The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board released a damning report (PDF) on Friday that fined the Minnesota Republican Party and its former chair nearly $30,000 for intentionally circumventing campaign finance law in 2010. The report also found the party's finances are plagued by sloppy bookkeeping and "out of control" spending.
The Board fined the state party $26,900 and its former party chair Tony Sutton $3,000 for taking inappropriate contributions during the 2010 recount for Minnesota's three-way governor's race, according to the Star Tribune.
A for-profit corporation formed during the recount, Count Them All Properly Inc. (CTAP) appeared to funnel payments to a Minnesota law firm and a former Minnesota Supreme court chief justice who agreed to represent the party in the recount. The Board found that the corporation was a direct attempt to circumvent the state's campaign finance law. CTAP itself was fined an additional $3,000.
Mike Dean of Common Cause of Minnesota, which filed the initial complaint against the state Republican party and CTAP, told the Star Tribune that the party "attempted to use a shell corporation to hide over a half million dollars in debt from the public."
The Board said "criminal sanctions are available" for Sutton, that but, "the Board leaves the decision as to whether a criminal investigation should be undertaken to the appropriate County Attorney." Sutton resigned from his $100,000-a-year chairmanship last year, and the state's current party chair, Pat Shortridge, took over and agreed to work for no salary.
Perhaps most damning was the report's assessment of the party's finances. The Board found the party's books "were in disarray and its spending was essentially not under anyone's control" and "regular spending appeared to be out of control." The party is estimated to be about $2 million in debt.
Former 2010 Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer told MinnPost that he texted Shortridge in the wake of the Board's report. "I just wanted to tell him, ‘It’s time to close the chapter and move on,'" Emmer told MinnPost.
The Minnesota Republican Party got into trouble earlier this year for failing to pay rent on its St. Paul headquarters.
[Former Minnesota Republican Party Chair Tony Sutton via Fibonacci Blue / Flickr]