The Minnesota Primary election is on Tuesday, August 9, 2016. Two Republican challengers have been notified that complaints have been filed against their campaigns, alleging violations of Minnesota election statutes and/or violations of Federal Election Commission laws. The common denominator in these complaints is the person alleging the wrongdoing: a Republican activist named “Matt Stevens.” The two challengers are Alan Duff, who is challenging Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R31A – Crown) and incumbent Congressman Tom Emmer’s challenger, AJ Kern.
Having complaints filed against an opponent days prior to the election is a tactic that is used by many campaigns against their opponents. It throws off the campaign’ momentum and diverts the leaders’ attention away from the task at hand: namely, campaigning. When complaints are filed near an election, often the complaint is not reviewed by the government entity with which it is filed until after the election – at which point the time spent on the complaint is wasted. And the damage cannot be undone.
Matt Stevens filed a complaint with the Campaign Finance Board against “Duff (Alan) 4 House” campaign, The Minnesoa Tea Party Alliance and the New Leadership PAC.
The complaint states that the three organizations “have systematically colluded and coordinated to violate, at least, Minnesota’s campaign finance laws…” Stevens claims that the groups are violating campaign finance laws because all three groups use the same graphic designer/printer for campaign materials (Veni Graphic), which is owned and operated by Donald Niemi, who is a leader of the Minnesota Tea Party Alliance. According to Stevens, Jake Duesenburg and Jack Rogers, Founders of the Alliance, admit to committing CFB rules violations through discussions held during the Minnesota Tea Party Alliance podcasts. Stevens claims that since the Duff campaign as well as the other parties included in the complaint list some materials costs as “independent expenditures” but discuss their plans on the podcast, that they are breaking CFB rules. It should be noted that all parties involved deny any wrongdoing by their organizations or the Duff campaign.
As has been reported by Alpha News, the AJ Kern for Congress Campaign received notification from the FEC that a complaint had been filed against the campaign. According to the FEC documents sent to the AJ Kern for Congress Campaign, Stevens is alleging that AJ Kern for Congress did not provide proper campaign disclosure information on the fundraising sites GoFundMe.com and PayPal.com.
The AJ Kern for Congress campaign responded to the allegations through a video posted on YouTube:
In the video, Kern states:
FEC rules & regulations are intended to protect the public from being misled by unscrupulous political operatives but, as FEC has identified, these rules can also be abused.
Former FEC commissioner Bradley Smith wrote:
“Charges and litigation are used to harass opposing candidates and make political hay with the press …used most effectively by ‘incumbents’.”
Smith also wrote that, “Many, if not most, of these cases end up being dismissed, but not without distracting the campaigns and using up their resources.”
It is the Kern campaign’s opinion that Matt Stevens submitted a complaint with the federal government, not intended to protect the voters of CD-6 but rather to distract the Kern campaign during a critical point just prior to the primary
 Bradley A. Smith key note address to the Editorial Board of the Catholic University Law Review, https://www.fec.gov/members/former_members/smith/smithspeech01.html
Who is Matt Stevens?
So, who exactly is Matt Stevens? Alpha News reached out to Mr. Stevens for an interview to which he never responded. However, he did respond to former KTLK morning talk show host, Bob Davis, who interviewed Stevens on his podcast (533) when Stevens announced filing the complaint against the Duff campaign. Stevens’ social media posts, Davis interview and political activity, give a composite of Matt Stevens’ associations and seem to shed light on the true motivation behind his attacks on the Duff and Kern campaigns along with the Minnesota Tea Party Alliance and New Leadership PAC.
Minnesota Senate District 30 Leadership
Emmer Campaign Operative
Matt Stevens was listed on Tom Emmer’s campaign slate of preferred delegates during the CD 6 endorsing convention.
The slate of delegates were described as “great conservative activists” and “key supporters” by the Emmer campaign. Photos posted by Stevens on his personal Facebook page also show the “Emmer Team” taken the evening of the convention.
Other posts show Stevens as having hostility toward the AJ Kern campaign.
The post above is a portion of an argument where Stevens argues with John Kern about controversy during the CD 6 endorsement convention.
In another comment on a post by Walter Hudson, Stevens implies that AJ Kern is racist.
Vendetta Against Jack Rogers and Jake Duesenberg?
Listen to the Bob Davis podcast interview of Matt Stevens here:
Stevens, when pressed by Bob Davis to name the author of the complaint against Duff, the Minnesota Tea Party Alliance and the New Leadership PAC, refused to do so, stating only that the author was a “friend of mine…he likes to stay out of politics…” Davis also asked if Stevens could name which statute or specific laws the campaigns had broken, which Stevens was unable to do. Stevens was also pressed by Andy Parrish (former Bachmann Chief of Staff) on Twitter to name the author, but Stevens continued to refuse to name the author of the complaint.
— Matt Stevens (@stevensUND) August 2, 2016
If Stevens cannot specifically name what statutes the Duff campaign, et al, have broken, did he actually write the complaints? Or was it written by someone associated with the Daudt campaign, and Stevens, due to a vendetta against the founders of the Tea Party, agreed to put his name on the complaint to shield the Daudt campaign from culpability? Or was it, as Andy Parrish questioned on Twitter, someone associated with the Emmer campaign and/or the MNGOP leadership?
@andyparrish thanks for the (incorrect) legal advice but I think you’ve already been informed I didn’t draft that complaint.
— Harry Niska (@HarryNiska) August 8, 2016
Jen Niska is shown in the Team Emmer photo above. She is married to Harry Niska, who is a partner with the MNGOP-connected law firm of Ross, Orenstein & Baudry, LLC. As seen in the tweets above, Niska denies involvement.
According to the interview with Davis, Stevens also claims that the Minnesota Tea Party Alliance gave his email address to (presumably) the Duff campaign. He also confronted Jack Rogers in the Facebook group “Political Views and Opinions” about Minnesota Tea Party Alliance sharing email lists with campaigns, which Rogers denies doing on the public post.
Also in the Davis interview, Stevens says about the complaint, “They’re (Jack Rogers and Jake Duesenberg) gonna deny it. Jack (Rogers) and Jake (Duesenberg) never do any wrong because you know its for the greater good….you know how some of those folks get…”
In Facebook posts, Stevens expresses that he has been “outted” as “Establishment” by the MTPA founders and calls the Minnesota Tea Party Alliance “the church of Jack and Jake….”
Are Matt Stevens’ motivations purely about holding campaigns accountable and making them, as he told Bob Davis, “play by the same rules”? Or is Stevens an Emmer operative being used as the front man in an attempt to bully the Kern campaign into a panic because Emmer is concerned about AJ Kern winning on August 9? And, is the complaint filed against Duff et al also stemming from some sort of duty to Minnesotans to ensure that campaigns follow the rules, or is Stevens attempting to fulfill a personal vendetta against Jack Rogers and Jake Duesenberg while gaining brownie points with House Speaker Kurt Daudt and MN GOP leadership?