The financial troubles of the Republican Park of Minnesota first came to light a week ago, when it was reported that the party had been served with an eviction notice after failing to pay $111,000 in rent at its St. Paul headquarters over the past year.
Now it seems as though the debt problem may go even deeper than initially realized, with state regulators and a watchdog group investigating whether a fake company was created to keep additional debt stemming from the 2010 gubernatorial recount off the party's books.
The potential scandal came to light this winter, when a man named George Fraley received a certified letter from a Republican attorney, addressing him as the CEO of a company called Count them All Properly Inc. and billing him for over $219,000 in legal fees.
According to the Star Tribune, Fraley had no connections to the Republican Party, had never heard of the company, and had no idea how he had come to be listed as its CEO.
Regulators have since determined that "in the last two years, Count Them All Properly has listed two CEOs, both of whom say they have never heard of the company. Count Them All Properly has no corporate office, no phone number and no website. It does, however, have roughly $500,000 in debt, mostly to recount lawyers."
Both Daniel Puhl, a former RNC administrator who incorporated the company in December 2010, and Mary Igo, a long-time GOP activist who has been listed as CEO since Fraley's name was removed, deny knowing anything about the company's peculiar history.
"It is legitimate," Igo claims "It was not a hiding opportunity for debt."
Igo acknowledges that she was asked to head Count Them All Properly when it was initially created but will not say who recruited her or who is currently on the board of directors.
The Star Tribune notes that Puhl and Igo could be subject to charges of felony forgery, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine, if it is determined that they were responsible for the errors.
However, in Minnesota, "the secretary of state's website makes it relatively easy for someone to change corporate CEOs or other company officers, either intentionally or by accident. It requires no special password, no signature and does not alert a company when changes are made."
Meanwhile, it is not even clear whether the state Republican Party will accept responsibility for the company's debts, since the current party leaders have not indicated whether they will honor an agreement signed by the former party chairman.
"They will be repaid, in some way, I hope, God willing," Igo insists. "Republicans would prefer to pay debts back, even if it takes some time."
Photo by Mpls55408 via Flickr