One of this year’s key Senate races is in Minnesota, where Mark Dayton’s retirement leaves an open seat. Republican Congressman Mark Kennedy is running against Democrat Amy Klobuchar, an untested candidate who currently serves as Hennepin County Attorney, but has run only one contested race in her life.
Klobuchar is sensitive to crime issues, as violent crime is skyrocketing on her watch in Hennepin County. So she may have been chagrined to learn that a left-wing blogger apparently had hacked into Mark Kennedy’s secure server and viewed a prospective Kennedy commercial; that the blogger had passed the login information on to Klobuchar’s campaign spokeswoman, Tara McGuinness, last Saturday; that McGuinness watched the illegally-obtained commercial, and then recruited other Klobuchar staffers to view it.
Then again, perhaps Klobuchar wasn’t so chagrined. Her office has reported the apparent federal crime to the FBI, and has hung the unnamed blogger and McGuinness out to dry–but only today, four days later, after Klobuchar had completed her scheduled debate with Kennedy, and after the Minneapolis Star Tribune had published a poll that showed her with a big lead.
The Associated Press story on the scandal assures us that, while Klobuchar’s most trusted staffers may have committed federal crimes, the candidate herself is innocent. But how do we know that? There are a number of obvious questions that have yet to be answered:
Was the conduct of Klobuchar’s staff a federal crime, or was it only unethical?
Why did Amy Klobuchar–who now holds herself out as an exemplar of effective law enforcement–wait for four days to report to the FBI the possible commission of a federal crime by persons associated with her campaign?
Did Klobuchar deliberately withhold evidence of a crime committed by her staffers until after the Star Tribune completed its polling?
Klobuchar says she has not seen the unreleased ad, although an unknown number of her staffers have. Has Klobuchar been briefed on the contents of the ad? Was the hacked ad used to prepare Klobuchar for her debate with Kennedy? At what point did Klobuchar find out that her campaign was using information obtained, apparently, in violation of federal law?
Did Klobuchar herself violate any federal criminal statute? Is she subject to criminal prosecution? Did she or someone on her staff put the unidentified blogger up to the task of hacking into her opponent’s server?
Given the crime wave in Hennepin County over which Klobuchar has presided, it is easy to understand why she is trying to dodge the implications of federal crimes that may have been committed on her behalf, if not, as far as we know, at her direction. But it is hard to see how Klobuchar can stonewall the conduct that has occurred here. The FBI presumably won’t conclude its criminal investigation until after November’s election, but the voters will have to decide whether they want to be represented in the United States Senate by a woman who is not only powerless to stop the crime wave in Hennepin County, but whose staffers may have contributed to it.
UPDATE: The blogger, who turns out to be someone named Noah Kunin, gave a press conference last night, in which he claimed that he didn’t do anything illegal because Kennedy’s consultant’s site, where he viewed the unreleased ad, wasn’t password-protected. Kevin Aylward of Wizbang, however, has a screen shot of the site that appears to show that isn’t true. It seems reasonable to assume there is a good basis to think a crime was committed, given that Klobuchar’s campaign referred the matter to the FBI. And they had four days to think about it.
MORE: I should have added that the blogger’s claim that he didn’t need to bypass any security on the consultant’s site to access Kennedy’s ad is contradicted by the Klobuchar campaign’s press release, which specifically says:
The blogger indicated to Ms. McGinness that he had gained access to the advertisement by use of passwords.
SEE ALSO: This post, which assesses the likely fallout from the incident.