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What to know about the latest mini-controversy over MN GOP’s debt

The DFL, like the Republican Party of Minnesota, owes people money.

According to a report filed in January with Federal Elections Commission, the DFL has debt of $485,306. On the report filed with the state campaign finance board, the party shows debt of $29,373.

The DFL is certainly in better shape than the Minnesota GOP, which reported a debt of $1.01 million with the FEC and debt of $459,854 in its state filings. Much of that debt was incurred under the direction of former party chair Tony Sutton, who resigned in 2011 and left the party more than $2 million in the red.

Like most campaign operations, state parties teeter on a balance beam of cash flow during election years, spending it quickly and repaying it slowly. Republican party chair Keith Downey says the party still owes five vendors about $350,000 but that they’re on schedule for repayment. 

That the DFL and state GOP incurred election year debt is not unusual — nor it is strange that vendors want their fees paid immediately.  What is curious is the way two vendors, as reported by the Star Tribune, publicized their bills in separate but similarly worded emails sent to members of the GOP’s executive committee.

Arena Communications and Singularis Group were hired to provided direct mail voter contact on behalf of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden and Eighth District congressional candidate Stewart Mills III. 

According to a member of the state GOP executive committee who prefers to be unnamed, those vendors have not been paid in full — but they have been paid.  “Every vendor we have to pay, but it’s not necessarily in lump sums,” he said. Arena Communications, he said, has already been paid $314,000 for its work.

Party sources have a range of theories as to why a routine part of campaign bookkeeping was made public, including disputes over the GOP’s 2014 election strategy, frustration with the election outcome, and concern that party debt remains high.

But the publicity will not change the way Arena and other vendors will be paid, they said.  When it became clear to national Republican groups that McFadden and Mills were going to lose, the money dried up. And that put national vendors on payment schedules, just like many of the vendors the party deals with.

Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 03/04/2015 - 10:34 am.

    Receiving the services of a taxpayer subsidized call center via the IRRRB would go a long way to retiring that campaign debt, or incurring it in the first place.

  2. Submitted by Nancy LaRoche on 03/04/2015 - 11:13 am.

    More to this story?

    For the record as an outgoing Executive Committee member, I’d like to know how a Mills campaign staffer got my and other members’ personal email addresses. Coordination and communication timing with the staffer, Michael Brodkorb, and the Exec. Committee leaker/s might make for an interesting follow-up story.

  3. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 03/04/2015 - 12:16 pm.

    Not Exactly

    Sorry Cyndy, playing this off as “business as usual” is simply not truthful:

    “It’s the first time I’ve taken a step like this with a state party in the almost 20 years I’ve been in business,” Valcarce said. His firm has provided direct mail and online political communication services to several Republican presidential candidates, dozens of GOP candidates for governor and Congress nationwide and numerous state Republican parties.

    “To be frank, we believe that the Minnesota GOP has dealt very dishonestly with our firm over the past four months,” Van Meteren wrote. Singularis employees who contacted Minnesota GOP staff about outstanding invoices were told they were not received until several weeks after the election, Van Meteren wrote, adding: “That claim is demonstrably false.”

  4. Submitted by Nathaniel Finch on 03/04/2015 - 01:26 pm.


    Is this a news article or an opinion piece or can’t it make up its mind?

  5. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/04/2015 - 02:35 pm.

    Clarification, please

    Why are the debt figures reported to the FEC different from the ones reported to the state? I am assuming no chicanery here, just wondering if different accounting mechanisms are used.

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