No charges for mayoral candidate Dai Thao after probe into bribery allegations

- Prosecutors announced Tuesday that there would be no criminal charges coming down against St. Paul City Council member and mayoral candidate Dai Thao after bribery allegations surfaced this summer.

A release from the Scott County Attorney--who handled the case after Ramsey County declared a conflict of interest--says the Thao campaign's request for a campaign donation, without a promise to do something in return, is not illegal.

The entire incident--first brought to light by the Fox 9 Investigators--began with a coffeeshop meeting between Thao and lobbyist Sarah Clarke in February, meant to address a styrofoam ban being considered by the City Council. 

Clarke claims Thao kept saying, "I need resources" to "spread my message."

A couple of hours after the meeting, Thao’s campaign manager at the time, Angela Marlow, followed up with a similar text message.

"Dai asked me to see if I could get a donation from your clients or yourself for his mayoral campaign," Marlow said, according to text messages obtained by Fox 9. "My understanding is that [the clients] are leaving tomorrow. We will certainly rethink this issue."

Clarke pointed out that this could be a violation of campaign finance laws, to which Marlow responded, "No problem, thanks for the quick response. Life of a campaign manager, I get the icky work."

Soon after the allegations came to light she was fired from her position as campaign manager and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension opened a criminal probe against Thao.

Prosecutors pointed out in the release, however, that Marlow was not at the meeting in question, and "had no frame of reference as to the meeting or its outcome." 

The Thao campaign, for its part, maintains its claim that the allegations were "politically motivated."

“Our campaign has remained strong because we believe in making St. Paul better for everyone," Thao said in a statement Wednesday. "I’ve faced down bullies before - from the refugee camps to City Hall, and I will not back down until the people of St. Paul receive what they deserve in order to have a joyful and prosperous life."

There is a federal bribery statute that Thao could still be prosecuted under, but recent changes to that law make it even more difficult to prove.

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