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Stung by fines and ruling, Minnesota GOP tries to regroup

Former GOP chair Tony Sutton dismissed the findings with a brief statement in his blog.

Right after the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board released its report on the Minnesota Republican Party’s handling the 2010 gubernatorial recount, Tom Emmer texted party chair Pat Shortridge a message of encouragement.

“I just wanted to tell him, ‘It’s time to close the chapter and move on,’ ” Emmer said.  

Given the serious fines and blunt recriminations against the party and that the 27-page report was studded with words such as “failed,” “omitted,” “circumvention” and “criminal,” Emmer’s comments might appear wildly optimistic. And even though Emmer, as the gubernatorial candidate, was distanced from the pigsty of the party’s finances, his cheerful tone would seem discordant with his party’s financial condition. That condition got worse with the board’s finding Friday that the party is also responsible for $600,000 in recount legal fees.

But while the party was preparing for the worst from the campaign finance board, Shortridge and his team have managed to erase a significant portion of its debt. According to Bill Jungbauer of St. Paul, who just rotated off the party’s executive committee, since the first of the year, the Republican Party has repaid $1 million from its existing $2.1 million obligations. “Things are looking good,” he said. 

Jungbauer said that Shortridge gets high marks from the party’s executive committee, a change from its relationship with former party chair Tony Sutton.   “He’s [Shortridge] very transparent. Pat brings everything in front of the committee, things that Sutton would have never consulted us on,” Jungbauer said.

The party’s new financial direction includes reducing the party’s debt by cutting expenses and an ongoing discussion to make settlements with every entity that’s owed money. Shortridge told his executive committee that his goal is to pay off the party’s debt, not including legal fees, by the November election.

Jungbauer points out that, with the exception of the party’s landlord, “No one has taken the party to court because everyone believes in what we profess.” Contributions are picking up, he said, fueled by a strong anti-Obama sentiment in the Republican base.

But Jungbauer and others don’t underplay the seriousness of the findings of the Campaign Finance and Disclosure Board. The board found that the party, under the direction of Sutton, created a shadow corporation, Count Them All Properly, Inc., specifically to avoid disclosure of contributions to pay for the recount. Sutton and the party received fines of $3,000 and $26,900 respectively for violating state law. The campaign finance board is continuing its investigation.  

Common Cause, which filed the complaint that prompted the investigation, may seek a criminal inquiry. “The Republican Party acted irresponsibly and should apologize to Minnesota voters,” said Mike Dean, executive director of Common Cause.

Emmer shares with other Republican supporters a respect for the findings. “I think that the campaign finance board was very thorough, careful and considerate, and frankly tried to be very fair, recognizing that there were internal controls that were lacking that now have been addressed,” he said. 

Now, Emmer says, the party has to take on a challenge equal to securing the party’s financial footing: uniting Republicans in focus and in message.

“There’s a battle of ideas in the party between those who want to manage the size of government and those who want to reduce the size of government,” he said. “How do you handle that so that the people who want to support you continue to show up with the talent and their checkbooks?”  With the party’s new leadership, it’s time to move forward, he said, because “who are you going to punish?”

“Tony Sutton,” responds a chorus of Republican activists, new and old – and the campaign finance board agreed. Although it placed some of the blame for the party’s sloppy financial reporting on its former treasurer, David Sturrock, the board named the former chair as the ultimate responsible party. Sutton alone received a personal fine.

According to the findings of the board: “Sutton personally took over control of spending late in 2010. He testified that he became much more active in the party’s day-to-day finances…While regular spending appeared to be out of control, not even the most rudimentary budgets, approvals, or controls were in place for the costs undertaken by the RPM for the 2010 recount.

“Tony Sutton, former chair of the RPM, violated Minnesota Statutes section 10A.29 when he redirected a contribution from [donor] Robert Cummins through CTAP for the benefit of the RPM in order to avoid disclosure. Although Mr. Sutton’s actions in this regard were intentional and criminal sanctions are available, the Board leaves the decision as to whether a criminal investigation should be undertaken to the appropriate County Attorney.”

Sutton dismissed the findings with a brief statement in his blog: “I am disappointed with the findings of the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board concerning the Republican Party of Minnesota and Count Them All Properly, Inc.  I disagree with their findings and believe they should have reached a different conclusion.”

Sutton’s response irritated many party supporters who understand that even with the clean sweep provided by new leadership, the state GOP will recover slowly. Along with financial rebuilding and faction re-uniting, the party that promotes fiscal responsibility must distance itself from a now well-documented history of unwise spending and financial sloppiness.

Comments (15)

  1. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 07/16/2012 - 10:05 am.

    Sutton is still paying benefit

    to the democrats. Thanks for proving the title “fiscal conservative” doesn’t have any meaning. Thanks also for proving the republicans have zero leadership. They have turned in to a useless party of obstructionist, thanks to the tea partiers. Voters the republicans are sending you a strong message, they are bankrupt in all respects! Wake up voters. It’s your choice in November.

  2. Submitted by Ralf Wyman on 07/16/2012 - 10:21 am.

    Settlements? So they’re not paying in full?

    “…an ongoing discussion to make settlements with every entity that’s owed money.”

    That sounds to me like the MN GOP is negotiating away part of their debts. I would hope that any reduction in payments owed is reported 1) as a campaign donation to the GOP, and 2) so that the party of “fiscal responsibility” is identified as the party not willing/able to pay in full their legally entered-into obligations.

    The core of the rot may have been excised, but today’s Minnesota GOP has a long way to go to be restored to a party that walks it’s talk of personal responsibility.

  3. Submitted by David Frenkel on 07/16/2012 - 11:20 am.

    Politics and power

    What has happened to the MN GOP happens with every political organization that lacks oversight and accountability. Power can be blinding to those with no controls in place to reign it in when necessary.

  4. Submitted by Jeremy Powers on 07/16/2012 - 12:04 pm.

    You just can’t make this stuff up

    I wonder who is going to play Tony Sutton in the made-for-TV movie, likely to be entitled: Elephant Droppings.

  5. Submitted by Stephen Dent on 07/16/2012 - 12:14 pm.

    So, things are looking good?

    “the Republican Party has repaid $1 million from its existing $2.1 million obligations. “Things are looking good,” says Tom Emmers. With less than half of the debt owed and that doesn’t include their legal fees, it’s no wonder Republicans bloviate endlessly on the evils of Obama regardless of what good he does or says. Why Americans are not opening their eyes to the bufoonery of the Republicans is beyond me. Their hatred for Obama must be immense. My Republican brothers are in total denial about the facts, so I know it is emotions that are driving their loyalty to this bankrupt party – both financially and ideology.

  6. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/16/2012 - 01:39 pm.


    “Time to regroup” is just another way of saying “Let’s declare the whole thing over, and pray that the voters won’t pay it any mind.”

    Good luck with that. Once the gross mismanagement fades from the collective mind of the public, we’re left with the policy record. That truly is dazzling. After all, what did the Republicans do with their control of the Legislature? The anti-marriage amendment? Was that part of their “laser-like focus” on jobs and the economy? It must be–that’s why so many leaders in the business community have embraced it like they would a diseased muskrat. Okay, how about “shoot first,” the ALEC-sponsored issue that has caused ALEC to hemorrhage members–that’s sure to be a winner, right?

    The Republicans have spent too much time dancing to the tune of the social conservatives. They have given up on the idea of “limited” government in favor of obeying whatever message resonates with the base. It may win elections, but it’s a pathetic way to try to govern.

  7. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 07/16/2012 - 01:40 pm.

    Said Richard Nixon…

    “… I am not a crook.”

    Events and evidence proved otherwise.

    Of COURSE Mr. Sutton is “…disappointed…” by the results of the Campaign Finance Board review. Criminals, even petty criminals, don’t like it when their behavior is pointed out in public.

  8. Submitted by Logan Foreman on 07/16/2012 - 01:48 pm.

    Advice to

    Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board and entities owed money by the MN GOP – accept cash only.

  9. Submitted by Neal Krasnoff on 07/16/2012 - 07:54 pm.

    Don’t be so smug.

    Raymond Rybak, DFL Mayor of Minneapolis, didn’t bother to enforce the Minneapolis City Ordinance that required voters to decide on any stadium where the City was to spend more than $10 million dollars.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/17/2012 - 09:36 am.

      What’s your point?

      Does this have anything whatever to do with the Minnesota Republican Party? Or is it some evil plot by race-mixing progressives (Oops! I hope that wasn’t uncivil!)?

  10. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/16/2012 - 08:11 pm.


    I hope part of that re-grouping process includes a serious examination of how the Republican party has become such a magnet for hypocrites, liars, and criminals. There’s something about this party that actually attracts these people, encourages this behavior, and has created a vacuum of integrity. Until this problem is recognized and addressed you’ll just have one parade of scandal after another and sooner or later it’s going to kill you at the polls.

    • Submitted by Neal Krasnoff on 07/17/2012 - 06:43 am.


      Mr. Udstrand wrote:

      “I hope part of that re-grouping process includes a serious examination of how the Republican party has become such a magnet for hypocrites, liars, and criminals.”

      Civilized “discussion” noted, with the Democrats and the left being as pure as the driven snow.


  11. Submitted by Patty Seifert on 07/17/2012 - 02:15 pm.

    being human strikes again

    Isn’t if odd that if the Republicans make mistakes, it is big news and people are replaced or step down. While if the DFL commits the same mistakes, they go on with business as usual because for them it is truely business as usual! That sentiment is taken from a DFL statement from years ago (and no I do not have the exact quote, date or person quoted). However, a little observation would prove the statement and its sentiment.

    Another note, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” We must, each one of usindividually, take responsibility for out actions or lack thereof; ie. it is my responsibility to ask questions of people like Tony Sutton if something looks/smells fishy.

    For myself, as BPOU Chair, we try our hardest to know and understand rules governing finance and contributions and so on so as NOT to make mistakes, perceived or otherwise. Will we never make a mistake, can’t promise that. We discuss expenditures in OPEN meetings as much as possible. Some discussions do require more discretion than others, for the most part anyone at the meeting listens and is welcome to offer an opinion on any discussion. Just remember to be respectful and NO name calling.

    Ours is a much smaller scale than the State Party. But we truely believe in responsibility and transparency whether fiscal or otherwise.

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