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House GOP, DFL settle Kelly suit

RED WING, Minn. -- House Republicans and Democrats have agreed to play a little nicer on the campaign trail.

A legal shoving match that began when Democrats accused Republican Tim Kelly of being under investigation ended Monday after attorneys agreed to back away from certain language.

According to the dismissal order issued by a three-judge panel, neither House Republicans nor Democrats will use the term "under investigation" in campaigns and political advertisements in reference to the Office of Administrative Hearings process for reviewing complaints filed under the Minnesota Fair Campaign Practices Act.

David Asp, attorney for the House Republicans, said he was pleased the case was resolved.

"Our goal was to try and make sure something like this wouldn't happen again," he said.

The legal battle sparked in October 2008 when a campaign flyer described Kelly -- who went on to defeat incumbent Sandy Wollschlager in the District 28A race -- as being "under investigation for accepting an illegal campaign contribution from a corporation."

The claim referred to a complaint filed days earlier accusing Kelly of accepting illegal contributions in the form of unpaid advertisements in Goodhue County-area publications. A judge later dismissed that campaign-contribution complaint -- filed by Red Wing resident Roger Sween -- in a probable cause hearing.

Republicans filed a counter-suit accusing Democrats of timing the campaign flyer's release in conjunction with the Sween complaint.

Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party supporters denied any link and defended the flyer's language in front of the judicial panel at a February hearing.

"There was an inquiry as to whether (Kelly) has accepted illegal campaign contributions," said Melissa Parker, the House DFL's former campaign director. "I believe he was under investigation by the Office of Administrative Hearings."

As part of the agreement, any future political ads and campaign materials declaring a candidate "under investigation" -- when referencing an OAH complaint -- is in violation of state statute, the panel decided.