Wave of Scandals Hits Minnesota Legislature

CONVICTIONS for telephone fraud, domestic abuse, and shoplifting. Accusations of bribery and perjury. A federal indictment alleging a million-dollar swindle.

Last week was tough for Democrats in the Minnesota Legislature.

''We've had individuals who got in trouble. Don't ask me why,'' said Democratic Senate majority leader Roger Moe. ''I can't explain it.''

Republicans can. ''Arrogance of power,'' says Republican House minority leader Steve Sviggum.

Democrats have long enjoyed supremacy in Minnesota. They have controlled both chambers of the Minnesota Legislature for most of the last quarter-century - but their recent troubles have given Republicans hope that things will be different in 1996.

Already, the power shift may have begun.

The House voted to censure Democratic Rep. Bob Johnson for drunk driving. In the Senate, Democrat Joe Bertram resigned after he was caught shoplifting an $89.95 black leather vest from a store in his hometown.

One senator awaits sentencing for unauthorized use his Senate phone line, including musicians booking gigs for a polka band. Another faces a federal indictment for a $1 million insurance scam.

Even some Democrats are calling for tougher punishments to restore trust in the Legislature.

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