Horner cuts ties to PR firm he started

Published 9:50 am Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Independence Party gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner cut ties Monday to a Minnesota public relations company he helped start two decades ago, a deal he said was in the works before his business ties were questioned in the campaign.

Horner said the move ends his relationship with Himle Horner Inc. He didn’t release terms of the deal, which involved selling his remaining ownership in the firm back to the company.

In an interview, Horner didn’t rule out investing part of the proceeds in his campaign.

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Horner is making his first run for public office after years as a behind-the-scenes Republican strategist and PR consultant. The Republican Party and others have demanded he disclose his clients to expose potential conflicts of interest.

Horner said the transaction wasn’t a response to the political criticism, but part of a gradual process. He sold half of his shares two years ago and previously said he would take a leave of absence to run for governor.

“You don’t unbundle a 21-year relationship in a couple of days,” he said, voicing frustration over his opponents’ focus on his client list. “Are we going to allow people who have business backgrounds to run for public office or are we going to set the bar so high that only professional politicians can run?”

Horner faces four other candidates from his party in the Aug. 10 primary that will decide the Democratic, Republican and IP nominees on the November ballot.

One of those rivals, publisher Rob Hahn, called Horner’s sale of his ownership stake “too little, too late.”

Minnesota law requires public officials and candidates for certain offices to periodically file economic disclosure statements listing sources of income, securities and property holdings. Unlike some other states, however, those forms don’t ask officials to provide a detailed accounting of net worth, assets and liabilities.