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Minnesota offers fast, fast, fast relief

Over the years, Minnesota has prided itself on clean political campaigns. We expect our candidates to be honest and to play fair. A bill passed by the 2004 Legislature that takes effect today promises to bolster that important tradition.

The law ensures swift action on complaints involving illegal campaign practices in state and local elections. This involves everything from distributing false campaign literature to claiming bogus endorsements. Violations of campaign finance reporting requirements in local elections also are covered.

Here's how it works: All campaign complaints will be filed with the state Office of Administrative Hearings. When a complaint is filed, an administrative law judge must make a preliminary decision within one business day whenever possible -- and always within three days at the most. A hearing is required within three days if the complaint is filed close to an election and alleges false statements in campaign material.

These are very fast turn-around times. As a result, candidates who violate the law can expect to be held accountable in time for voters to consider their actions at the polls. Just as importantly, unfounded complaints will be disposed of in a timely manner so candidates who did nothing wrong won't be damaged. This quick timetable for sorting out the truth is expected to discourage violations and keep campaigns on the straight and narrow. -- New approach to campaign shenanigans makes sense (St. Paul Pioneer Press)