Wednesday, July 23, 2014
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Dean Zimmermann tells his side of the story

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Dean Zimmermann sits at a restaurant in Dean's ward where he meets with constituents and has breakfast on a regular basis. (MPR Photo/Brandt Williams)
Minneapolis City Councilmember Dean Zimmermann says he didn't take any bribes or solicit them. Zimmermann is the target of a federal corruption investigation. He has not been charged, but he has been accused by an FBI agent of accepting several thousand dollars in bribes from a local developer. The agency confiscated computers and other items used for his re-election campaign just days before the primary. Zimmerman says the allegations outlined in an affidavit by the FBI agent are not true. Zimmerman sat down with Minnesota Public Radio's Brandt Williams and discussed the allegations.

Minneapolis, Minn. — The interview with Dean Zimmermann took place in his office in City Hall. The Green Party councilmember says the initial conversation with the developer was an innocent one. Zimmermann says he didn't think it was unusual that the man offered to contribute money to help the Green Party pay for a redistricting lawsuit.

Williams: The affadavit says that he came to the FBI, saying that he had a conversation with you about money. How did that start?

Zimmermann: I don't really know. I mean I... the guy showed up one time and asked me how he could help with the campaign and I said, of course, he could give donations to the campaign -- $300 limit -- and he said , well, he had already given that much. And so I said, 'well, is there something else you can do?' and I suggested that he might want to help out with the redistricting lawsuit.

Of course, as you know, the Green Party people were gerrymandered in the last redistricting and we took that case to court and we're still trying to pay off some of our legal bills. He wanted to help with that and I thought that was quite reasonable. That's.... and, of course, I've been raising money for that all along from a number of people.. so it doesn't seem like anything unusual.

Williams: So now was there.... and, again, the affadavit says that you expressed a need for money for you personally...that this...

Zimmermann: No, I never said such a thing. I don't... I live a pretty frugal life and, you know, I ride a bike and we have an old junker car and money for me personally is never a significant thing.

Williams: How is this affecting your campaign?

Zimmermann: Well, it has derailed us. They took a lot of things from our campaign -- mailing lists and, of course, computers and so this happened just a few days before the primary so we weren't even actually able to do our get-out-the-vote campaign of contacting our supporters, making sure they're voting and so on. So it was a serious blow and we're, of course, in the process of reconstructing that but, of course, they're still holding the stuff. So that... it has slowed down the campaign but we don't think that it is going to permanently impair or derail the campaign and we're still holding to our message of.... working for the poor and oppressed.

And basically there are two things are are important to me. One, we have to create a world that is going to sustain our great grandchildren -- and you probably notice we're not necessarily on track with that one -- and, two, we simply have to make life easier for poor people.

Williams: You mention that through some of this that some people have -- as far as your volunteer base -- may have grown a bit. People have seen that ... they may also feel that you're being unfairly targeted you and have gone to support you. Do you find that that's the case?

Zimmermann: Absolutely. A lot of people say 'oh, yeah, I should be working on his campaign and well, gee, I didn't quite get around to it,' but right after this thing happened the phone started ringing off the hook. People started showing up. It was actually very good for turning out our volunteers...so...

Williams: You said you did nothing wrong. is there anything that you would have done differently in this? Is there any way that you could have gotten...if you had said something differently or in meeting with this person that could have maybe changed what's happening now?

Zimmermann: Probably, but I don't think I'll get in there. My lawyer will have my throat.

Williams: Zimmermann says the investigation is an attempt to silence him and the Green Party. Federal authorities will not confirm or deny the investigation.

Zimmermann says federal agents have returned some of the items that were confiscated from him, but he says they still haven't given back the computers and the files that were being used to run his campaign.

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