A panel of administrative law judges has dismissed claims that former Minnesota Republican Party officials violated the law regarding a political group set up to help former 2010 GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer win a recount against Gov. Mark Dayton.
Common Cause Minnesota claimed that former party chair Tony Sutton and former finance director Ron Huettl knew the group Count Them All Properly violated state law. Common Cause also claimed that Count Them All Properly authorized Sutton to act as the group's agent, but the panel disagreed.
"This is the dark side of politics that frustrates people so much," said party chair Keith Downey. "False charges about a volunteer's honest administrative mistake tied up this panel and wasted taxpayer money for over one year."
Still, civil penalties were issued.
Count Them All Properly will have to pay $600. That's because it was organized as a corporation but made an indirect contribution of $27,000 to the state party by paying legal fees.
Dan Puhl, chief of Cardinals FEC Compliance, a firm that helps candidates and parties account for their campaign expense, will have to pay $600 for incorporating and serving as an officer of Count Them All Properly.
This appears to be the final chapter in an ongoing investigation into the recount fund and the GOP's finances, which suffered a serious setback in late 2011 when Sutton stepped down and it was subsequently revealed that the party was $2 million in debt.
Last year, the state campaign finance board was less forgiving.
The board found that GOP officials, including Sutton, violated campaign finance law by creating the recount fund. As a result, the board fined Sutton $3,000, the party $26,000 and Count Them All Properly $3,100.
The smiling senior citizen walking by your house and looking intently at your political lawn sign may be out for more than just a stroll. She may be a political operative.
ProPublica, a national investigative journalism group, features a fascinating story on Minnesota's "Grandma Brigade."
These are women middle-aged and older who, as DFL volunteers, "scour their local newspapers each morning for letters to the editor with a political slant ... pay attention to the names of callers on radio shows" and "drive through their neighborhoods and jot down the addresses of campaign lawn signs."
The info, the story notes, finds its way eventually into a DFL database "that includes nearly every voter in Minnesota."
Few places have data volunteers as dedicated as the ones in Minnesota, which has been held up as a model for other state Democratic parties.
Both Democrats and Republicans have centralized databases that, among other things, track opinions you share with local campaign volunteers.
Each piece of information the parties have stored about you might not be too interesting on its own. But taken together, they're incredibly powerful. Political campaigns are using this voter data to predict voters' behavior in increasingly sophisticated ways.
Click on the play button below to hear Lois Beckett, reporter for ProPublica, talk about the story.(2 Comments)
Former state Rep. Keith Downey of Edina says he's running to be the chair of the Minnesota Republican Party. Downey sent an e-mail to Republican delegates this morning announcing his plans:
"At its core, the State Republican Party's job is to provide leadership to advance Minnesota for the future. But to do that, we need a turnaround. We need to redesign our State Party's operations. We need to grow our fundraising and fix our finances. We need to communicate our principles with clear solutions that engage all Minnesotans. And we need to win."Downey was first elected to the Minnesota House in 2008. He lost his bid for the Minnesota Senate in November to DFLer Melisa Franzen. Downey also served as co-chair of Kurt Bills' unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign in 2012.
Current Party Chair Pat Shortridge is not running for re-election. The person who replaces him will have a tough job ahead. The party is more than $1 million in debt and has been reeling after the November election. Democrats currently control every statewide office, the Minnesota Legislature and five of the Minnesota's eight congressional seats.
Downey is the second candidate to announce a run for party chair. Republican Party Senate District 34 Party Chair Marjorie Holsten says she's also seeking the post.
Shortridge's term ends in April.
Here's Downey's full e-mail:
Today I am announcing to GOP delegates and alternates statewide my intention to run for State Republican Party Chair. We have a lot of work to do, and it would be an honor to serve as your State Party Chairman!
It is a critical time. We must do all this not for our own sake, but for the good of the people of Minnesota and our country. These times demand an excellent Republican Party, and together we can get the job done!
A heartfelt thank you to our current Chairman Pat Shortridge for all he has done, and to his team. We now need to take the next steps, and they are big ones.
As a businessman and recent State Representative, I hope to earn your confidence with the right combination of principle, skill and experience, and a concrete plan for the gains we need to make. Look for more information from me soon.
Thank you for your service to the people of Minnesota, and a Happy New Year to you and yours!
The outside group designed to help Republican Tom Emmer's gubernatorial recount in 2010 is poised to close up shop. The Minnesota Campaign Finance Board voted today to allow "Count Them All Properly, Inc." to close its campaign account and use its remaining balance to pay off a fine from the board. The group was fined $3,000 by the campaign finance board for not disclosing donors and spending. But the board agreed today to accept the $1,184 left in the group's campaign account and waive the rest of the balance.
The board fined Count Them All Properly, the Minnesota Republican Party and former Party Chair Tony Sutton for how they handled the financing of the 2010 gubernatorial recount. The board found that Sutton and the Minnesota Republican Party set up the outside group to keep donations to Emmer's recount fund out of public view. That's a violation of state campaign finance law.
Before they took the vote, Campaign Finance Board Chair Greg McCullough asked if there was any possibility that Count Them All Properly could set up another account - a worry whenever the group votes to waive or lower fines.
Campaign Finance Board Executive Director Gary Goldsmith said it was unlikely.
"I think I can guarantee these people are not going to come back," Goldsmith said to the board.
Two delegates to the Republican National Convention are criticizing Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for "cherry-picking" on the federal health care law enacted under President Obama.
On Sunday, Romney said on NBC's Meet the Press that he didn't want to repeal the entire law because there are portions that he supports. In particular, he said he didn't want to get rid of the law that forbids HMOs from dropping people from coverage if they have preexisting conditions and he also wanted to ensure that people can continue to cover children over the age of 21.
Romney's campaign started walking back some of those comments later in the day. But that hasn't stopped some Republicans from criticizing him.
The comments drew heavy fire from Marianne Stebbins and Craig Westover. The two delegates, who were backers of former presidential candidate Ron Paul, issued a statement saying Romney's statement shows Romney is setting up a contest of "my big government is better than your big government" with President Obama.
"Cherry-picking bits and pieces of ObamaCare as Romney does compromises the fundamental principle of individual liberty and endorses the un-republican and extra-constitutional notion that government has the authority and the ability to manage individual health care decisions," Stebbins wrote.
"Romney's position confirms what Liberty Republicans have been saying for some time: The most significant debate in American politics today is not between the Democrat and Republican candidates for President; the most significant debate in American politics today is taking place within the Republican Party," said Westover. "The most significant debate in American Politics is between a genuine belief in individual liberty and limited government and exploiting liberty and limited government as expedient talking points."
The statement comes two weeks after Stebbins and other Paul supporters criticized the Romney campaign for making a "power grab" at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Westover is a former spokesman for the Republican Party of Minnesota.
After the statement was issued, Minnesota Republican Party Chair Pat Shortridge wrote several comments on Twitter urging Republicans to stand together.
"Rather than berate GOP cands you don't like, why not spend time promoting GOP cands you do? They need the help. MNGOP site has a list," Shortridge wrote on Twitter.(11 Comments)
People attending this year's Democratic National Convention in Charlotte are receiving gift bags that include everything from a can of Coke Zero to a water bottle to information packets about Charlotte.
The bag also includes a pedometer provided by Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group. The plastic pedometer promotes the insurance giant's push to get people to be more active. It also puts the name of the nation's largest public insurer in front of thousands of delegates, reporters, donors and politicians.
It isn't known how much money UnitedHealth Group has given to the convention organizers in Charlotte and Tampa. Organizers don't have to release their contributions until Oct. 15. Officials with UnitedHealth Group did not return calls to discuss their giving to either convention. The company's Political Action Committee, however, has been actively contributing to both parties and candidates in the 2012 election cycle.
Political donations to conventions have come under fire by good government groups. The watchdog group, Public Citizen, says the donations give corporations and others unfettered access to lawmakers and others with political power. Roll Call says corporate contributions to conventions are down this year because of the down economy and negative backlash to giving.
The Democratic National Convention begins in Charlotte, NC tomorrow but Minnesota's delegates will be without some key figures.
Just three of the six DFL members of Congress are expected to be in Charlotte this week. Rep. Keith Ellison is already in town hobnobbing with delegates and others. He has a full speaking schedule over the course of the week. Ellison, who co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, says he uses the convention to build relationships.
"I just think as a person who is offering some support and leadership to our party that I can't be missing in action," Ellison said.
Ellison added that his campaign has been working to identify DFL voters to turn out on Election Day. He said going to the convention will help with that grassroots work.
Spokespeople say Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Sen. Al Franken will be in town for all or part of the convention. Gov. Mark Dayton is also expected to attend. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak is scheduled to address the convention on Tuesday.
Democratic Representatives Tim Walz, Collin Peterson and Betty McCollum are not attending the DNC at all.
Walz represents Minnesota's 1st Congressional District and has been targeted by Republicans since he defeated GOP Rep. Gil Gutknecht in 2006. But Sara Severs, the campaign manager for Walz, says Walz isn't avoiding Charlotte for fear of being linked to President Obama.
"Congressman Walz and Gwen Walz do not plan to attend the 2012 convention due to other commitments in Minnesota, most importantly the first day of kindergarten and 6th grade for their two children," Severs wrote in an e-mail. "However, they have been clear about their support for President Obama and wish everyone working on the convention a successful event."
A spokeswoman says McCollum is planning a large "watch party" for President Obama's speech on Thursday night at the Vadnais Heights Commons Convention Center on Thursday.
None of the other DFL candidates for Congress are planning to attend the DNC either.
Democrats aren't the only people who decided to skip the party conventions this year. GOP Representatives John Kline, Erik Paulsen and Chip Cravaack decided not to visit Tampa for last week's Republican National Convention. Republican U.S. Senate candidate Kurt Bills also decided against making the trip to Florida.
GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann served as a delegate to the convention and also worked the convention crowd.
Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who failed in his bid to be the party's nominee for president, had a speaking role at the convention.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported that Allen Quist, who is challenging Walz in Minnesota's 1st District, attended the RNC.
It was a busy morning for Minnesota Republican Party Deputy Chair Kelly Fenton who awoke to find her Woodbury home toilet-papered and her yard filled with Republican political lawn signs.
At a chance encounter at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport on the way to Tampa for the Republican National Convention, Fenton told Minnesota Public Radio News she had no idea who was behind the prank. Her son thought it was probably kids.
The Fentons said they got most of the mess cleaned up and they made their Saturday morning flight to the nominating convention, which starts Monday.
A fund set up by the Republican Party of Minnesota meant to assist Tom Emmer during the 2010 gubernatorial recount has officially reported its finances to the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board.
Last month, the campaign finance board found that the GOP violated campaign finance law by creating the Count Them All Properly fund, which the board determined was directed by former party Chairman Tony Sutton.
As a result, the Republican Party of Minnesota was fined $26,900 and Count Them All Properly was fined $3,100. Sutton was fined $3,000.
Because the recount effort was conducted by the party, funding for it should have been disclosed, the board determined.
There are few surprises in the documents.
More or less all of the fund's money came in the form of a $30,000 check from Robert Cummins, an elusive but generous donor who supports conservative causes and candidates.
According to depositions taken by the board, the Cummins donation was solicited by Sutton.
Count Them All Properly spent a little more than $28,000 on legal fees and other expenses, including more than $1,000 to Dan Puhl and his firm Cardinals FEC Compliance, a firm that helps candidates and parties account for their campaign donations and expenses.
After it became clear that Emmer's race against now Gov. Mark Dayton would end in a recount, Puhl created Count Them All Properly by his own volition, according to depositions taken by the board. He then promoted the fund to the Republican party as a discreet way of shielding donors who wanted to assist with recount costs.
"I thought this is a good opportunity for me business-wise because I can have a new client for my bookkeeping, billing," Puhl said in his deposition. "And so I went ahead and started this corporation, because basically nobody else had and it was a business opportunity for me."
St. Paul City Attorney Sara Grewing says she will not pursue criminal charges against former Minnesota Republican Party Chair Tony Sutton. Grewing said today that it would be difficult to prove criminal wrongdoing beyond a reasonable doubt.
"While the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board did an extremely thorough job investigating this matter and assessing civil penalties, its finding of probably cause of a criminal violation does not necessarily merit a criminal prosecution. While Mr. Sutton's actions are troubling, and indeed go to the heart of what Minnesota's Campaign Finance System is created to avoid, we believe that we would not be able to prove his criminal intent beyond a reasonable doubt in court."
The executive director of Common Cause Minnesota requested Grewing file criminal charges against Sutton for his actions related to a fund created to help in the 2010 gubernatorial recount. The Campaign Finance Board fined Sutton $3,000 for circumventing campaign finance laws. Sutton still faces other penalties. Common Cause also filed a complaint with the Office of Administrative Hearings to investigate Sutton, the Republican Party of Minnesota and the recount fund known as Count Them All Properly.
Here's Grewing's letter:1 Comments)
The Minnesota DFL Party has a big lead in this year's fundraising race, which could be crucial in deciding which party ends up controlling the state Legislature.
The numbers are stark: since the start of the year, the DFL Party has raised $2.2 million from individuals and groups, while the Republican Party has raised only $99,240 during the same period from individuals and groups.
At this time in 2010, the last election year, the Minnesota GOP had raised nearly $600,000 from individual contributors.
All told, the DFL's fundraising totaled nearly $2.3 million, which includes miscellaneous income, while the Minnesota GOP brought in nearly $400,000, with some of that cash coming from party convention registration fees and some coming in the form of in-kind contributions and unitemized income.
Minnesota DFL Party Chair Ken Martin says the numbers show his side is in a good position going into what's expected to be a tough fight for control of the Legislature.
"We're in a better position than we've been in a long time here at the DFL, and it's definitely a sign of things to come," Martin said.
GOP Party Chairman Pat Shortridge said the party is still rebuilding its coffers after learning it was deeply in debt last year. He said he's happy with how his party is doing on small dollar donations. The opposition, he said, is making its money from wealthy Minnesotans and unions.
"We're digging out of a hole and we're making progress," said Shortridge. "We always want it to go faster. We don't have Gov. Dayton's ex-wife, Alida Messinger, writing us $300,000 checks. Basically she's giving him a blank check to get a blank check Legislature that's going to give Gov. Dayton what he wants. They have more of the super wealthy donors writing great big checks to them."
Both parties are burning through cash quickly. Though the DFL has raised more than $2.2 million this year, it has spent almost all of it, leaving the party with only about $46,000 in the bank. Republicans did the same, and now have about $24,400 in the bank. The GOP also has a loan of $30,000.
Though the DFL has already spent a lot of the money it raised through its state fund, Martin points out that his party had more than $437,487 cash-on-hand in its federal fundraising account as of June, which can be transferred to the state account. For its part, the Minnesota GOP had about $40,600 cash-on-hand in its federal account at the end of June.
Martin added that the money spent is another sign his party is doing well.
"If you really dig deep into these reports I think the thing you'll see is just how robust our activity is compared to the Republicans," Martin said. "We have lots of activity going on out there, and Republicans are just paralyzed right now."
Most of the DFL's donations came from big names in the world of Minnesota Democratic politics and loyal contributors who have supported the party for years. Education Minnesota, the state's teachers' union gave nearly $230,000 in cash and in-kind contributions. Other unions, including the Laborers District Council of Minnesota and North Dakota gave generously as well.
The single largest individual donor to the DFL Party is Alida Messinger, Gov. Mark Dayton's former wife and the daughter of John D. Rockefeller III. She gave the party $302,500. She's a primary contributor to other fundraising campaigns set up to help Democrats take control of the state Legislature as well.
Other major DFL contributors include both the House and Senate DFL caucuses.
Meanwhile, some of the Republican Party of Minnesota's most generous donors do not appear on the party's roster, including Primera Technology owner Robert Cummins.
Cummins is one of the wealthiest and most influential GOP donors, who has largely funded his own outside spending group, the Freedom Club, and has been a reliable contributor to Republican campaigns and the parties for many years. Between 2010 and 2011, Cummins gave the Republican Party more than $700,000. And Cummins gave $30,000 to a special fund set up by the party to pay for Tom Emmer's legal fees during the 2010 gubernatorial recount. He was the only donor.
This year, Cummins has given nothing to the party's state account and only $10,000 to the party's federal account.
Other reliable Republican donors seem to have slowed their giving. For instance, Stanley Hubbard, Chairman of Hubbard Broadcasting, and his wife have so far given the party about $25,500. At this time in 2010, Hubbard had given the party $35,000.
The GOP's single largest individual donor this year is Robert Ulrich, the former CEO of Target, who gave $40,000.
Shortridge said the party still has some work to do with donors.
"Most of our donors have come back, and even some new ones," Shortridge said. "We're cognizant of the fact that we have more work to do. It's a daily process. You get up every day, you put one foot in front of the other and we're restoring confidence with our major donors. More importantly, we're explaining the plan that we have to get our work done as a party."
The state GOP is still dealing with the sudden resignation of the party's former chair Tony Sutton, the revelation that the party was $2 million in debt, and fallout from a scandal involving former Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch and her top aide Michael Brodkorb.
Most recently, the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board fined the party and the recount fund nearly $30,000.
That's only a fraction of the $848,708 the Minnesota GOP still owes vendors from prior work, including legal fees stemming from the recount, according to its state report.
The Minnesota DFL also has unpaid bills. According to the report, the party owes vendors $310,456, including $111,831 to law firm Fredrickson and Byron for their assistance during the redistricting process.
The two parties are on more equal footing when it comes to how much they have spent to assist individual candidates.
The Republicans have invested nearly $3,000 into individual races, including mailers in support of Cory Jensen, who is running for an open seat in Senate District 46, which encompasses Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park, Gregg Kulberg running in Senate District 20, which includes Chippewa and Lac Qui Parle counties, and Bruce Lundeen, who is running in Senate District 61, which includes parts of Minneapolis.
Meanwhile, the DFL party has spent roughly $3,800 on Sen. Kari Dziedizic's re-election campaign in Senate District 60, including parts of Minneapolis.
Former President Bill Clinton, former Vice President Walter Mondale, DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Gov. Mark Dayton and former Gov. Arne Carlson will help dedicate the Hubert H. Humphrey memorial at the State Capitol.
The memorial will be on the southwest side of the Minnesota State Capitol Mall. It will include a 7-foot bronze statue of Humphrey, a garden and slabs of granite with quotations from Humphrey.
The ceremony will be held on Saturday, August 4 at 4:30. The event will be open to the public.
Clinton was already scheduled to be in Minnesota that day. He's scheduled to speak at a fundraiser for the DFL Party that evening.
There's been plenty of reaction to the Supreme Court's ruling on President Obama's health care overhaul plan.
Politicians on both sides of the issue have been sending out news releases and commenting via Twitter. Here are some of the key quotes:
Minnesota DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin
"Millions of Minnesotans just breathed a sigh of relief. Today, the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, which will expand health coverage, lower out-of-pocket costs and end insurance industry abuses like denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions. The Supreme Court did not bend to political pressure from the right -- they did what was right. We owe them our thanks."
Republican Party of Minnesota Chairman Pat Shortridge (via Twitter)
"Lesson: We need conservative Senators who are willing to vote against activist liberal judicial nominees, not rubber stamp them...For the weak-minded: Point was on conservative Senators opposing libs like Soto, Kagan, Ginsburg, etc. Roberts not a lib, a disappointment."
Democratic Congresswoman Betty McCollum
"Two years ago, I was proud to vote in support of the Affordable Care Act. Today's historic Supreme Court decision affirms President Obama's leadership to extend healthcare coverage to millions of Americans. It is now time for Republicans in Congress to end their vitriolic repeal campaign and work on effectively implementing this law to the benefit of the American people."
Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann
"I am deeply disappointed by the court's decision. Today's Supreme Court decision raises the stakes for the coming months...Obamacare represents the largest expansion of entitlement spending and a playground of left-wing social engineering in our country's history and must be stopped. Now, the only way to save the country from Obamacare's budget-busting government takeover of health care is to completely repeal it."
Republican Congressman Chip Cravaack
"This is a huge slap in the face to every American who believes in free market and limited government principles...This Supreme Court ruling means small business owners, doctors, patients, and consumers will still be forced into a government-run health care system that limits our freedom while driving up costs on all Americans...Our mission is clear: maintain control of the House, take back the Senate and win the White House...then DEFUND and REPEAL Obamacare."
Republican Congressman John Kline
"The Supreme Court's decision is a devastating blow to the American people. If Washington can penalize private citizens for failing to buy government-approved health insurance, then there is no reasonable limit on federal power. The president's health care law has radically transformed our careful system of government in which power is derived from the people. The vast majority of the public does not support this government takeover of health care and Congress must continue its efforts to repeal it."
Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison (via Twitter)
"Americans won today. With #Obamacare SCOTUS confirms #Healthcare is a Human Right...Historic decision by #SCOTUS. #Obamacare can now take its place in history with Social Security & Medicare."
Democratic U.S. Senator Al Franken
"It's a great day for Minnesotans. This means that Minnesotans who have pre-existing conditions will not, starting in 2014, none of them will be denied or punished for having pre-existing conditions when it comes to getting insurance. That is absolutely central to why I ran for the Senate."
Republican Congressman Erik Paulsen
"While I respect the Court's decision, it doesn't change the fact that the health care law's policy is flawed and remains very unpopular with the majority of Americans. The 2,700 page law was imprudently crafted in a way which threatens good private coverage, robs $500 billion from seniors, and leaves in its wake a legacy of debt for our children and grandchildren."
Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton
"I am very pleased with the Supreme Court's decision to fully uphold the Affordable Care Act. Today's ruling will be met with relief by the Minnesotans whose lives have already been improved by this law...This ruling is also an affirmation of the reform efforts currently underway in Minnesota to improve the quality and lower the cost of health care."
Democratic Congressman Tim Walz
"This decision ensures that nearly 50 million Americans, who before the Affordable Care Act couldn't afford to see a doctor, will continue to get the care they need. It ensures that children won't be denied health care just because they were born with an illness. It ensures that senior citizens will never be forced to choose between buying groceries or filling their prescriptions. It ensures that our future leaders won't be greeted on graduation day with a notice that they've lost their coverage. And it ensures that we will have a cost effective, sustainable health care system for generations to come."
Democratic U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar
"Today the Supreme Court put the law above politics by upholding the Affordable Care Act. The ruling upheld important reforms such as closing the 'donut hole' for seniors' prescription drugs, allowing young people to remain on their parents' plans until age 26, and ensuring that Americans with pre-existing conditions have access to health insurance. This law is a beginning, not an end, and I believe that improvements still need to be made. Moving forward I will continue to work to ensure the law is implemented in a way that is consistent with Minnesota's high-quality, efficient health care system and ensure these reforms work for our state."(2 Comments)
The state's two political parties are heading into the November election facing significant debt.
The latest campaign fundraising reports show that the Minnesota Republican Party had a debt of $964,367 as of May 31st. That debt does not include $700,000 in legal bills stemming from the 2010 gubernatorial recount. Party officials have said that they are heading in the right direction after reporting nearly $2 million in debt in December. The party says it has $37 thousand in the bank.
Meanwhile, the DFL Party reports a debt of $267,654 but says it has more than $400 thousand on hand. DFL Party Chair Ken Martin says he inherited a debt of more than $700 thousand dollars when he took over as party chair in 2011. He said his goal is to erase the party's debt by the end of the year.
"That debt is slowly being whittled down and at the same time we've talked to all of the people that we have obligations to and worked out payments plans," Martin said.
Martin also said his party is on pace to have one of the most successful fundraising years in the DFL Party's history.
Both parties are preparing for an active election season, given that the president and Senator Amy Klobuchar are up for re-election. The state's eight congressional seats and every seat in the state Legislature are also on the ballot.
The party's finances will come into clearer focus next month. That's when the state parties have to file both a monthly report on the federal level and the pre-primary report on the state level.
With just five months until the general election, DFL delegates say they are confident that their candidates at the top of the ticket will have no trouble winning Minnesota this November.
Matt Toburen of Minneapolis is among those who say President Barack Obama and Sen. Amy Klobuchar are shoo-ins.
"I think Minnesota will go strongly for Barack Obama and Amy Klobuchar this year," he said.
Mike Quinn of Rochester shares Toburen's optimism.
"I don't think Minnesota is going to go anywhere but with Obama and Klobuchar," he said, adding that he believes the top of the ticket will help the DFL win majorities in the Legislature as well.
But not everyone at the convention believes that Obama and Klobuchar have flawless records.
Beth Walters of Sauk Rapids said she wished both had done more for labor unions. And she expressed some disappointment with the new health care law.
"I think the health care reform was a good first step, but I think it needed to go further," Walters said.
While the crowd has legitimate reasons to be optimistic - both Klobuchar and Obama are so far enjoying strong support in the state - party leaders have warned against over confidence.
"No one is taking the president's election for granted starting with the president, who expects a very tough campaign. Certainly not Amy [Klobuchar], who is working harder than anybody," said Gov. Mark Dayton. "Everybody has spent the last two years in the minority, and with all the frustrations involved with that, there's no complacency whatsoever."
Some delegates are more concerned about passage of two constitutional amendments on the ballot, one that would require voters to show identification at the polls, and another that would define marriage between a man and a woman.
Quinn said he's confident Minnesotans will reject the marriage amendment, because voters don't want to change the state's constitution.
But voter ID is on shakier ground, he said.
"I think you have a lot of people on both sides, probably even a lot of Democrats, who don't quite understand what the problem is in regards to the election ballot," said Quinn. "I think we have to do a lot more to get them to understand that it is difficult to get older people and students their notification of having an ID like that especially in a short period of time close to an election period."
ROCHESTER -- In his speech to delegates at the DFL convention, Gov. Mark Dayton said the party must make rebuilding majorities in the Legislature its priority this election year.
Dayton said he will do everything he can to win both chambers, whether it be fundraising or campaigning.
"I always tell candidates I'll do whatever helps them the most," Dayton said. "I'll campaign for them, I'll campaign against them, whichever does the most good."
Though candidates will be counting on Dayton to help them win this year, in 2010 Dayton wasn't allowed to speak at the DFL convention. This year, he was welcomed warmly by the party and the delegates.
The episode two years ago is "history," Dayton said. "I'm just glad to get such an enthusiastic reception."
During his speech, Dayton reflected on what the Legislature might look like had there been a Republican Governor, quoting Tom Emmer, the GOP candidate Dayton narrowly defeated in 2010.
"An Emmer administration would make Wisconsin look like the poor, ugly stepchild that they are," Dayton said.
Dayton said there would have been $200 billion more in spending cuts, more pollution, collective bargaining would have been "eviscerated" and Minnesota would be a "right-to-work" state.
With a DFL majority and governor, Minnesotans can count on higher taxes on the wealthiest, property taxes would be lower, and public education would improve - all issues DFL candidates and liberal groups campaigning for them will be highlighting this election season.
Hear the rest of Dayton's speech here: Listen
Photo Credit: Gov. Mark Dayton speaks to delagates at the DFL state convention in Rochester Saturday, Jun. 2, 2012. (Alex Kolyer for MPR)(2 Comments)
Posted at 9:58 AM on June 2, 2012
by Catharine Richert
Filed under: Campaign 2012, Campaign 2012: Presidential Race, Campaign 2012: U.S. Senate, Marriage Amendment, Political parties, Voter ID Amendment
ROCHESTER - The state DFL convention is underway. There's not much suspense about the main order of business-- endorsing U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar for a second term.
DFL party chair Ken Martin welcomed delegates Saturday morning by urging them to re-elect Klobuchar and President Barack Obama, and to defeat two constitutional amendments that will be on the ballot this fall.
"President Obama has asked all of us if we are in for 2012," Martin said. "I want President Obama to know that we have heard him and his call to action."
The crowd responded with shouts of, "I'm in!"
Martin said DFLers must vote against the two constitutional amendments, one that would require Minnesotans to show identification at the polls before they can vote and another that would define marriage as between a man and a woman.
"Who are we, as a people, to tell two committed, loving same-sex individuals that they cannot marry each other?" Martin said. "What kind of state do we want to leave to our children?"
Groups opposing both amendments have a noticeable presence at the convention, taking down delegate information, and passing out buttons and signs.
Martin also used his opening speech to attack the Minnesota Republican Party, which has been troubled by financial woes and leadership turnover.
The DFL party is united while Republicans are "in disarray," Martin said. The Republican party has been "beset by scandal, riddled with debt, and torn apart at the seams by infighting," he said.
Former President Bill Clinton will headline this year's annual DFL dinner.
"In this critical election year, we are proud to welcome President Clinton as we honor two of the Minnesota DFL Party's greatest leaders - Walter Mondale and Hubert H. Humphrey," said DFL Party Chair Ken Martin in a press release.
The event will be held August 4 at the Minneapolis Convention Center.
The party also announced that the event, previously known as the Hubert H. Humphrey Day Dinner, will now be called the Humphrey-Mondale Dinner to honor former Vice President Walter Mondale.
Posted at 11:35 AM on May 25, 2012
by Catharine Richert
Filed under: Political parties
Citing jurisdictional issues, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi's office said it will not investigate a special fund set up to pay for recount costs associated with Tom Emmer's 2010 gubernatorial campaign.
"Our office is not the appropriate office to act upon your request to undertake a criminal forgery investigation and is presently without jurisdiction to take any action with regard to alleged violations of the state's campaign finance and practice laws," wrote First Assistant Ramsey County Attorney John Kelly in a letter to Common Cause Minnesota, the group that filed the complaint against Count Them All Properly.
The St. Paul Police Department is in charge of investigating forgery crimes. Further, the Ramsey County Attorney cannot investigate alleged violations of unfair campaign practices until a complaint has been filed and disposed of by the Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings, the letter explains.
Count Them All Properly was set up on the advice of the GOP's lawyers in early December 2010 to help former Republican candidate Tom Emmer win the recount, according to former Republican Party of Minnesota Chair Tony Sutton.
Common Cause believes the fund should be investigated for making illegal in-kind contributions to a candidate and a political party and for forgery.
Here's the response from the Ramsey Count Attorney's office:
Posted at 9:44 AM on May 8, 2012
by Catharine Richert
Filed under: Political parties
The Republican Party of Minnesota has escaped eviction from its St. Paul office.
The party and its landlord, HUB Properties Trust, have reached a confidential agreement to keep the GOP in its current location on Park St. near the state Capitol in St. Paul.
The Republican party is $96,000 behind in rent, according to the HUB complaint.
The eviction complaint filed by HUB with the Ramsey County District Court in April will be dismissed and the new rent agreement will be submitted to the court under seal.
The new agreement includes a provision that says if the party again defaults on its rent, a writ of eviction will be issued immediately, HUB attorney Joseph Lawder said in court.
However, Lawder would not provide further details of the deal, such as whether the party will be paying less rent each month.
"I can't get into the terms," Lawder said. "That's why it's confidential."
Lawder said that the decision to make the agreement confidential was negotiated as part of the deal.
"It was just important to both sides," he said.
Later this week, Common Cause Minnesota will ask the Ramsey County Attorney to work with the St. Paul Police Department to investigate Count Them All Properly, Inc, a corporation set up to cover costs associated with the 2010 gubernatorial recount.
On the advice of lawyers for the Republican Party of Minnesota, Count Them All Properly was set up in early December 2010 to help former Republican candidate Tom Emmer win the recount, according to former party Chairman Tony Sutton.
"We believe that there is evidence to begin an investigation of this group for forgery and making an illegal in-kind contribution to a candidate and political party," Common Cause Minnesota director Mike Dean wrote in a letter to Ramsey County Attorney John Choi.
Common Cause's basic argument is that because Count Them All Properly is organized as a business, not a political fund, any recount expenses it paid on behalf of the Republican Party and Tom Emmer for Governor are in-kind contributions, which would be a violation of state law.
The Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board is investigating a similar complaint filed by Common Cause.
Count Them All Properly has been in the news recently, after the Star Tribune reported that two men listed as CEOs of the company never knew they were involved. In its letter, Common Cause points out that providing false information to the Minnesota Secretary of State's office, which registers businesses, is a felony under state law.
Lawyers that helped the party during the recount say that they billed Count Them All Properly, but that Sutton signed a contract legally obligating the party to pay the legal fees.
Here's a copy of Common Cause's letter.
Posted at 8:23 PM on April 30, 2012
by Catharine Richert
Filed under: Political parties
Republican Party of Minnesota Chairman Pat Shortridge says the party has reached an agreement regarding its lease.
"We have reached a confidential agreement with our landlord, HUB Properties, that will allow us to fulfill our obligations to them," Shortridge said in a statement. "HUB will request a continuance of tomorrow's hearing and we expect to have a final agreement in place within a week."
Boston-based Hub Properties filed an eviction notice in Ramsey County District Court earlier this month because the party owes them $96,000 in rent.
A hearing on the matter is scheduled for 8:45 a.m. on May 1.
Late last year, the party disclosed that it was nearly $2 million in debt.
The Minnesota Republican Party has been served eviction papers for its St. Paul office.
Boston-based Hub Properties filed an eviction notice in Ramsey County District Court last week because the party is $96,000 behind in rent.
"Landlord seeks to have Tenant evicted," the court notice said. "Because Tenant is still in possession of the Leased Premises and has failed to pay rent. Landlord further seeks to terminate any right of possession Tenant may claim."
Politics in Minnesota first reported the news about the eviction notice.
Republican Party Chair Pat Shortridge told MPR News that he's disappointed the landlord filed the eviction notice because the party is trying to work out a deal with its creditors. He said he doesn't think the Republican Party will actually be booted from its offices.
"Our landlord took the step of filing some court papers," Shortridge said. "They're certainly within their rights. I don't agree with their decision because I think we've making some progress on figuring this out. We're not going anywhere. We're not going to get evicted. We're not going to have any long-term issues. I think we're going to get this solved."
Shortridge says the news will be a minor problem for fundraising, but he said the party has been slowly erasing its debt.
Shortridge was elected party chair in December after Tony Sutton stepped down after receiving heavy criticism that he wasn't fully disclosing the party's finances (MPR examined the party's spending decisions under Sutton in this story). The party is working with the Federal Election Commission and the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board to ensure that any violations are handled properly.
Shortridge also sent this letter to Republican Party activists last week detailing some of their plans to straighten out the party's finances:
In light of recent press stories, I wanted to give you an update on where we are in the process of straightening out the Party's finances. Here's what we've done:
* First and foremost, we've amended our Federal Election Commission (2011) and Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board reports for 2011 and 2010.
* The Financial Control and Oversight Committee, chaired very, very ably by Jeff Johnson, has looked into many of the questionable transactions from the past and will present a series of recommendations to significantly improve our processes, internal financial controls and oversight.
* We've continued to cut expenses, while continuing the process of restoring trust with our major donors and rebuilding our small dollar donor programs. Fundraising is improving and we're getting things done on a shoestring. You should be VERY proud of the party staff and our many key volunteers for going above and beyond the call to get things done.
* We have negotiated with our creditors so we engage in an orderly process for paying down our debt. In 95% of the cases, that process has gone smoothly. In a couple of cases, it has not gone as well as we'd hoped despite the best efforts of Mike Vekich, Bron Scherer, and me. One in particular that I wanted to tell you about is our negotiation with our landlord.
We have a long and very expensive lease which still has twenty-one (21) months to run. As you know, we have more space than we need and our monthly lease cost is in excess of current, comparable market lease rates. When I was elected on December 31, 2011, the rent had not been paid since August 2011 and as part of our continuing financial issues and our effort to re-negotiate the lease, no lease payments have been made in 2012 to date.
Rather than continue discussions with us, the landlord chose to exercise its rights and filed a notice of eviction in Ramsey County court. We're not going to be evicted, and at the same time, are continuing to negotiate on the back payments as well as on a lease that better fits both our space needs and our budget.
While this is a situation none of us wants, it's part of the rebuilding process. No one ever said it would be simple or easy or without bumps along the way. But I wanted you to hear about it from me rather than from any other source.
* The bottom line: We're in better shape than we were three months ago, but not as good as we'll be three months from now. It's a daily process that requires hard work and common purpose.
Please let me know if you have additional thoughts or questions. I'll see you in St Cloud, if not before.
Pat Shortridge, Chairman
Republican Party of Minnesota
UPDATE: Here's the first four pages of the eviction notice:5 Comments)
First Lady Michelle Obama is scheduled to be in Minnesota on March 16 to raise money for President Obama's presidential campaign. Mrs. Obama is scheduled to hold the fundraiser at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.
Donors are being asked to give between $250 and $10,000 to attend the reception. Donors who give $1,000 will get "preferred viewing." Couples who give $5,000 will get a photo with the First Lady. $10,000 donations will include a "host greet."
Mrs. Obama has been more active on the campaign trail in recent months as it gets closer to the 2012 election. For example, she attended a fundraiser for the Obama campaign in Louisville last week.
The fundraising letter, sent by Lou and Carol Frillman, suggested this may be the only opportunity for donors to see Michelle Obama this election cycle.
"We believe that this is a (sic) excellent opportunity to meet the most loved, admired, and respected First Lady of our time. Will she be back in Minneapolis before November?
Who knows? So why take the chance?"
President Obama last visited Minnesota in August. He held a town hall rally in Cannon Falls to tout his proposal to boost the economy.(1 Comments)
The DFL Party is facing a debt of $581,000. That's about $350,000 more than what DFL Party Chair Ken Martin told reporters late last year.
Martin acknowledged that party's books show a deeper debt than what he disclosed in December. He said his initial figure was aimed at the $750,000 in red ink he's been erasing since he took the top job in February of 2011. Martin said he doesn't consider the additional red ink debt because the party has a plan to pay it off.
"It would be unfair to say the party is $581,000 in debt," Martin said. "Some of that has been paid. Some of that is in the process of being paid. The stuff that's old debt, that's been on the books for many years, is about $250,000."
Martin said a large part of the debt comes from legal fees for redistricting work. For example, the party owes the Washington D.C. based Perkins Cole law firm $110,000. Martin said they plan to pay that legal bill quickly.
The DFL Party is paying its attorneys through the party's campaign account.
Republicans set up a separate fund to pay for their redistricting efforts. Officials representing the group called Minnesotans for a Fair Redistricting say they will not disclose their bills or fundraising activity.
Minnesota Republican Party officials said in December that the GOP has a debt that could be as high as $2 million.
The Republican Party of Minnesota announced today that Florida Congressman Allen West will headline the party's annual Lincoln Reagan dinner in March.
Republican Party Chair Pat Shortridge praised West as a "great American" who works to control government spending.
"His commitment to our conservative principles and dedication to getting to work in Washington, not to mention his distinguished military service, have earned him the admiration and respect of Republicans throughout our country. We are pleased to announce that Congressman West will join us in March to speak at our annual Lincoln Reagan Dinner, and we are anxious to hear from him,"
West has been a controversial figure who is beloved by Tea Party members but is criticized by Democrats. He said last year that Rep. Keith Ellison, DFL-MN, represents the "antithesis of the principles upon which this country was established." He also called Islam a "totalitarian political ideology." Ellison, who is a Muslim, issued a statement after the criticism calling for a more "respectful and productive dialogue."
The annual Lincoln Reagan Dinner is a key fundraising event for the Republican Party. It typically features high profile Republicans.
The Minnesota Campaign Finance Board has dismissed a complaint against state Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville. The DFL Party filed the complaint after MPR News reported that Thompson received $78,000 in consulting fees since 2009 from the Republican Party of Minnesota. Democrats said Thompson should have disclosed the income to the finance board.
But the board said it won't investigate the complaint. In a letter, Gary Goldsmith, executive director of the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board, wrote that Thompson didn't have to disclose the funds because he wasn't "an employee" of the party.
"The Board has recognized that self-employed individuals operating as sole proprietors do not typically have one of the statutorily required relationships with their clients. In view of that recognition, the Statement of Economic Interest form provided by the Board indicates that disclosure of independent contractor income is not required."
Thompson issued a statement praising the decision.
"I complied with all disclosure requirements. Therefore, I am not surprised by the Board's decision. Still, it is gratifying to see a clear statement from Mr. Goldsmith concluding that the Complaint does not even provide a basis for an investigation."
DFL Party Chair Ken Martin issued a statement saying Thompson used a "legal loophole" to avoid disclosure.
"Today's ruling by the Campaign Finance Board draws attention to a legal loophole that has allowed elected leaders like Senator Thompson to sidestep disclosure requirements that are there to make campaigns and government more transparent. This loophole needs to be closed immediately."
Martin said he wanted to see the Legislature change the law to require lawmakers to disclose all income. Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, said today that he would push for such a measure.
Here's the letter from the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board:2 Comments)
Minnesota DFL Party Chair Ken Martin has filed a complaint with the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board against Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, for failing to disclose money he received from the state Republican Party.
MPR News reported last week that the Republican Party paid Thompson $70,000 over the last two years. Martin said Thompson should have disclosed the income, which is required by law. He also said he finds it questionable that the Republican Party paid Thompson while he was running for office.
"I don't think political parties should be putting candidates for office on their payroll," Martin said. "I don't know what the illegalities of that are but clearly I think there are some ethical questions that need to be answered there."
The Republican Party of Minnesota started paying Thompson before he announced he was running for the Senate.
Thompson said today he was reviewing the complaint, but told MPR News last week that he was paid to do media consulting and write opinion pieces for the party. He said he did not view it as a conflict of interest.
Update: Thompson released this statement:
"On Monday, January 23, 2012 Chairman Ken Martin filed a complaint against me with the Campaign finance and Public Disclosure Board, alleging failure to properly disclose income earned from The Republican Party of Minnesota.
"I started work as an independent contractor on October 1, 2009. Of course the fees paid to me were fully disclosed by the Party as required by law, and therefore were public knowledge. However, independent contractor income is not to be disclosed by candidates. The form specifically states, 'do not include payments for services as an independent contractor, social security payments, unemployment compensation, workers' compensation, pension benefits, income from rental property, or insurance benefits.'"
Senate staff say non-partisan Senate Counsel confirmed for Senator Thompson that payment for independent contractor services was not to be disclosed.
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.
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.
Posted at 1:34 PM on January 9, 2012
by Tim Pugmire
Filed under: Political parties
The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board has agreed to investigate the Republican Party of Minnesota for alleged campaign finance violations.
The watchdog group Common Cause Minnesota filed a complaint last week alleging that the state party had circumvented disclosure laws by failing to reveal its role in management of a fund aimed at financing the 2010 recount in the
Common Cause issued a news release today announcing the investigation, which is expected to take several months.
"Common Cause is calling on the Republican Party of Minnesota to release all the documents related to the investigation," said Mike Dean, Executive Director of Common Cause Minnesota. "The Republican Party of Minnesota has broken the trust of party activists and the public by hiding hundreds of thousands of dollars in spending. Now is the time to be open and honest about its party finances."
Dean said the party could face a fine of up to $1.1 million.
By Tim Pugmire
St. Paul, Minn. — U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann's decision to end her presidential campaign means yet another prominent Minnesota Republican could be moving off the political stage.
Unless Bachmann decides to run for a fourth term or seek a statewide office, the Republican Party of Minnesota faces the prospect of having few recognizable political personalities in an important election year.
Bachmann has yet to announce her plans for the future. In announcing the end of her campaign, she said it was time to stand aside in the presidential contest.
But she made it clear that she wouldn't disappear all together or end her fight for key conservative issues. Bachmann also suggested that the next move was not entirely hers to make.
"I look forward to the next chapter in God's plan," she said. "He has one for each of us you know."
One obvious option for Bachmann is to run for re-election. She still has time to decide as Republicans in Minnesota's 6th Congressional District don't meet until mid-April to endorse a candidate. David FitzSimmons, the district's GOP chairman, called Bachmann a strong, national voice for the party and said he will soon urge her to run again.
"I fully intend that she'll get back to her congressional campaign, and I fully support her in that," FitzSimmons said. "I think she has a broad base of support amongst Republicans in the 6th District."
But Bachmann could also be the latest in a series of Republicans to leave the political limelight. Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who abandoned his quest for the Republican presidential nomination, has largely been silent in recent months.
The state GOP also has seen its image damaged from within. In December, Party Chairman Tony Sutton resigned, leaving behind a financial mess. A recent scandal forced state Sen. Amy Koch to resign as majority leader following her admission of an "inappropriate relationship" with a male staffer. Meanwhile, former U.S. Senator Norm Coleman, once a heavyweight, has largely disappeared from public view.
So far, no prominent Republican has emerged as a candidate in this year's U.S. Senate race to challenge Democrat Amy Klobuchar.
Nevertheless, FitzSimmons is convinced the party has plenty of political stars. Among then, he said, are newly elected Chairman Pat Shortridge, House Speaker Kurt Zellers, House Majority Leader Matt Dean and the four GOP members of Congress.
"You know, Michele Bachmann obviously, and John Kline, Erik Paulsen, Chip Cravaack are a great team in Congress," FitzSimmons said. "You also have our state leadership. So, with Sen. [Dave] Senjem and Kurt Zellers and Matt Dean, I think you have a great legislative team."
But none of those lawmakers represents the whole state, and many Minnesotans might be hard pressed to recognize them.
Still, local races are a key part of the strategy this year. All 201 legislative seats are up for grabs in November, and Republicans in the Legislature want to hold on to the House and Senate majorities that they won in 2010.
Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem of Rochester, who replaced Koch last week, said he thinks legislative candidates will be the faces voters see when they think of Republicans. Senjem conceded that he too is now a face of the party.
"You know, I've never thought of that. But yeah, probably in a way the speaker and myself do represent the face of the party going into the election," Senjem said. "And certainly we're going to bring Pat Shortridge along, the chair of the GOP. But, I think collectively we'll work well together. I've worked with Pat before, and we'll work well together."
Senjem said he's working hard to move the party and his caucus past recent, high-profile missteps.
But some political observers see a Republican vacuum that could linger through the election. Larry Jacobs, a professor of political science at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs, said the state GOP could be a faint whisper during this year's campaign.
"I think there's probably going to be more pressure on the party, not only to rebuild financially, but to pick up its game in terms of recruiting top caliber candidates," Jacobs said. "It went from an embarrassment of riches three or four years ago, with Tim Pawlenty and a number of other bright young faces in the Republican Party, to a point now where the bench is a little bit empty."
Jacobs said Minnesota Republicans had one of the nation's most ambitious and successful state parties just a few years ago. He said party leaders are now under pressure to regroup and recover from what he called their recent losing streak.
By Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio
Two government watchdog groups are calling on state and federal regulators to fine the Minnesota Republican Party for violating campaign finance laws.
Republican Party officials had hoped that their financial problems would be put to rest once they disclosed their troubled finances last week. That disclosure prompted more questioning from a government watchdog group that already won legal victories against the party.
Last week, Republican Party officials announced that the state party was $2 million in debt. Party officials also acknowledged they failed to disclose $415 thousand in past debts. The complaints come just a few months after the Republican Party admitted to a similar violation in 2007.
"We seem to be seeing a repeat of the same kind of problems with the Republican Party's finances," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington D.C.
That organization settled a complaint with the Republican Party of Minnesota in August. The complaint centered on the party's failure to report debt $100,000 in 2006. Sloan said she will file another complaint with the FEC asking the elections commission to fine the state party again. She said the Republican Party clearly violated a pledge they made just a few months ago to not engage in the same wrongdoing.
"It's a black and white issue," Sloan said. "The FEC will have no question but that the Minnesota GOP has violated the conciliation agreement. The only question is what exactly will the FEC do about it and how seriously will they take it."
Republicans also have problems at the state level. Mike Dean with Common Cause Minnesota says he filed a complaint to the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board on Thursday asking them to look into several alleged campaign finance violations. Dean said the Republican Party of Minnesota conspired to circumvent the state's disclosure laws. He said the party didn't disclose that they were helping manage a fund aimed to finance the 2010 recount.
Republicans created a separate fund called Count Them All Properly to pay for the recount. But Dean said the fund was created a month after the recount had begun. Dean suggested the *state* Campaign Finance Board conduct a full audit of the party's financial records.
"It's clear that the Republican Party of Minnesota has been engaged in Enron accounting standards in how it's managed its books, because what they were trying to do is keep things off the book to hide it from the public and that's clearly illegal in this case," Dean said.
Dean's complaint also alleges the party filed false statements and that former Party Chair Tony Sutton failed to get approval from the party treasurer to pay for some bills. Sutton abruptly resigned last month after party officials raised concerns about the party's books. The party's Secretary/Treasurer David Sturrock wrote in his resignation letter last week that party leaders didn't consult with him about the party's financial obligations.
Newly-elected Party Chair Pat Shortridge was unavailable to comment about the complaints. But RNC Committeeman Jeff Johnson said at last week's State Central Committee meeting that the party could face additional fines.
"We don't know what those fines might be if there are fines. We are working with the FEC. We have engaged in an attorney who knows the FEC well and he has been in the process of contacting them and asking them how they want us to handle it," Shortridge said. "The hope is that because we're coming to them it might be a little less unfavorable than it otherwise would have been."
Bill Cooper hasn't been shy about his political beliefs. The CEO of TCF Bank has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican causes. He's the former chair of the Minnesota Republican Party and has helped finance the conservative Taxpayers League of Minnesota and The Freedom Club.
But now, Cooper isn't as excited about giving to Republican causes.
"I've become more and more disgusted with the process," Cooper told MPR News.
His comments are bit jaw-dropping considering Cooper gave more $700,000 to the MNGOP, the Republican National Committee and other state Republican parties between 1994 and 2006. Some of those checks were for $100,000 or $200,000 a pop. But campaign finance records show that while Cooper still donates to individual candidates, he hasn't given to a political party since 2006, .
"The whole process bothers me," Cooper said. "We can't balance the budget here in Minnesota. Even though the (state) constitution requires it, we don't do it. We can't balance the budget in Washington. Both Democrats and Republicans. I'm frankly fed up with the whole process. I'm probably more of a libertarian than a Republican these days."
Cooper still gives to GOP candidates, however. He's given nearly $10,000 to GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann and her leadership Political Action Committee in 2011 and $5,000 to former MN Gov. Tim Pawlenty's federal PAC. Cooper's bank, TCF Bank, was a major donor in the 2010 cycle. TCF Bank gave $250,000 to The State Fund for Economic Growth. That committee donated the money to MN Forward, which worked to get Republican Tom Emmer elected governor, and the conservative Taxpayers League of Minnesota.
Cooper has also donated to Democrats over the past few years. He gave $1,000 to DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar in 2009, $1,000 to Sen. Tim Johnson, D-SD, in 2010 and $500 to Sen. Jon Tester, D-MT, in 2011.
MPR News first contacted Cooper to discuss the Republican Party of Minnesota's finance problems. He said he didn't know enough to discuss the situation, but speaking as a former party chair who inherited a debt back in the 1990s, Cooper said it's harder to raise money to pay off loans than to support candidates.(4 Comments)
Republican delegates elected political consultant Pat Shortridge as the next party chair of the Minnesota Republican Party. Shortridge won on the first ballot, receiving 66 percent of the vote. He defeated Second Congressional District Chair Terry McCall and businessman Todd McIntyre.
Shortridge will have some heavy lifting to do. He'll be expected to eliminate a party debt that could be as high as $2 million at a time when lower level contributions are down. Republicans are also heading into the 2012 election without a top tier U.S. Senate candidate to challenge DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
During his speech to delegates, Shortridge said he's optimistic the party will reverse its recent shortcomings.
"We have some management and structural and organizational issues that we can fix and fix them we will," Shortridge said. "Starting this afternoon and for the next ten months and the next ten years so we grow this party to be the long-term governing majority in Minnesota."
Shortridge has not specifically addressed how he would fix the party's debt. He said, however, that he would focus on identifying key Republican voters, improve the party's message and improve party research for candidates.
"We have to get back to the blocking and tackling that make us so successful and lets our guys win at the polls," Shortridge said.
Shortridge also said his top priorities are protecting Republican control of the Minnesota Legislature and protecting the four Republican incumbents in the U.S. House.
Minnesota Republican Party leaders are urging party unity today as they face a frustrated group of party activists who are wondering how the party ended up with a debt of nearly $2 million.
Roughly 350 GOP delegates are attending the State Central Committee meeting in St. Cloud this morning. They are scheduled to elect a new party chair but it comes as party officials are disclosing that the party's finances are much worse than previously reported.
"I know we have a trust issue," RNC Committeeman Jeff Johnson told the delegates. He said the party is working to disclose everything to ensure greater accountability.
"Even though that might not be politically smart, we decided we had to do that," Johnson said.
Johnson and Mike Vekich, an accountant who voluntarily did a financial review of the party's finances, discussed the party's debt to the delegates. They released the information on Friday with the hopes of giving delegates enough information to digest the information.
They say the party is roughly $1.9 million in debt. It includes $415 thousand in unreported debts, $717 in legal fees from the 2010 gubernatorial recount, $120 thousand in remaining FEC fines and $430 in previously reported debt.
Party leaders say they don't believe they're obligated to pay the legal fees from the recount but say "it's under legal review."
Members of the party's executive committee ramped up a review of the party's finances this month after Tony Sutton abruptly resigned earlier this month. Sutton hasn't returned calls to discuss the party's finances but issued a statement saying 2010 was a hard fought election in a difficult fundraising environment.
He has reportedly signed a letter obligating the party to pay the legal bills from the 2010 recount but party officials dispute that.
Vekich announced that the legal fees are $330 thousand to Trimble and Associates, $212 thousand to Briggs and Morgan and $175 thousand to Brian Cave and Associates.
Some delegates said they wanted greater detail.
"Where are the receipts? Where are the vouchers?," Bloomington delegate Jim Taylor asked party leaders. "I want to examine it now. I want to see it all. And can the other past chairs be held personally liable?"
Party leaders didn't say if they'll sue former leaders over the party's finances. They also said they are working with the Federal Election Commission with the hopes that the fines are not as severe because they're being open and honest.
"The hope is if we're coming to them that it would be a little bit more favorable," Johnson said.
Other delegates expressed frustration that the party's debt could be worse.
"Are all of the unknowns known?" Spring Lake Park resident Brian Senn asked.
Vekich said he believed they know all of the party's debts.
"There may be some unknowns but I believe the bulk of what is known is known," Vekich quipped.
Vekich also said they are working to see whether the party is responsible for any payments to a corporation created to host the Midwest Leadership Conference. Acting Chair Kelly Fenton also said she has written documentation that the party isn't responsible for any legal bills related to redistricting which was set up as a corporation as well.
Several delegates also questioned why a complete financial audit was not done on the party's books.
"We're going to have to find some money to do that," Johnson said about doing an audit. "It won't be cheap."
Johnson said, however, that they may do a spot check of any questionable receipts that have already been reported.
Acting Chair Kelly Fenton started the meeting by urging the delegates to come together as they head into 2012. It's a critical election year since the race for President, a U.S. Senate race, all eight congressional races and every legislative seat is on the ballot.
Fenton, who was elected Deputy Chair earlier this month, was forced to become Acting Chair when Sutton stepped down.
Fenton warned that the party has to do things differently in light of the party's difficult finances.
"We can't be all things to all people," Fenton said. She said the party needs to work better with grassroots activists and groups.
Acting MNGOP Chair Kelly Fenton announced tonight that Secretary-Treasurer David Sturrock resigned his position today. Sturrock's role in the party has been heavily scrutinized over the past month as criticism mounted over the party's debt.
There was heavy speculation among GOP delegates that they may try to remove Sturrock from his position as tomorrow's State Central Committee meeting. In his resignation letter (below) Sturrock says he wasn't informed on some key financial decisions that were made over the past two years.
Delegates are scheduled to elect a new chair at tomorrow's meeting. Tony Sutton abruptly resigned as party chair earlier this month.
Sturrock's resignation means there is a completely different slate of party officials at the MNGOP heading into 2012.
Deputy Chair Michael Brodkorb resigned in October (Fenton replaced Brodkorb). RNC Committeeman Brian Sullivan and RNC Committeewoman Evie Axdhal announced last January that they were resigning their positions as RNC Committeeman and RNC Committeewoman. (Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson replaced Sullivan and former State Auditor Pat Anderson replaced Axdahl.)
Here's Sturrock's resignation letter:
I am writing to inform you I will be resigning as Secretary-Treasurer of the Republican Party of Minnesota, effective upon the selection of my successor or January 19th, whichever occurs first.(1 Comments)
The first and biggest job facing our new Chairman and Deputy Chair is to regain the confidence of activists, donors and voters in our ability to manage party finances. To that end I can offer continuity, experience and institutional memory, but our constituencies will be more interested in clear signs of rebuilding and renewal. A new Secretary-Treasurer will send a powerful message that such change is underway.
Given the work we face the party would do well to have a Secretary-Treasurer who can be present at key meetings, especially those called on short notice. This is a tall order when one lives 160 miles from RPM headquarters. Also, we would benefit from having someone with significant financial management experience. My departure will create the opportunity for such new leaders to emerge.
If future Secretary-Treasurers are to be meaningful assets to the Republican Party they will need to be informed more fully, and consulted more frequently, than has the been case over the past few administrations. In particular, they need to know when the party is entering into major financial commitments. For example, I was neither consulted nor informed about the attorney's regarding 2010 recount costs. Also, the unreported obligations identified by the current financial review were not known to me. If this resignation ensures that future Secretary-Treasurers receive the access and authority their position merits, then my departure will be a sacrifice happily borne.
A final thought: Never forget you are leaders in the Republican Party. Among other things, leadership means respect, courtesy, and self-restraint. Before you fire off a barbed e-mail or Facebook post, send a snarky tweet, leak a wild, unconfirmed rumor to the press, or phone in your fury to a late-night radio show, ask yourself: "Will this help build my party? Will it advance the conservative agenda?" If the answers are no, stop there. If it feels good, don't do it.
Thank you for the honor of serving as your Secretary-Treasurer. I am grateful for the chance to be part of our many recent accomplishments. Rest assured I will always be ready to answer the bell and help elect Republicans who will bring strong, principled conservative leadership to a state and country which deeply need them.
David E. Sturrock
One of the members of the Republican Party of Minnesota's executive committee says he's going to push for a compete audit of the party's finances. Party leaders announced today that the MNGOP could be facing a debt of nearly $2 million. They were careful, however, to say that it was a financial review of the party's books and not an audit to see whether payments were appropriate.
Rick Weible, who sits on the 14 member executive committee, says he wants an audit done to ensure that donations to the party were appropriately spent.
"I don't have a warm and fuzzy feeling that everything is on the up and up," Weible told MPR News. "I can be completely in the wrong here but I'm not comfortable because a review has not been completed that gives me at least a comfortable feeling."
Weible also said he confronted MNGOP Treasurer/Secretary David Sturrock about the party's finances earlier this week. He said Sturrock told the executive committee that he didn't know the true extent of the debt because he didn't have all of the party's financial information.
"He basically stated that the invoices were hidden from him, he didn't review them and he didn't review bank statements," Weible said. "He then threw out a weak argument that distance was an issue."
Weible's comments were confirmed by other members of the executive committee. Sturrock, who lives in Marshall, did not return calls to MPR News. (Update: Sturrock resigned after this post was written).
Party leaders say they'll wait to see what the delegates and the new party chair want to do before considering a full audit.
Delegates are scheduled to elect a new chair tomorrow in St. Cloud. The three candidates for chair, Pat Shortridge, Terry McCall and Todd McIntyre did not return calls to MPR News to discuss the party's finances.(1 Comments)
There has been a lot of attention given to the finances of the Republican Party. It should be noted, however, that the DFL Party is also facing a debt.
DFL Party Chair Ken Martin said the party has a debt of roughly $210 thousand heading into 2012. Martin said the party had a debt of $750 thousand at the start of 2011.(6 Comments)
Former Minnesota Republican Party Chair Tony Sutton, who abruptly resigned his position earlier this month, issued a statement on his Facebook page defending the party's finances during his time in charge.
Sutton's statement came a few hours after members of the party's executive committee said the Minnesota GOP is nearly $2 million in debt.
Here's Sutton's statement:
"The Party's debt situation is a reflection of a hard fought election combined with a difficult small dollar fundraising environment. The legislative majorities won in 2010 were worth it and the people of this state are better off for those GOP majorities. I am confident that the Party will overcome its debt and have a successful 2012 election cycle."
Note: Sutton did not return a call today to discuss the party's finances.
Update: Sutton sent me an e-mail that included his statement. He also said he won't provide additional comment.(3 Comments)
The Republican Party of Minnesota is heading into 2012 facing a debt of nearly $2 million, although they say they're contesting more than $700 thousand in legal bills that make up part of that total.
Party leaders released an internal financial review today that shows the debt is much worse than previously reported. It includes $415 thousand in payments from the last three years that had not been reported and a $120 thousand fine from the Federal Election Commission. Republican National Committeeman Jeff Johnson says party officials wanted to get the full story out.
"The debt number is honestly higher than anyone wants it to be," Johnson said. "There is some ugly stuff in here. And Kelly (Fenton) and Mike (Vekich) both agreed strongly with this that we decided we were going to disclose everything that we owed, ugly or not ugly."
Former party chair Tony Sutton abruptly resigned last month. Republican Party members meet tomorrow to discuss the party's finances and to elect a new chair.
Listen to the full news conference here: Listen
Here's an e-mail Minnesota Republican Party officials sent out in advance of a press conference this morning.
Friday, December 30, 2011
TO: Republican Party of Minnesota State Central Delegates and Alternates
FR: Kelly Fenton, Acting RPM Chair, Jeff Johnson, Republican National
RE: Internal Financial Review
As most of you know, the Executive Committee of the Minnesota Republican Party appointed an Internal Financial Review Committee at its October 2011 meeting to perform an internal review of the financial records of the Party. Jeff Johnson serves as chairman of that committee and its members are Pat Anderson, Scott Dutcher, Diane Johnson, Terry McCall and Steve Perkins. The Memorandum of Understanding regarding the role of this committee is attached.
A short time after Kelly Fenton's election as Deputy Chair of the Party, she asked Republican businessman Mike Vekich to step in and help the Review Committee in its task. Mike agreed to provide his services to the Party on a volunteer basis and he and his team have been actively reviewing the Party's finances for the past two weeks. This financial review did not constitute a certified "audit."
Prior to tomorrow's State Central Committee meeting in St. Cloud, we wanted to make this information available to Party activists so you have the opportunity to review it in advance of our gathering. Mike and Jeff will make a presentation at State Central about these findings and you have our commitment that we will continue to work with our activists in an open and transparent manner as we raise money to resolve these obligations and put the Party in a position to play an important role in the 2012 elections.
Here is a summary of the RPM financial situation:
Previously reported obligations
Obligations previously unreported on RPM financial statements
Obligations recorded as completed, where checks had not been sent to vendors
Refunds sent to contributors that have not been cashed by contributors
Remaining obligation - FEC fine - Aug. 2011
Unreconciled credit card debt
Bank - line of credit
Bank - installment note
TOTAL OBLIGATIONS AS OF 12/30/11
Some of the payables from the total above have not been previously reported on Party financial statements. We became aware of them through the team's work over the past two weeks. We are attaching the vendor list of payables in order to be completely transparent about what is owed to whom.
In addition to the amounts above, there are two major considerations that must be acknowledged. First, several law firms did considerable work in late 2010 on the Emmer-Dayton recount. These law firms claim they are owed approximately $719,000. The Party's position has been that those obligations belong to a separate corporation set up in 2010 to fund the recount. At least some of the law firms are claiming the obligations belong to the Party. We are not acknowledging these bills as Party obligations, but are reviewing the claims with attorneys.
The other consideration is a request from the receiver in the Tom Petters receivership to recover funds contributed by Petters to the RPM in the amount of $75,000. Again, we are not acknowledging that as a Party obligation at this point pending legal review.
Both of these sets of claims will be discussed more fully at the State Central Committee meeting tomorrow. In addition, the obligations outlined here will be disclosed on the appropriate Federal Election Commission reports, in consultation with the FEC.
We have also attached a copy of the FEC document explaining the $170,000 fine assessed against the RPM earlier this year (that fine has been paid down to $120,000). This is public information available online, but since some activists have been asking about the details we wanted to make it simple for you to find.
While these numbers are large, we believe it is important to provide a complete and fair accounting to everyone involved in the Republican Party of Minnesota so we can look squarely at the problem and begin to resolve it. The RPM is not the first political organization to be in debt and it won't be the last, but we will do everything in our power to improve our Party's standing.
It's also important to note that this financial review is only Step One in a multi-step process. Before we can decide how to work our way out of debt, we need to have a clear understanding of the magnitude of that debt. Now that we have that understanding, we can move on to putting together such a plan.
We know that all of us are resolved to work together to build a stronger and more responsive party. The extremely important 2012 elections are just over 11 months away. Control of the White House and our state legislature rests in our hands. We are hopeful you will pledge to work with us and our new Chair to grow our Party. Thank you for your support and your willingness to work for the important principles we all share.
Posted at 1:45 PM on December 20, 2011
by Tim Pugmire
Filed under: Political parties
Republican Party of Minnesota Acting Chairwoman Kelly Fenton says she has not decided whether to run for party chair, but she's keeping the door open.
GOP delegates elected Fenton as deputy chair earlier this month, and she's been serving as acting chairwoman to fill the void left by the resignation of Tony Sutton. Delegates will chose a replacement Dec. 31, in St. Cloud.
Fenton said she's being asked to run every day. Earlier this week, an anonymous group of supporters launched a "Draft Kelly Fenton" campaign. Fenton told MPR News that the group's effort could possibly influence her decision.
"I'm really honored that they see me as being a good leader," Fenton said. "If it's the people's will and they really want me to step up, I would seriously consider it."
Posted at 12:36 PM on December 20, 2011
by Tim Pugmire
Filed under: Political parties
Former state Rep. Mike Osskopp announced today that he is no longer running for state chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota.
Osskopp told MPR News that he decided to drop out after Pat Shortridge formally announced his candidacy for party chair. Osskopp, who entered the race late last week, said he will now support Shortridge in the election, which is scheduled for Dec. 31 in St. Cloud.
"I've always thought that he was a good man for this job," Osskopp said. "Now that he's in the race, I'm going to step aside and help Pat in any way I can."
Todd McIntyre is also running for party chair.
Less than a week after declaring his candidacy for the Republican Party of Minnesota's top spot, Starkey Laboratories Senior Vice President Brandon Sawalich has dropped his bid.
"I am grateful for the opportunity to have met and spoken with many wonderful people during my candidacy for Chair," he said in a statement.
"The time and dedication you put forth from the ground up is immeasurable and cannot afford distractions for the uphill battle our party has in store," he said.
"It is for that reason I am respectfully withdrawing my name from this process. Our party must continue the path to unity and become one that is inclusive not exclusive. I intend to fully support the endorsed candidate for Chair and will continue to work hard to get republicans elected in 2012."
Sawalich was arrested on Dec. 15 by the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport police for expired license plate tabs.The police thought Sawalich's tabs had been expired for a year and a half, which is a gross misdemeanor offense.
But due to a clerical error, the police were wrong; Sawalich's plates had only been expired since June, 2011. He'll now only have to pay a ticket.
Sawalich may have replaced former chair Tony Sutton, who resigned earlier this month.
Meanwhile, Sawalich's statement hints at a separate crisis playing out this week within the state's top Republican leadership. Late Thursday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch stepped down from her post and said she would not seek reelection. She has been accused of an inappropriate relationship with a Senate staff member.
Metropolitan Airport officials say police were acting on mistaken information when they arrested a business executive who is a top contender to be the new chair of the Minnesota Republican Party.
Airport police arrested Brandon Sawalich yesterday when he returned from a business trip for suspicion of trying to avoid paying the motor vehicle tax, which is a gross misdemeanor. Metropolitan Airports spokesman Patrick Hogan says a clerical error led officers to suspect the tabs had been expired for a year and a half, not for six months. He says Sawalich will be issued a ticket and that police will not pursue the gross misdemeanor charge. He says police did not overreact.
"They went on what they believed to be true. They believed at the time that there was enough evidence that there was an intent to avoid paying motor vehicle taxes to make the arrest. But after that happened we had a chance to look into it further and were able to clear up some of the discrepancies. "
The Minneapolis-St. Paul airport police arrested Brandon Sawalich last night for expired license plate tabs. The arrest data report said Sawalich was arrested for "Intent to Escape MV Tax, SS 168.35"
It isn't clear exactly why Sawalich was arrested for having expired tabs, but it's a gross misdemeanor offense. The police report has not been made available yet.
"I was placed under arrest for expired tabs," said Sawalich. "I was in disbelief and dumbfounded."
He said his assistant was driving his truck to pick him up when police stopped her. They waited for him to arrive and arrested him because the tabs were so far out of date. He said his truck had been in storage, and that's why the tabs had expired.
He says he's reconsidering his run for state party chair because he doesn't want his arrest to be a distraction.
Sawalich has been considered the leading candidate to replace Tony Sutton as chair of the Minnesota Republican Party. He was picking up significant endorsements from key Republicans including House Speaker Kurt Zellers, former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert and others.
He said he's re-evaluating his run for chair.
"I don't want this to be a distraction," he said.
Here's the initial Public Arrest Data from the Airport Police Department:6 Comments)
The Republican Party of Minnesota has turned to businessman and accountant Mike Vekich to help clean up its financial problems.
The party's acting chairwoman Kelly Fenton announced today that Vekich, who is CEO of Vekich Associates, will provide voluntary assistance until Dec. 31. That's when the party's state central committee is scheduled to elect a new chair.
In a news release, Fenton said Vekich may enlist others in his evaluation of party finances, if necessary.
"Mike is a turnaround expert who has guided a number of organizations through difficult transitions," Fenton said. "We're looking to him to provide immediate advice on the financial, organizational structure, political and public relations operations in light of the Party's debt problem and the recent leadership change."
Vekich previously served as chair of the Board of Trustees of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. Gov. Tim Pawlenty hired Vekich as acting director of the Minnesota State Lottery and appointed him to chair Minnesota's 21st Century Tax Reform Commission.
The news release added that Vekich will not run for party chair on Dec. 31.
The Minnesota DFL has announced the hiring of an executive Director and an outreach director.
A news release today said Corey Day will be the party's executive director. He recently served as a partner at Strategic Field Concepts, where he designed campaigns focused on grassroots organizing. Day served as a Director on the Obama for America campaign in Florida and was the Minnesota statewide field director in 2004 for the Kerry for President campaign. As executive director, Day will help the DFL develop its Coordinated Campaign for president, U.S. Senate and Minnesota Legislature.
Mona Langston will join the DFL as outreach director. Langston previously worked for the Housing Preservation Project. She was also a campaign coordinator for SEIU and served as a field organizer for the Dean for America Presidential campaign.
DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin said he was thrilled to hire Day and Langston.
"2012 is a critical year for our state and country and the DFL will play an important role in re-electing President Obama, Senator Klobuchar and winning back the majorities in our State Legislature," Martin said. "Corey offers a wealth of experience managing campaigns, building coalitions, grassroots organizing. His knowledge of Minnesota politics will help build our Party's 2012 campaign. Mona has been a strong community organizer her whole career and we look forward to using her insight and experience to develop and strengthen our Party's relations with the community. She understands the issues facing underrepresented communities and this will allow our Party to reach out, understand the issues facing local communities, educate them on the values of the DFL and help elect leaders who will fight to address the inequality and economic gaps."
Some prominent Minnesota Republicans announced today that they'll work to defeat a constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage.
Members of the Log Cabin Republicans and Republicans Against the Minnesota Marriage Amendment joined forces with Minnesotans United for All Families. During a news conference, former gubernatorial candidate and long-time Republican advisor Wheelock Whitney said he was donating $10,000 to the cause and urging his friends to do the same.
"There's nothing, absolutely nothing in my Republican value system that supports marriage bans in our constitution," Whitney said. "So, I strongly oppose this amendment as a lifelong Republican."
Whitney was joined by Dale Carpenter, Susan Kimberly Rep. John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove, and Richard Painter.
Republican Party of Minnesota Chairman Tony Sutton says the party platform strongly supports the amendment. He downplayed the group's opposition.
"Not every Republican is going to agree with every plank in the platform," Sutton said. "However, we're going to vigorously support our platform and our position."
Sutton would not say if the party will provide financial support to the pro-amendment effort.
Republicans gathering next week in Bloomington for the Midwest Leadership Conference will get a chance to vote for their favorite presidential candidate.
Organizers announced today that they will conduct a straw poll during the closing reception of the event, Saturday, Oct. 8. The winner will be announced that evening. The conference begins on Oct. 7. In a news release, Republican Party of Minnesota Chairman Tony Sutton said the poll will provide another in a series of opportunities to measure the relative strength of GOP presidential candidates.
"The road to the White House goes through the Midwest," Sutton said. "The 12 states that make up the Midwest region include several swing states, Minnesota among them, that will play a pivotal role in the 2012 presidential election. Consequently, the Midwest region will have a significant say in who the Republican candidate is that makes President Obama a one-term president."
The conference will include attendees from Ohio, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota. Scheduled speakers include Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, commentator Michael Reagan, and political advisor Karl Rove.
Republican Party of Minnesota Chairman Tony Sutton said he has no intention of endorsing a GOP presidential candidate before there's a presumptive nominee.
Sutton's pledge of neutrality made a lot of sense when there were two Minnesotans -- Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and former Gov. Tim Pawlenty -- in the crowded GOP field. Now, Bachmann is the only Minnesotan still running. But Sutton said he will remain neutral, for now.
"I choose to be neutral because I think since I administer the delegate selection process in Minnesota, I think it's important to remain above the fray," Sutton said.
Party bylaws allow a state chair to offer early support to a presidential candidate. Sutton's predecessor, Ron Carey, announced in January 2008 that he would lead the Minnesota campaign for former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. Some Republicans were upset with Carey at the time. Sutton, who supported Mitt Romney four years ago, said he has more important things to do than create a similar drama.
Sutton said he thinks Republicans have many strong candidates running for president.
"If I were to have a personal favorite it would probably be Michele Bachman simply because I know her, I know she's strong and she's from Minnesota," Sutton said. "I have to admit I'm a homer."(1 Comments)
The Independence Party of Minnesota will not formally back a U.S. candidate in 2012, and will instead focus its efforts on a handful of legislative candidates.
Party Chairman Mark Jenkins said he cannot prohibit someone from running under the IP banner, but he said the party has no plans to recruit, endorse or provide financial support to a candidate. Jenkins said he thinks the Independence Party is poised to win some legislative seats for the first time, and that's his priority as chairman. He said the party doesn't have the resources right now to also run a U.S. Senate candidate.
"My hope is that in 2014 then maybe we have the resources to support both a statewide governors race and a slew of state legislative races," Jenkins said. "But I mean it's no secret that there are some areas of the state where we're a little thin, and we need to built that up. I want that to be our focus."
Incumbent Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar is running for a second term next year. So far, two Republican challengers have stepped forward.
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.(1 Comments)
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."