Watchdog group files complaint against state Republican Party

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a complaint today with the Federal Election Commission against the Republican Party of Minnesota. The group says the Republican Party of Minnesota and its former chair Tony Sutton hid the party’s debts. The complaint said the party failed to adequately report its debt even though it admitted in August that it committed the same violation in 2006.

“The Republican Party of Minnesota’s FEC reports haven’t reflected the party’s actual financial condition for nearly a decade and make a mockery of the public’s right to know,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “There appears to be ample evidence Mr. Sutton, repeatedly lied to FEC investigators for years to achieve the party’s political goals.”

Sutton resigned from the state party in early December after widespread criticism about the party’s finances. Party officials announced later in the month that the Minnesota GOP could be up to $2 million in debt including $415,000 that was not previously reported.

Sloan also criticized the Federal Election Commission for failing to fully investigate the party’s finances earlier.

“When CREW filed its initial complaint back in 2007 we asked the FEC to conduct a full audit of the RPM’s finances, but the FEC declined,” Sloan said. “If the commission had done its job, we wouldn’t have to ask them to restart yet another botched investigation. Allowing such conduct to go unpunished reinforces the public’s view that politics is a dirty, rigged game. The FEC continues to fail the American public.”

No word yet on the Republican Party’s response to the complaint, but RNC Committeeman Jeff Johnson said in December that the party would own up to its problems. He said party officials hired an attorney to work with the FEC on the problems and hoped that they wouldn’t be fined because party officials brought the issue to light.

UPDATE:

Here’s a statement released by Republican Party Chair Pat Shortridge:

“As part of the Republican Party of Minnesota’s internal review of party finances, which we reported to the State Central Committee and released to the media on December 31, we discovered additional party debt. Following on that disclosure, we contacted the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) to self report that debt and seek guidance on how we should proceed. We are in the process of following those recommendations.”

Common Cause Minnesota says the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board is also investigating the party’s finances to see if there were any violations.

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