Jeff Larson used RNC piggy bank to pay friends

Did use of charitable donations violate federal election law?

When asked to clarify a few more details, Larson declined. "I have spent far too much time on your request already," he says.

"Bottom line is the host committee raised private dollars to put on the convention," says Larson. "No public dollars were used. We raised dollars to relieve taxpayers of paying for services including promoting the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. We had a great convention from all accounts."

Vallante, the committee's chief of staff, also blames the FEC for not allowing the committee to close out.

"We had hoped, literally, in 2009 we'd be able to close the thing out," Vallante says. "We repeatedly asked them, 'Can we close? Can we close?'"

Asked why the committee's terminations were rejected, Vallante laughs. "I wish I knew," he says.

FEC spokesperson Julia Queen says the answer is simple: The reason the committee was not able to close out is because it continued to have an active account by paying people like Vallante.

"They must be doing something to show that some activity is going on," Queen says. "Because [FEC regulations] say that once they have ceased activity, then they can file a final report."

John Knapp, the committee's lawyer, contends it was not allowed to terminate because FEC commissioners had wanted to take a closer look at the official audit, which found almost $3 million in unreported donations. Queen, the FEC spokeswoman, could not confirm this.

On February 3, Larson received a huge promotion. He was named chief of staff for RNC chair Reince Preibus. In hiring Larson, the RNC counted his work with the host committee as one of his qualifications.

The day he was hired to his new job, Larson transferred control of the RNC committee to Sheila Berkeley. Berkeley is an employee of FLS, which Larson left in November. She has not responded to numerous requests for an interview.

In terms of the committee's spending, the law is complicated. It would take a full investigation to determine whether the years of continued payments crossed the line, says Schultz.

"The FEC is just backlogged and unable to get to all the problems, and that may be what's going on here," he says. "It also could be that they're doing just a really good job in terms of hiding what they're doing."

  

Postscript: On March 10, as this story was going to press, Berkeley filed termination papers for the host committee. The filing documents show how the remainder of the surplus was disbursed.

As planned, the bulk went to charity: About $1.2 million was paid to the Minneapolis Foundation, another $1.2 million to the St. Paul Foundation, and $590,000 to the Minnesota Community Foundation.

But not all of the money paid out this year went to nonprofits.

On February 15, Mike Vallante got one last salary payment of $10,000 for "Management Consulting."

On February 21, the committee's funds reimbursed Vallante $100 for food and another $1,404 that is unexplained. That same day, the committee paid a combined $1,200 in reimbursements for a rental car, airfare, and hotel room, though the records don't name the recipient.

In an interview the day after the reimbursements were filed, Vallante explained how aggravated he was that the FEC didn't allow the committee to close.

"We all knew there was going to be clean-up work to take place afterwards," said Vallante. "There was gonna be paperwork, legal work. And it kind of—not kind of, it just dragged on."

Dissecting the RNC Piggy Bank

[click to enlarge]
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10 comments
The Wall
The Wall

Jeffery T Larson (owner of the Ringy Dingy) of Hudson Wisconsin donated $8,000 to the campaigns of Wisconsin's Temporary Governor Scott Walker - earning Feather Larson & Synhorst (now FLS Connect) a place on the Boycott List. Take your skills elsewhere! Vendors avoid this organization! Be sure to keep them and everyone else informed about the need to Boycott FLS Connect and let them know Wisconsin is CLOSED for this business.jlarson@flsconnect.com, kkrystowski@flsconnect.com, tfeather@flsconnect.com, djames@flsconnect.com, rbeeson@flsconnect.com, conferencing@flsconnect.com, tpeterson@flsconnect.com, mergang@flsconnect.com, jkujak@flsconnect.com

Riman12345
Riman12345

Did anyone realize Mike Vallante works side by side with Jeff? He is Chief of Staff to RNC. They both are.

Horacewidmer
Horacewidmer

I think the difference between how the two parties wrapped up their convention was very telling. As the new president begins to push his controversial programs and the nation's lower class forms a new - tea - party, over in the corner that no one is watching is a man stuffing his pockets. Get while the getting's good, I suppose.

Ere
Ere

I got in to one of the ridiculous RNC private parties where Smashmouth was doing covers of Van Halen songs on a small staged propped up at Aqua. Don't fucking tell me that was paid by taxpayers. Although, seeing fat, sweaty, drunk and confused corporate types wearing suits dancing and singing to Runnin' with the Devil and awkwardly hitting on gold diggers might have been worth it.

Randy Dallmann
Randy Dallmann

Sure would be nice if their was a story here instead of the usual partisan CP muckraking. The Dems spent 5.3 million just to erect Barackopolis at the DNC to feed "the one's" ego.What difference does it make how either party decides to waste it, I believe that's why they call it a donation.

Will all of the media outlets who rushed to expose the $150,000 wardrobe cost for a middle-class VP candidate report on the millions spent to feed Barack Obama’s grandeur? Keep in mind, who got the bigger bang for the buck?

webcelt
webcelt

So Democrats wrapped up their convention for one-eighth of what Republicans spent/gave their buddies? Which is the party that can't handle money?

Guest
Guest

This piece is VERY unprofessional by journalistic standards.

There are multiple spelling errors.

Did the authors, Andy Mannix and Mike Mullen fail to edit this piece?

They refer to one of their main targets in the story, Mike Vallante, as both "Vallante" and "Vallente".

Come on guys, how are readers supposed to take this piece seriously when you pay such little attention to the details that SHOULDN'T matter, i.e. misspelling the last name of one of the main characters of the piece?

Maybe it's not Mannix and Mullen's fault...maybe the editors at CityPages are the hacks?

However, this piece also misspells country musician, John Rich's first name as "Jon".

My feeling is that such inattention to details, whether it is the result of laziness or stupidity, probably transfers to some of the major substantive details that you are both trying to make.

Poor job.

Phoenix Woman
Phoenix Woman

Wow, shades of Tony Sutton's time as RPM treasurer! God helps those who help themselves, eh?

 
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