The campaign finance reports filed by Michelle MacDonald’s campaign committee over the past few months fail to disclose contributor information, detail questionable spending, and improperly hide the massive debt owed by her campaign.
MacDonald is running against Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Paul Thissen, who was appointed to the Minnesota Supreme Court in 2018. In July, MacDonald’s campaign committee reported raising only $410 – from two donors – since she announced her fourth campaign for the Minnesota Supreme Court last December.
MacDonald was an unsuccessful candidate for the Minnesota Supreme Court in 2014, 2016, and 2018.
MacDonald’s campaign finance reports fail to disclose contributor information, list questionable spending, and improperly list unpaid obligations owed by the campaign.
The most recent campaign finance reports filed by MacDonald’s campaign committee show the campaign has only received two donations from two donors totaling $410.
One contribution was for $400, but MacDonald’s campaign did not disclose the employer of the donor, as required by law in Minnesota. A review of previous campaign finance reports filed by MacDonald’s campaign since 2014 shows that the committee filed incomplete employer information for numerous individuals who contributed more than $200 to MacDonald’s campaign.
MacDonald’s campaign committee lists a campaign expenditure of $143 to Expedia.com for “website issues.” Expedia.com is an online travel website and it remains unclear why MacDonald’s campaign committee would have campaign expenditures to this entity.
The amount of unpaid obligations owed by MacDonald’s campaign is not properly disclosed, hiding the massive debt owed by the campaign. The most recent campaign finance report filed by MacDonald’s campaign committee only lists unpaid obligations to MacDonald of $3,381.84. But the final campaign finance report filed in 2018 showed additional unpaid obligations of $8,825.12.
Based on information in the two separate reports, the combined total of unpaid obligations of MacDonald’s campaign committee is $12,206.96 – a staggering amount for a campaign committee for the Minnesota Supreme Court.
Even without calculating the full total of the unpaid obligations owed by her campaign, MacDonald trails her opponent for the Minnesota Supreme Court in financial resources.
Thissen’s campaign reported raising $68,742.91 since January and had a cash-on-hand total of $62,578.08 on July 20, 2020, while MacDonald’s campaign reported having only $3,779.11 to spend.
MacDonald facing discipline from the Minnesota Supreme Court
Despite MacDonald facing serious discipline and the likely suspension of her law license, MacDonald is still running for the Minnesota Supreme Court.
In March, the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility petitioned the Minnesota Supreme Court to discipline Michelle MacDonald after determining MacDonald violated the conditions of her probation by which she can practice law and the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct governing licensed attorneys.
The petition comes after the completion of a 21-month investigation into MacDonald, which began after Michael Brodkorb and Allison Mann filed a formal complaint with the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility in June 2018 in response to MacDonald filing a lawsuit against Brodkorb and Missing in Minnesota. The lawsuit filed by MacDonald was dismissed in March 2019 by a judge in Ramsey County.
MacDonald appealed the dismissal of her lawsuit to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, but the Court ruled against MacDonald in February.
A court hearing about the petition for disciplinary action against MacDonald is scheduled for September 10, 2020, at 9:30 AM, at the Minnesota Judicial Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. The hearing will continue to September 11, if needed.
Board petition details multiple violations by MacDonald
The petition filed by the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility details three counts of “unprofessional conduct warranting revocation of probation and further public discipline” of MacDonald.
The first count details “knowingly false statements” made by MacDonald about Judge David Knutson during a radio interview with Blois Olson on WCCO Radio in October 2018.
During the interview, MacDonald said it wasn’t Sandra Grazzini-Rucki who committed a crime when she abducted her children during a custody dispute with her ex-husband. MacDonald said the crime involving the disappearance of Samatha and Gianna Rucki was committed by Judge David Knutson when he issued a court order involving custody in 2012.
The second count against MacDonald is about the “factually frivolous defamation lawsuit” filed by MacDonald against Brodkorb and Missing in Minnesota. The petition states MacDonald’s “conduct in filing a frivolous defamation lawsuit against the defendants, which lacked a basis in fact particularly given respondent’s probation requirement to ensure factual accuracy…” violated her probation and rules governor licensed attorneys in Minnesota.
The third count in the petition describes MacDonald’s conduct in charging “unreasonable fees,” failing to provide a copy of a retaining agreement to a client, and failing to get a confirmation in writing of a “fee-sharing arrangement…”
In total, the petition from the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility details 14 violations by MacDonald of the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct governing licensed attorneys and 7 violations of her probation by which she can practice law in Minnesota.
MacDonald has been previously disciplined by lawyers board for multiple rule violations
Brodkorb and Mann filed a complaint just days after MacDonald served her lawsuit on Brodkorb and Missing in Minnesota in June 2018. The Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility notified Brodkorb and Mann that MacDonald would be investigated based on their complaint.
MacDonald has been disciplined twice for multiple rule violations since she was admitted to practice law in Minnesota in 1987.
In 2012, MacDonald was disciplined by the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board for “for failing to deposit settlement proceeds into a trust account, failing to maintain proper trust account books and records, failing to promptly deliver funds to a client, failing in her duty to be responsible for the conduct of a non-lawyer and failing to cooperate with the Director’s investigation…”
A judicial referee appointed by the Minnesota Supreme Court found in 2018 that MacDonald violated “at least seven Rules of Professional Conduct over the course of two different client matters.”
The Minnesota Supreme Court later suspended MacDonald’s law license for 60 days and placed her on supervised probation for two years after determining she “made false statements about the integrity of a judge with reckless disregard for the truth; improperly used subpoenas; knowingly disobeyed a court rule and failed to follow a scheduling order; and engaged in disruptive courtroom conduct, including behavior resulting in her arrest.”
Court affirms ruling that MacDonald “knowingly violated” campaign law
In September 2017, the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed a ruling from the Office of Administrative Hearings that MacDonald “knowingly violated” campaign law when she falsely claimed she was endorsed by a non-existent Republican organization during her 2016 campaign.
In December 2016, the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) ruled against MacDonald and also imposed a $500 civil penalty for violating the Minnesota Fair Campaign Practices Act.
The initial complaint against MacDonald was filed by Barbara Linert of Eagan and Steve Timmer of Edina.
MacDonald’s legal work examined in an award-winning true crime book
An examination of MacDonald’s legal work was detailed in the book, The Girls Are Gone which was released on October 23, 2018.
The book also includes new information about the disappearance of Samantha and Gianna Rucki and the adults who conspired to keep the missing sisters and the truth hidden.
The Girls Are Gone also explores the connection between MacDonald and two people convicted for their roles in the disappearance of the Rucki sisters: Sandra Grazzini-Rucki and Dede Evavold. MacDonald was labeled a “person of interest” by the Lakeville Police Department in the disappearance of Samantha and Gianna Rucki but did not cooperate in the investigation.
Since being released in October 2018, The Girls Are Gone has been a commercial and critical success. In April, Brodkorb and Allison Mann were awarded a 2019 Independent Publisher Book Award. The Kindle Edition of The Girls Are Gone has appeared on multiple “best seller” lists by Amazon. The Girls Are Gone is published by Wise Ink Creative Publishing.
Last October, Brodkorb and Mann released an audiobook of The Girls Are Gone, which was produced at Studio Americana. The Girls Are Gone is available for sale through numerous retailers in audiobook, paperback, and ebook.
Please follow Missing in Minnesota on Twitter and Facebook for updates on the 2020 campaign for the Minnesota Supreme Court.