State GOP report reveals lack of accountability in party spending

Tony Sutton

A report from the Minnesota Republican Party on its troubled finances delivered a frank admission of “misreporting… questionable decision-making… and lack of accountability.”

The good news, according Jeff Johnson, chair of party’s financial oversight committee, is “for me the fact that we didn’t find any evidence that people were stealing money was reassuring.”

While the report released Monday gave more detail of GOP expenses during Tony Sutton’s term as party chair, it also deepened a few mysteries.

Among the revelations were payments of $18,000 to an investigator for research on the legalization of marijuana.  According to the report, the investigator, Tim Goar, also helped with media relations, but “Goar claims to have very few written reports and did not think he had saved any of his work. He says he had… only a verbal agreement with [Ryan] Griffin,” the party’s executive director. The report adds: “We were unable to successfully contact Griffin.”

Griffin’s name, and his apparent disappearing act, comes up several times. “Some of Ryan Griffin’s expense reports lacked documentation…. We were unable to successfully contact Griffin,” according to the report.

Griffin was paid $14,000 over his regular party salary for “legal services” and “legal advice.” But, the report noted again, “We were unable to locate any documentation detailing the services provided and were unable to successfully contact Griffin for more information regarding this issue.”

The report sheds no new light on Count Them All Properly, Inc., a company established to coordinate the recount effort of the 2010 gubernatorial race.  The state’s campaign finance board is reviewing whether the Republican Party is obligated to pay $719,000 in attorneys’ fees that the company incurred .

The report revealed that spinning off corporate entities was a common practice for the party. The party’s Midwest Leadership Conference in October was run under the auspices of MLC, Inc., which owes more than $26,000, primarily to the DoubleTree Hotel.

Johnson claims the expenses that led to the party’s $1.3 million debt offered “no big surprises because all the items we had known about” before the review. Still, some of the numbers are eye-popping — like $180,000 paid to a communications firm for a re-branding project, with more than $50,000 yet unpaid. 

But the party’s review was designed to deliver “just the facts, not the judgment whether something was wise or not wise,” said Johnson. 

He also defended the party’s practice of paying for services provided by vendors who were also candidates or donors. “Based upon what we learned, we had no significant concerns about what happened,” Johnson said. He added that if such an arrangement should arise in the future, the committee’s recommendations to change the party’s operating structure would address the conflict. The changes include establishing a permanent financial oversight committee and a human resources committee to deal with personnel policies.

While the report was less than comforting in assessing the party’s shortcomings, Johnson voiced some optimism. “The simple fact is that most of these issues can be addressed by changes in our structure,” he said.

The report will not satisfy everyone, Johnson acknowledged. “There’s a small group of folks that want a full forensic audit,” he said, but the party can’t afford that. “There’s also an even smaller group that wants somebody’s head.

“I’m not going to put the finger on any particular person,” Johnson said. “There is probably enough blame to go around.”                   

Comments (11)

  1. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/08/2012 - 09:50 am.

    No theft?

    You have $18,000 that’s disappeared into the pockets of guy who himself has disappeared and left no work product behind and you don’t think there was any theft? Funny how republicans see criminals lurking in every bush when it comes to voter ID but nothing but law abiding citizens when they audit their finances. This is Enron accounting, by definition it IS theft.

  2. Submitted by David Broden on 05/08/2012 - 11:14 am.

    Fiscal Responsibility Not Really-It is Theft by any Terms

    Tot state that the financial corruption in the Mn GOP managment does not represent Theft is crazy. The GOP funds are contributions from individuals and groups with commitments to a poltical cause and each of whom expect diligent use and application of their money. Whether there was theft by party officers or employees is not the only question there certainly by any terms there was theft from those who contributed hard earned money to promote a purpose. The trust that goes with that is both a break in responsibilty by the party that claims fiscal responsibility and a definite misuse of funds that represents clear theft. Just like moving money around in corporate games like Enron etc. The GOP has a big trust issue to find a way to rebuild –it will be interesting to see how this will be achieved. Citizens of Mn as voter and interested in government integrity will be the judge.

    Dave Broden

  3. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 05/08/2012 - 12:21 pm.

    Desperately seeking Ryan

    They couldn’t have been trying very hard. I found an address in St. Paul (current as of the end of March, 2012), with just a few seconds searching on the MN Supreme Court website.

    Is he hiding really well? Or don’t the Republicans really want to hear what he has to say?

  4. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 05/08/2012 - 12:42 pm.

    …..The report sheds no new light on Count Them All Properly, Inc., a company established to coordinate the recount effort of the 2010 gubernatorial race. The state’s campaign finance board is reviewing whether the Republican Party is obligated to pay $719,000 in attorneys’ fees that the company incurred…

    That would happen to be the same company where two consecutive leaders were named that did not have ANY ties to the GOP? The one where they were dunned personally for the monies owed by the GOP?

    So what penalties would a person face if they got a credit card under an assumed name, faked the names of the cosigners, ran up hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and then argues about having to pay it back? That’s exactly what they did in this instance.

    And the party’s executive director can’t be found to explain certain expenses and procedures?

    Pitiful.

  5. Submitted by craig furguson on 05/08/2012 - 01:30 pm.

    Questionable Expenses by Ryan Griffin?

    You mean by the guy who was working for Sheriff Stanek in the Hennepin Sheriff’s Office when he was booked and released from the Ramsey Jail for DWI in his underwear after refusing to put on his pants? And he was on the short list for a job with the GOP, no wonder they have problems.

  6. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 05/09/2012 - 08:16 am.

    It is not rocket science

    The republicans don’t take responsibility for anything unless it something that servers their segment of the population. They are so busy finger pointing they don’t have time for accountability. More undeniable proof the word “conservative” doesn’t have any meaning in the republican title. The entire republican philosophy is built on failed fiction.

  7. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 05/09/2012 - 08:27 am.

    Now if these were Democrats, and the party leader spent $18K on “research” into medical marijuana with a salesman buddy who has no research or polling background, and produced no visible work product, and that leader had been last seen introducing a pro-legalization presidential candidate like Ron Paul, one would be justified in wondering if all that work had “gone up in smoke”.

    Whereas these are Republicans, that certainly couldn’t be true.

  8. Submitted by Henk Tobias on 05/09/2012 - 09:49 pm.

    Repubublicans..

    …are very odd people. It’d be humorous if they weren’t in control of both houses of Minnesota’s congress.

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