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A longtime DFL state legislator from Winona has been fined and must repay his campaign nearly $4,000 after using political donor dollars to pay for rent, furniture and utilities at his St. Paul apartment.

A review by the state Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board found that Rep. Gene Pelowski used his campaign fund, the Pelowski Volunteer Committee, to cover $3,976.27 in living costs between 2017 and 2019.

Expenditures included an $802 payment to Quality Furniture Rental, $631 for security deposits and parking fees and hundreds of dollars more in utility bills. According to annual campaign finance filings, Pelowski also used the contributor funds to pay for his December 2018 rent at the Penfield, a luxury building in downtown St. Paul just blocks from the State Capitol.

Those items caught the attention of staff at the campaign watchdog agency, which launched a review of the spending in April. State statute prohibits use of political fund money for personal purposes.

A lawyer for the longtime representative told the board staff that the payments were made in error, describing them as an "isolated incident" caused by "an unintentional interpretation of campaign and noncampaign expenditures." The attorney said the treasurer now understands the restrictions on spending.

In addition to reimbursing his committee for the misused funds, Pelowski faces a $1,000 fine. The 17-term representative said a decision to switch apartments may have contributed to the improper payments. But he said he takes full responsibility for the spending issues and plans to pay the fine.

Torey Van Oot • 651-925-5049