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Panel fines GOP group created to fund recount in 2010 governor’s race

Action Thursday by the state Office of Administrative Hearings has ended the legal dispute over the Minnesota Republican Party’s handling of how to pay for the vote recount in the 2010 governor’s race.

Responding to a complaint from Common Cause Minnesota, a three-judge panel ruled that the corporation that the Republican Party created to collect money for the recount violated the campaign finance law that prohibits corporations from contributing to a political party but that the violation “was negligent and had no impact on voters.”  The corporation, Count Them All Properly (CTAP), was fined $600.

The panel individually fined CTAP board member Dan Puhl $600 for establishing the entity as a corporation instead of a non-profit, which would have allowed CTAP to contribute to the state party.

The Republican Party got some good news from panel. It dismissed charges that former party chair Tony Sutton and former party finance director Ron Huettle deliberately formed CTAP to evade campaign finance laws.

 “The judges clearly understood and recognized that a mistake was the result of negligence,” said John Gilmore, the attorney for CTAP.  “It wasn’t intentional and that what was done had no effect on the voters.”

In July of last year, the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Disclosure Board issued a similar ruling but that resulted in more substantial fines.  The party was fined $26,900 for directing a $30,000 contribution from Robert Cummins to CTAP. Sutton was fined $3,000 and CTAP was fined $3,000.

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