The worst time to owe someone money is when you're in debt. That's the case with the Republican Party of Minnesota, which is already in debt, but now owes the Federal Election Commission $170,000 for campaign finance violations.
Funny thing, too. Those violations stem mainly from the party's refusal to acknowledge that it was in debt.
Four years ago, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a complaint with the FEC, based on a leaked memo from former Minnesota GOP finance director Dwight Tostenson. In that memo, Tostenson said Republicans had been misleading federal and state officials, and failing to report their outstanding debts. According to the FEC's investigations, the Republicans didn't report "at least $994,319 in outstanding debt to vendors during 2006."
State GOP chair Tony Sutton, who was not in charge at the time, responded to the news by saying the party had taken steps to fix the problem, but he also grumbled a bit about "excessive government regulation" to the Star Tribune.
Sutton, himself a former treasurer of the state Republican Party, told the Star Tribune that the GOP had "learned a very hard lesson" from it's little run-in with the FEC.
"I could say something here about excessive government regulation," Sutton said, "but we're taking our lumps and moving forward."
In the leaked internal memo that spurred the CREW complaint with the FEC, Tostenson wrote to the state Republican Party's executive committee that, "based upon my research and experience, I believe that the Party ha[s] been, among other things, violating FEC law by underreporting the Party's outstanding obligations/expenses."
Tostenson said he'd repeatedly taken the issue up with then-GOP chairman Ron Carey, but to no avail. The reporting problems might have stopped under Sutton, but the debt's still around: In March, the state GOP reported it was still $780,000 in debt.
In the FEC's findings, the party and the FEC admit the misreporting, but state that the lack of disclosure was unintentional.
Sutton released a statement saying that the GOP had since addressed the problem by hiring an outside accounting firm to take care of its campaign finance reports, according to MPR.
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