A recent letter sent out by a former supporter of Charles Carlson — the University of Minnesota student who dropped out of the Ward 2 race for Minneapolis City Council after making a series of false claims — stated that Carlson should be prosecuted for theft by fraud.
Carlson received about $1,700 in donations during his campaign and now some of his former supporters are calling for a legal investigation.
Jesse Berglund, a former supporter of Carlson's campaign and an attorney who gave him occasional legal advice, sent out a letter stating that supporters of Carlson who donated to his campaign should seek compensation for their donations because they were made under the dependence on Carlson's false claims that included stories about growing up in England, attending Princeton University and a variety of other schools.
“This is beyond campaign misstatement, this was about creating a false persona for the personal advancement of Charles Carlson,” Berglund said. “The candidate we donated to is not the real Charles Carlson, in fact, he intended it not to be him at all.”
After Carlson’s lies were uncovered, he admitted to having schizophrenia affective disorder, which could have affected his perception of reality.
Brad Baso, a former Carlson supporter, donated $100 to Carlson’s campaign. Baso said he wants to see the case investigated.
“I feel like I was betrayed,” he said.
Berglund included a standardized letter for former supporters to send to Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman , in hopes that Freeman would take on the case.
However, Freeman’s spokeswoman Rondah Kinchlow said this case would go to a civil court, not the Hennepin County Attorney’s office.
David Schultz, a political expert and professor at Hamline University, said it’s unlikely that donors will get their money back.
“In the same way that if anyone gives money to a candidate and they say ‘I’m going to raise taxes or lower taxes …’ you can’t get your money back based on a false promise,” Schultz said. “Under most campaign finance laws … they are not going to get their money back.”
Kyle Archer, a former political coordinator for Carlson’s campaign, said he was shocked to find out much of Carlson’s past was falsified.
“I think what bothers me the most about Charles is that I helped him unknowingly cheat people out of thousands of dollars, and now I have to live with that,” he said. “He had us all fooled.”
Daniel Wilcox, former director of campaign operations for Carlson’s campaign , said he was “shocked and angry” when he discovered the truth.
“It’s just hard to have put ourselves out there to the community and family and friends and have it all be false,” Wilcox said.
But two of Carlson’s supporters left the campaign in December and January after they did their own research and discovered Carlson was not being honest.
Paul Moore and Jermaine Elliott, former campaign staff for Carlson, said several red flags encouraged their own research, which lead to the discovery that Carlson lied about attending Phillips Exeter Academy and Princeton University .
Both Moore and Elliot said Carlson privately admitted to falsifying some parts of his past, but then told other campaign staff that they were the ones spreading lies. Moore and Elliot left the campaign and kept the information quiet.
Moore said he kept quiet because after he found out the truth about Carlson’s past, he began receiving harassing phone calls from a blocked number. Moore said he suspected the calls were coming from Carlson.
Moore also said he was worried about Carlson’s political and business connections.
“Charles has a lot of strong connections in the community, and I didn’t want to feel their wrath,” Moore said.
Carlson said he did not want to comment for the story, but in a previous interview apologized for lying.