Dirty Politics? Republican Cries Foul in Race for Congress Against Keith Ellison
Chris Fields, who is challenging Rep. Keith Ellison for the U.S. 5th District seat, calls the Minnesota DFL party distributing information about his past divorce "the politics of personal destruction." The DFL calls it "opposition research."
The Minnesota DFL is responsible for alerting a local news outlet about a dismissed 2006 temporary restraining order against 5th District GOP challenger Chris Fields.
Documents provided to Patch by Fields show that Washington, DC-based New Partners Consulting uncovered the information. New Partners confirmed it collected the information on behalf of the Minnesota DFL. The DFL mentioned the information to a blogger, said Executive Director Corey Day, who declined to name the blogger.
“We do opposition research on all of our opponents,” he said. “It’s pretty standard during election season.”
The information was first published on the City Pages’ politics blog.
Fields has called digging up the incident “the politics of personal destruction,” and the order was eventually dismissed. Both he and his ex-wife deny that there was ever abuse.
But Day said bringing up the order was valid because Fields had raised questions about Ellison’s character on Twitter, at events and at house parties.
“This piece of information calls into question Chris Fields’ character,” he said.
When asked how the order’s dismissal affects the context, he noted that the DFL didn’t do a press release on the subject and said it was just a piece of information mentioned to someone. He added that it’s up to Fields to explain the background.
Fields alleged Thursday that New Partners provided the information at the behest of Rep. Keith Ellison’s campaign.
Ellison’s campaign denied any involvement and expressed regret that it happened in the following statement sent to Patch:
I did not have anything to do with the release of information about a restraining order filed against Chris Fields. Contrary to Mr. Fields’ allegations, my re-election campaign did not pay News Partners, a political consulting firm, to uncover this information. I personally called Mr. Fields to let him know that my campaign was not involved. I also let him know that I was sorry this happened to him.
Day also denied that the DFL coordinated this with Ellison’s campaign.
Fields said the distinction is splitting hairs. He noted that Ellison gives money to the DFL and has, itself, paid thousands to New Partners.
“Either way you look at it, this is sanctioned, in my mind, by Keith Ellison,” Fields said. “When you sleep with dogs, you wake up with fleas.”
Finance records from OpenSecrets.org show that the Minnesota DFL was the sixth biggest beneficiary of Ellison’s campaign, accounting for $41,556 of the candidate’s expenditures in the 2012 campaign cycle.
Meanwhile, the same records show that New Partners Consulting is the biggest recipient of expenditures from Ellison’s campaign during the 2012 campaign cycle. The firm has received 16 payments worth $238,890. The next biggest recipient of expenditures is the Democratic Congressional Campaign with $135,006.
Will Hailer, campaign manager for Keith Ellison for Congress, told Patch via e-mail that the campaign paid New Partners for “fundraising consulting, website design, and new media consulting” between 2011 and March 2012. Since that time, it has only paid the company for fundraising consulting.
“As Congressman Ellison's statement said, his re-election campaign did not pay News Partners to uncover information about a restraining order filed against Chris Fields,” Hailer wrote.
Fields’ ex -wife, Jessica Fields, requested the restraining order for “domestic violence protection” in Oct. 12, 2006. A hearing was eventually scheduled for Nov. 20, but neither she nor Chris Fields appeared and the order was eventually dismissed.
He said he was never served the temporary restraining order and hadn’t known it existed until City Pages contacted him. He denied that he was ever abusive to his ex-wife.
Jessica Fields has declined to comment. But she released a statement through her ex-husband saying their divorce was amicable and that any assumptions he treated her poorly are “baseless and without merit.”
“Like my ex-husband, l am a retired Marine and was and remain fully capable of defending my child and myself,” she wrote “If I ever felt physically threatened or otherwise, I would have taken action. That situation never arose.”