numerous times by an attorney working with a member of the Republican Party of Minnesota’s State Executive Committee, with an offer to repudiate the Republican Party of Minnesota’s endorsement and end her campaign.
According to multiple sources, including members of the Republican Party of Minnesota’s State Executive committee, Patrick Burns, an attorney with Burns & Hansen, P.A, was working with Pat Anderson, a member of the Republican Party of Minnesota’s State Executive Committee from the 4th Congressional District on a plan to get MacDonald to repudiate the Republican Party of Minnesota’s endorsement and end her campaign.
My sources also confirmed that Republican Party of Minnesota Chairman Keith Downey was aware that Anderson was working on a deal related to MacDonald’s candidacy. This information conflicts with a statement provided by the Republican Party of Minnesota that no offer was presented to MacDonald by the Republican Party of Minnesota.
Anderson and MacDonald have crossed paths before, as MacDonald represented Anderson’s ex-husband, Mike Awada, in legal proceedings with Anderson after her divorce from Awada. Burns previously worked for Anderson’s successful campaign for state auditor in 2002 and later served as her communications director starting in 2003.
Burns began contacting MacDonald with an offer from the Republican Party of Minnesota that she repudiate her endorsement from the Republican Party of Minnesota and also end her campaign starting on Friday, August 22, 2014.
After reviewing electronic communications and the phone records between MacDonald and Burns, the offer from the Republican Party of Minnesota was discussed as both a request for MacDonald to repudiate the endorsement and also end her campaign. While MacDonald’s letter to Downey only referenced the request that she repudiate the endorsement, the request communicated by Burns discussed both items.
According to phone and text message records provided by MacDonald to politics.mn, Burns called MacDonald 14 times between Friday, August 22, 2014 to Saturday, August 23, 2014. During the same time span, Burns sent MacDonald approximately 22 text messages. All of the communications were focused on the offer from the Republican Party of Minnesota.
MacDonald did communicate back and forth with Burns, but after reviewing the communications, Burns was aggressively pushing MacDonald to accept the offer from the Republican Party of Minnesota.
Burns declined to comment on any conversation he had with a representative of the Republican Party of Minnesota or the State Executive Committee, saying, “I’m not going to discuss any communications that I may have had or advice that I have made on behalf of anyone.” In response to a follow-up question about conversations with the Republican Party of Minnesota and Anderson, Burns said again “my communications are privileged.”
MacDonald told politics.mn‘s that Burns was not her attorney and Burns said he had not been retained by the Republican Party of Minnesota. But Burns would neither confirm nor deny providing advice to representatives of the Republican Party of Minnesota in a volunteer capacity, saying “I provide advice”, but he added that “I’m not commenting on any conversations I may or may have not had.”
Burns did offer his “professional opinion” on MacDonald’s candidacy, saying “her qualificiations to run are suspect, her temperament is questionable.”
Below are key text messages sent by Burns to MacDonald about a deal/offer from the Republican Party of Minnesota:
- Burns sent MacDonald a text message at 4:39 PM on August 22, 2014:
I have a deal from the party for you
- Burns sent MacDonald a text message at 10:15 PM on August 22, 2014:
You need to call me tonight. Something is happening tomorrow. [Something did - Downey's e-mail against MacDonald sent at 2:03 PM]
- Burns sent MacDonald a text message at 11:06 PM on August 22, 2014:
I have a formal offer that I have received
- Burns sent MacDonald a text message at 11:07 PM on August 22, 2014:
Please call me back. It [the offer] has an expiration of 12:00 PM Saturday
Burns and MacDonald did speak on Saturday morning and an audio recording of the phone conversation was provided to politics.mn by MacDonald. In the phone conversation on the morning of Saturday, August 23, Burns spoke with a sense of urgency that MacDonald make a decision and accept the offer before the 12PM deadline before “more damage occurs.”
Burns said in the phone conversation:
- You’ve got a 12 o’clock deadline, according to what I can get out of the folks over at the committee [The Republican Party State Executive Committee], so what decision do you want to make?
- They’re [The Republican Party of Minnesota] going to squash you like a bug. That’s what they want to do.
- I’m trying to help you, by saving you before a noon deadline.
- Draft me a letter, have it addressed to Downey and we’ll make a call and we’ll tell them [The Republican Party of Minnesota] to stop what they want to do. I have no idea what it is, but I’ve been warned. It’s not going to get better from here on out.
- They [The Republican Party of Minnesota] wants your resignation of the endorsement.
MacDonald rejected the offer from the Republican Party of Minnesota presented by Burns, sending a letter to Downey at 12 PM on Saturday, August 23, 2014. Just as Burns said on the phone conversation, Downey sent out an email two hours later which was critical of MacDonald’s candidacy.
Keith Downey and Pat Anderson did not respond to requests for comment on this story. Please check back to politics.mn for additional information on this story and other analysis on the 2014 elections.