MNGOP accused of violating campaign finance law

We knew that the Minnesota Republican Party's financial situation is ugly -- but in self-flagellating with the ugly stick, did the MNGOP also violate the law?

Yes it did, argues Mike Dean, Common Cause Minnesota's executive director.

According to the Star Tribune:

Common Cause Minnesota filed a complaint with the state Campaign Finance Board on Wednesday, alleging that the [MNGOP] set up a shell corporation in an effort to hide its activities during the 2010 gubernatorial recount. The group alleges the party broke numerous state laws in its failure to disclose $1.1 million in expenses related to the 2010 elections. The nine-page complaint also asks the board to conduct a full audit of party books and forward its findings to the Ramsey County attorney for possible prosecution.

The alleged violations occurred under the disastrous-in-hindsight stewardship of former MNGOP chairman Tony Sutton, who abruptly resigned a month ago in the face of mounting pressure over party spending.

Shortly after Sutton's resignation, it came to light that the MNGOP is about $2 million in debt, largely due to the gubernatorial recount process. In his resignation letter, former MNGOP Secretary Treasurer David Sturrock said he was "neither consulted nor informed" about $450,000 in legal fees incurred during the recount.

Common Cause alleges that the party's failure to inform Sturrock about the legal fees is one campaign finance violation among many. Other alleged violations include filling false financial statements and hiding expenses the party was legally obligated to disclose.

Sutton, for his part, said the allegations are baseless and motivated by Common Cause's left-wing political agenda. The group, in fact, was founded in 1970 by John W. Gardner, a Republican who server as cabinet secretary under President Lyndon Johnson.

Common Cause's mission is devoted to making U.S. political institutions more open and accountable -- two virtues that the MNGOP has clearly lacked recently.

The Federal Election Commission issued a $170,000 fine to the MNGOP for similar violations last year. Dean told the Star Tribune that if past precedent were followed, the state board could fine the party for the full amount of its failed disclosures, or about $1.1 million.

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