MNGOP report reveals "inadequate transparency and oversight" of party finances
An internal review committee formed to look into the Minnesota Republican Party's finances found no "theft" at the MNGOP but uncovered evidence of mismanagement.
The committee's members -- Pat Anderson, Scott Dutcher, Kelly Fenton, Randy Gilbert, Jeff Johnson, Terry McCall, Bron Scherer, Rick Weible, Joe Westrup, and Mike Vekich -- did not perform a full audit of the party's finances. Instead, the committee investigated a few specific transactions and found the party's internal procedures lacking.
Members discovered "instances of misreporting both internally and externally, a lack of adequate internal financial controls, examples of questionable decision-making and a lack of accountability and transparency," according to the report, released yesterday.
Although the committee members "fully recognize" that some members of the party would like a more thorough review of the party's finances, the committee chose to review 11 specific items:
1. RPM credit card transactions and debt incurred during the period 2008 through 2011;
2. Expense reimbursements to RPM employees during the period 2010 through 2011
3. Payments made to the RPM executive director over and above his regular salary from the period 2009 through 2011
4. The purchase of services from Republican candidates and officeholders from 2009 through 2011
5. Payments made by RPM to Baja Sol, Inc, a business owned by the previous RPM Chairman
6. The purchase of services from Civis Communications, a business owned by one of RPM's largest contributors
7. Payment by RPM to an investigator purportedly for research on the legalization of medical marijuana
8. The purchase of services from Strother Communications Group for an RPM branding project
9. The purchase of services from RBA, Inc. for work on the Phoenix database
10. Receipts and expenses from the Midwest Leadership Conference
11. Legal bills incurred by Count Them All Properly, Inc. which some allege are actually RPM obligations
City Pages previously reported on the MNGOP's medical marijuana study, although the committee's review reveals that the party has little bang to show for its buck.
Former MNGOP Executive Director Ryan Griffin hired Tim Goar of TG Med to "do medical marijuana polling and research within the medical community to determine the validity of that issue," the report says.
Goar also "helped with media matters such as press releases, media research and speech preparation" for Griffin, according to the report.
But Goar told investigators he produced "very few" written reports, "did not think he had saved any of his work," and did not "produce anything" to the committee for review. Goar also had no written contract with the party, "only a verbal agreement with Griffin," the report says.
The review committee found that ex-chair Tony Sutton used credit cards much more often than his predecessor, Ron Carey. Carey used credit cards "almost exclusively" for travel expenses, and paid off the balance in full at the end of each month.
"[N]o balance was left on the cards at the time Chairman Sutton took over," the report says.
Once Sutton took over, however, the monthly charges "increased significantly," from an average of $2,000-$3,000 in the Carey era to $8,000-$12,000 during Sutton's reign. At one point, he ran up an $18,500 charge, the report says.
The report absolves Sutton of wrongdoing, noting that there was "no evidence of improper activity," but reveals that the party's credit cards "have been destroyed and current leadership is opposed to opening any new credit card accounts for RPM employees."
Sutton was given a credit card while he worked for the party, the report says, but it's been transferred to his name and he has stated in writing "that he is personally responsible for any remaining payables on that card."
Another interesting point in the report involves payments made "over and above" former Executive Director Ryan Griffin's salary from 2009-2011.
Sen. Dave Thompson made $70,000 from the MNGOP
The report says that Griffin was paid $14,026 for 'legal advice" or "legal services," but that the committee was "unable to locate any documentation detailing the services provided and were unable to successfully contact Griffin for more information regarding this issue."
The rest of the report contains even more interesting nuggets: the party paid Baja Sol, Tony Sutton's former company, $561.68 for an event hosted by his wife, Bridget, called "You Look Good in Red." The party also helped Baja Sol out with $4,461.48 in rent money, which the report said was to ensure compliance with federal campaign finance laws.
The committee analyzed payments made for services to Republican candidates and officeholders like Mark Buesgens, Joe Schomacker, Bill Pulkrabek, and Dave Thompson (who pocketed $70,568.56 from the party, mostly for fundraising and communications on the party's behalf).
Anyone interested in reviewing the report for more information should check it out here, courtesy of Politics in Minnesota, which first published it.
Committee members made several recommendations at the end of their report to make the party more accountable for its finances, including the creation of a Financial Controls and Oversight Committee.
Despite the discoveries found by the committee, they "chose not to pass judgment on the wisdom of any particular transaction, but to set forth the facts we learned and allow each reader of this Report to come to his or her own conclusion."
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