MN GOP Faces Campaign Finance Board Investigation

Kelly Fenton Acting MN Republican Party Chair

Minnesota Republicans have publicly owned up to some of their financial mistakes, and that could mean more than a million dollars in fines if an investigation from the state Campaign Finance Board finds the party acted illegally.

Minnesota Common Cause filed a complaint with the state alleging the Minnesota Republican Party funneled more than $719,000 in legal fees for the 2010 gubernatorial recount through a “shell corporation” called Count Them All Properly. Common Cause says doing that circumvented laws requiring disclosure of who made the contributions, and the Minnesota Republican party failed to properly report the contribution.

The evidence Common Cause cites comes from public disclosures Minnesota Republican Party leaders made at a news conference last month when it revealed the party’s debt could be nearly two million dollars, and comments former Republican Party Chair Tony Sutton has made to the media.

Following precedent could lead to a huge fine

Common Cause points to a case the board decided against DFL candidate for governor Margaret Anderson Kelliher as precedent for the complaint. In that case the board defined “circumvention” as redirecting funds to “avoid limits or disclosure requirements”.

Minnesota Republican Party Treasurer David Sturrock has publicly admitted he was not told that the party had agreed to pay $450,000 in legal bills for the recount. Common Cause says that is is another violation of state law since the party can’t spend the money without the treasurer or deputy treasurer approving the expenditure.

The Campaign Finance Board has sent a letter to Common Cause saying it will investigate the allegations, but does not expect to make a ruling until March.

Common Cause argues that if past precedent were followed, the state should fine the party $1.1 million, which is equal to the amount of the party’s failed disclosures.

Michael McIntee

Michael McIntee is a former network TV news executive with more than 30 years of broadcasting experience. He began his broadcasting career at the University of Minnesota's student radio station. He is an expert producer, writer, video editor who has a fondness for new technology but denies that he is a geek. More about Michael McIntee »

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