From MPR's Rupa Shenoy
The Minnesota GOP has agreed to pay a federal penalty of 170-thousand dollars because of illegal funds transfers and financial reporting omissions.
The penalty comes as a result of a Federal Elections Commission complaint filed in 2007 by the Washington, DC, nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics. The FEC found the Republican party of Minnesota failed to disclose nearly $100,000 in debt in 2006. The same year, the party withheld retirement contributions totaling nearly $8,000 to four employees. Also that year, state Republicans made illegal excessive transfers totaling more than 560-thousand dollars from its non-federal account to its federal account.
In an agreement with the FEC released by Minnesota Republicans, the party says the errors and omissions were not intentional. GOP chair Tony Sutton said in a statement they've taken steps to correct problems, including hiring an outside firm to produce their financial reports.
Here's the MN GOP news release:
St. Paul - Bringing to a close a Federal Election Commission (FEC) complaint filed against the Republican Party of Minnesota (RPM) in 2007 by the Washington D.C. based Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW), a liberal organization, the RPM has voluntarily accepted an FEC Conciliation Agreement for errors and omissions in FEC reports from 2006-2007.
Specifically, the RPM failed to conform with requirements for reporting party debts and obligations and mishandled transfers from the party's non-federal account to its federal account for allocated administrative expenses.
Under the Conciliation agreement, the RPM agrees to pay a civil fine of $170,000 and make changes to its FEC reporting process. Since the complaint was filed in 2007, the RPM has proactively made changes to its FEC accounting and reporting processes that anticipated those required under the Conciliation Agreement.
"We learned a very hard lesson," said MNGOP ChairmanTony Sutton, who was the volunteer treasurer of the party during 2006-2007. "Since the complaint was filed, we have taken a number of steps, expensive steps, to upgrade the professionalism of our compliance process," said Sutton.
The RPM now contracts with a professional group specializing in FEC compliance to prepare its reports.
"It is not an excuse, but it is relevant that following enactment of 'McCain-Feingold' campaign finance reform, state parties have some of the most detailed, technical and challenging reporting obligations of any political entity regulated by the FEC," Sutton added. "We are subject to prohibitions and restrictions of federal law and subject to state law provisions that frequently contain different prohibitions, restrictions and reporting requirements," Sutton said.
As an example of the complexity, the RPM's 2008 post-election report was 465 pages and disclosed more than 530 itemized receipts and more than 810 itemized disbursements.
Due to complex and technical reporting requirements that apply to state parties, several state parties, Republican and Democrat, have agreed to pay six-figure civil penalties in recent years for highly technical and inadvertent errors including one civil penalty in excess of $350,000.
"I could say something here about excessive government regulation," said Sutton, "but we're taking our lumps and moving forward on the larger agenda of increasing our majorities in the state House and Senate and electing a Republican Senator and President who will work to restore fiscal - and regulatory - sanity in Washington."
This is the GOP, THIEVING with lince