Hit-and-Run, Kiss-and-Tell Version:
For those who like Fast News to go with their FAST FOOD/FAST WORK/SPEED DATING lifestyle, the short of it is on Friday the 13th a MN state board FINED the MN GOP $30,000 for electoral voting law shenanigans in 2010, there may be CRIMINAL prosecutions afoot, and the MN GOP is INDEED financially on the hook for half a million dollars in legal fees that they CAN'T pay. And, because of the GOP party debt, it is at least somewhat an open question whether they have $30K cash on hand to actually, you know, pay the fine.
Velocity viewers can all move along now.
Cross-Posted at Minnesota Progressive Project
Slightly longer schadenfreude version:
Ah, still here? Why, thank you.
Compared to Willard the Rmoney (R-1%) discovering in a painfully public way what it's like to be on the receiving end of genuine attack ads---and NOT handling it well--- events here among the Minnesota Republican Party rank as shower stall scum and mildew.
Still, when the temps have been 90 degrees plus, with heat indexes over 100, you start to focus on the small stuff: how to stay cool? The number of minutes it takes to dry out between wettings in the pool? Myself, I wonder how many 21-day free downloads of an iApp some friends and I put together (iTunes store> "Lifestyle"> AffirMe; an affirmation delivered daily to your iPhone) there might have been yesterday? How many ice cubes are still alive in THIS glass of iced tea?
But $26,900 in fines levied? (That was no ordinary parking meter, let me tell you!) Another $3000 levied PERSONALLY against the former chair of the Party? (That guy got off light, I tell ya!) Well, that's a dose of schaudenfreude ("to rejoice at someone else's misfortune") that will cool the fevered brow of any progressive or Democrat.
Some of the icy, slurpy details (short of brain freeze) are in brief just below the sign of the 2 Orange Squirrels inside the Hamster Wheels.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press broke this on Saturday:
The Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board on Friday, July 13, fined the state GOP $26,900 for accepting an illegal contribution, ordered former party Chairman Tony Sutton to pay $3,000 for circumventing state campaign finance reporting requirements and levied a $3,000 penalty, plus a $100 late filing fee, against Count Them All Properly, a corporation set up to pay the costs of the party's recount for the race between Republican Tom Emmer and Democrat Mark Dayton.Our friends at TheUptake (who covered the Franken-Coleman Senate recount until the last dog died) gives this X-Ray quote:
"The Republican Party of Minnesota acted irresponsibly and should apologize to Minnesota voters," said Mike Dean, Executive Director of Common Cause Minnesota, which filed the complaint. "The Republican Party of Minnesota attempted to use a shell corporation to hide over a half million dollars in debt from the public."And it could get much worse and more serious:
The board said it would let a county attorney decide whether to bring criminal charges against Sutton. A spokesman for Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said the prosecutor had not received the ruling.......and now you know what at least ONE MN County prosecutor brought home from the office for a little weekend reading.....
The Minneapolis Star Tribune ran behind the Pioneer Press in their print editions but summarized the story on line with this opening gem:
[T]he Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board found a party awash in sloppy bookkeeping, "out of control" spending and a former chairman who tried to skirt the law.The Pioneer Press had it on the front page here for your catch-up-on-the-weekend pleasure.
The Star-Tribune ran it on the "State and Local" inside section but covered a bit more ground on it here.
So, for those who need to read and run, either link will give you the news in a nice, newsy way. Thanks for stopping by. (Hope you might drop in at iTunes for a look at the App.)
The Whole Lot Longer, Pound-It-Into-the Ground-with-a-Sledgehammer, Schadenfreude Version!
And now, for the rest of you, who want the "stands up to a spoon," "puts hair on the chests of machisma women everywhere", Charles Atlas sand-kicking, bully-busting FULL STRENGTH WineRev-style, 180 proof, "keep away from open flame" treatment.......
But what's it all about, Alfie?
The DEEP Background
When we last left the MN GOP cheering the swearing-in of Senator AL Franken in July of 2009, (or maybe NOT; see RECOUNTING MINNESOTA by your ever-lovin' WineRev) they turned to the election of 2010. Fueled by the rise of the Tea Party and a fair number of stay-at-home Democratic voters, the MN GOP took control of the MN House and (for the first time since 1972) the Senate as well.
They almost hit the trifecta because 2010 was a gubernatorial election as well. They nominated a Tea-friendly blowhard named Tom Emmer (member of the House) to run against the Democrat's Mark Dayton. (Political junkies here will recall Dayton serving one rather undistinguished term as US Senator. He chose not to run again and was able to hand off Democratic control of the seat to Amy Klobuchar in 2006.)
The election was close but after the dust and snowflakes settled it was Dayton by about 9200 votes. (You call 9200 votes close?? I can show you a MN statewide election with the difference at a measly 312. Close? Hah!) Still, this was less than state legal standard of a 0.5% difference, so the trailing candidate could ask for a recount at state expense. Emmer did.
The usual frenzy ensued, and while the Recount was at state expense, both sides raised money for observers and legal teams. Several members of the cast from the Franken-Coleman marathon re-appeared as well (including a couple of Tonys) for the Dark Side:
Eric Magnuson. During the Franken-Coleman Recount, Magnuson was Chief Justice of the MN Supreme Court. He was ALSO a member of the 5-person State Election Commission. This Commission was headed by Sec. of State Mark Ritchie, who appointed Magnuson, another MN Justice, and two county judges to oversee the election results. When the Commission ruled Franken had won on the basis of a Recount in mid-December, Coleman filed his lawsuit to overturn the decision and the election.
Magnuson was scrupulously fair throughout the entire marathon, a classic, careful jurist and what increasingly these days must be called simply a "normal" Republican. (In the Recount case as well as his other cases he left his politics in the judges' robing room and was the model of even-handedness.) He did provide Ritchie and the Commission legal background and election law precedents (going back to 1865!) so the group could act wisely, which was an excellent help all around. He (and Justice Anderson) both rightly recused themselves from any involvement (or even the APPEARANCE of involvement!--Just like a public official should) in any of the Franken-Coleman issues that came to the Supreme Court. (This is why all their decisions were 5-0 rather than 7-0; two members stood aside.)
After it was all over, Magnuson stepped down, not only from the Commission but from the Supreme Court as well, choosing to go back into private practice at age 58. (Now, of course, he can be rather more partisan in representing his clients.) When the 2010 governor's race went to a Recount, the MN GOP hired Magnuson for legal advice about elections (an excellent choice by any reckoning.)
Tony Sutton (a.k.a. "Taco Tony" for his business ownership of a string of Mexican restaurants; a.k.a. "Sutton the Hutt" because of his close, family resemblance to his relative Jabba, and because it's another nice alliterative choice---as required here at DailyKos, right?). Elected Chairman of the MN GOP in June of 2009, he was able to belch a few nasty remarks about THE Recount before the MN Supreme Court ruled UNANIMOUSLY in Franken's favor at the end of the month of June. Tony "led" the MN GOP to it's 2010 legislative victories via bad press releases, ugly statements about Democrats in general, and (hereby hangs the tale) through...ahem...CREATIVE financial channels (including an unaudited credit card for the personal use by the Chair.) He also had the Party start paying him a salary of $100,000/year as of July 1, 2011 instead of doing it as a freebie or for the travel expense money as previously.
Tony Trimble. This Tony has been kicking around MN GOP politics for a long time, including serving a term as Party Chair back in the early 1990s. WineRev fans will remember him as the lead counsel for the Coleman legal team. It was Trimble who helped decide to fight Franken's election through the courts, who hired a woefully over-matched Joe Friedberg to be the lead lawyer in the courts. It was Trimble who brought in the execrable Ben Ginzburg to do the daily Coleman Bamboozle Dance of media spin out in the courthouse hall, and the one who kept taking appeals to the Commission and the Supremes and getting shot down 5-0 all the time.
This Tony was ALSO the lawyer who was SANCTIONED by the Election Contest Court during the trial(!) for violating witness and discovery procedures to the tune of a $7500 fine to the Court. (Whoa! said the legal beagles on KOS) He also had to cough up the daily legal fees to the Franken side for several days legal work that resulted from Tony's debouche. (Came to over $16,000, which is quite a botch of debouche!)
The SHALLOW Background (we ARE talking Republicans here!)
Emmer lost the election.
And, Emmer lost the Recount too. There was a lot of maneuvering going on and we were all gearing up absentee ballots, challenges, motions in limine, etc. when Emmer saw how the numbers were going and said, "Nahhhhh."
This apparently was something of a surprise (although details here are murky). Both Magnuson and Tony the Trimble had joined the legal team. Sutton the Hutt had also hired in an election law attorney from DC by the name of Michael Toner. (I personally think they were setting up for either a law firm or a musical starring Tony! Tony! & Toner! but that's just me. Besides, I prefer office supplies to star in dramas, not musicals.)
The machinery was turning and Trimble et. al. had legally requested thousands of copies of various ballots and documents from the county clerks across MN. After the last time in 2008, several MN county clerks had learned their lesson about dealing with political parties requesting recount materials. "Cash, up front, or nuthin'!" The Democrats on Dayton's team said, "Here you go. Mind if we count our change?" The GOP said, "Send us an invoice."
Sadly, several county clerks across the state BELIEVED the GOP and, yes, are STILL waiting to get paid by the MN GOP for these expenses from 2010!
But the county clerks in Hennepin (Minneapolis) and Ramsey (St. Paul) counties, the state's two largest counties (and those reporting the most votes, regular, absentee and otherwise) insisted on cash on the nail. Sutton the Hutt was near his personal chairman's credit card limit so he pulled some strings to deliver the Benjamins. Due to contribution limit laws, it appears Sutton set up a shell corporation and arranged for a GOP heavy hitter to drop $30,000 into it.
Sutton quickly secured a single donation of $30,000 -- from GOP mega-donor Bob Cummins, who had already given the party $425,000 to help Emmer get elected.---- Star Tribune, 7/14/12Then the shell corporation turned around and paid about $27,000 in MN GOP bills WITHOUT reporting any of it. (The big No-No the Board dropped the hammer on Friday.) Not long afterward, the Emmer people could see they were being swamped by the numbers from Hennepin & Ramsey and that there was no hope, so they called it quits.
(BTW, the shell corporation in question "Count them All Properly" LLC was such a wisp of a shell that two guys (both quite ordinary and respectable) were listed as being either on its board or its CEO--- which was a complete surprise to them! You think Romney is good saying "I had nothing to do with Bain after Feb. of '99....or 2002 for Mass. property tax purposes, whichever applies."? These guys can honestly say, "What corporation? What board?" And they did, to the press here, back in April.)
The NEAR Foreground
Everything rested there for 2011 while the new GOP majorities in the MN lege worked hard at avoiding doing anything about jobs, had a hissy fit that shut down the state government and ranted about how they couldn't impose their own version of Fitzwalkerstan like was happening next door in Wisconsin. (Gov. Dayton blocked them so well and so often the Minnesota Vikings wanted to make him offensive line coach for a few weeks. Unlike his stint as US Senator, Dayton seems to enjoy being governor and is proving good at it. If the Democrats retake the lege this fall, he could be delightedly effective.)
Then, in December, 2011, Sutton the Hutt abruptly resigned. The MN Senate majority leader, Amy Koch (no known relation to the spawn of Satan Koch brothers), was caught having an affair with the #2 guy in the MN GOP, Michael Brodkorb. She resigned as majority leader and announced she would not stand for re-election this year....to spend more time with......
(Brodkorb had an official Senate position as a support staffer to go with his party job. When the affair came out he was fired. He is now SUING the Senate for $500,000 for wrongful dismissal on grounds of....wait for it....sexual discrimination! Yes, Michael says OTHER Senate and House staffers have (or are having!) affairs with members of the lege, but because they are WOMEN they got to keep their jobs, while he, Michael, got canned. The Senate has already spent $80,000+ in legal fees defending itself (great use of taxpayer dollars there, you fiscal conservatives!). There are many off-the-screen conversations happening about this since I think the last thing the lege wants is for Brodkorb to name names---which he has threatened to do. He's the kind of guy who definitely would know and definitely would be willing to go public. Hence, a LOT of squirming at the Capitol.)
As both Sutton's and Koch's resignations hit, (and some OTHER MN GOP state Senators suddenly decided they too would be stepping down here in 2012 because of what they knew and didn't know about Koch-Brodkorb) the MN GOP discovered it was (and still IS) broke. The vacuum/black hole in leadership was gaping: Sutton resigned under a nasty cloud of financial questions, Brodkorb fired and about to go rogue and rabid, and Koch, the highest ranking Republican office holder in the entire state, rendered "hors de combat" by her affair with Brodkorb.
A new regime was installed between Christmas and New Year's, headed by Pat Shortridge, who agreed to do the job for no pay. (In keeping with the insanity, Shortridge's prior claim to fame is.......senior, lead lobbyist in DC in the early 2000s for ENRON! The Ken Lay-Jeffrey Skilling Enron! Way to pick 'em, GOP!)
Shortridge and the new commissars beat back an attempt by the remaining NORMAL Republicans in the party to have an independent, third-party, outside audit of the party finances but said they would do an internal audit of their own. Even with this inside advantage they discovered and had to announce in January the party was not only broke but maybe $2 million (or $2.5 million) in DEBT. At least $500,000 of that was legal bills left over from the Emmer recount, but otherwise that's a LOT of county clerks wanting to get paid for copy toner.
Granted, in a Citizens United world where a Stay-Pufft marshmallow like Newton Leroy Gingrich can get $10 million monthly checks from a Vegas casino owner to run his campaign, $2,5 mill. is just cinnamon on your graham cracker. On the other hand, nobody has stepped up with 2 1/2 big ones either. (There's a great opportunity here: "For sale, Used. 1 state political party. No engine, tranny or electrical. Up on blocks in Tony Sutton's front yard. Cheap. Naming rights available, extra." Great bar talk if someone buys the naming rights....."Aren't you a Republican?"...."I used to be, but now I'm a Torkelsonian-Goldman Sachsian...." Just trips off the tongue.)
They are SO broke they can not pay for an independent audit to tell them how broke they are. (An odd reply for the Normal Republicans, but also a sign of how bad things are.)
They are SO BROKE this spring they narrowly avoided having their headquarters staff and furniture in St. Paul EVICTED for non-payment of rent. (As in no rent payments at all from July, 2011 to April, 2012, to the tune of $96,000.)
They are SO BROKE they still do not know how much Sutton the Hutt spent on the credit card and through "other means."
They are SO BROKE Shortridge speculated out loud to the press that "maybe the Party itself doesn't owe $500,000 in legal fees to Trimble, Magnusson or Toner. Maybe somebody else owes that." To which Tony the Trimble replied, "The hell you don't" (at least that's what was printed in the family papers. The actual quote was likely a bit more....colorful!)
The ForeFront, FiveFront, SixFront and Center Ground
The Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board on Friday, July 13, fined the state GOP $26,900 for accepting an illegal contribution, ordered former party Chairman Tony Sutton to pay $3,000 for circumventing state campaign finance reporting requirements and levied a $3,000 penalty, plus a $100 late filing fee, against Count Them All Properly, a corporation set up to pay the costs of the party's recount for the race between Republican Tom Emmer and Democrat Mark Dayton.TwoPutt Tommy over at the MN Progressive Project has been crunching the MN GOP numbers for months in his series called "Cooked Books." He is up to episode #14 by adding all this latest to the series. If you want the numbers and great analysis and explanations you can go HERE.
And finally, remember those legal fees Shortridge hoped belonged to someone else?
Not so much. The Board looked at those too.
"In June, the party reported it was still $964,000 in debt, not including its legal bills. The campaign finance board found the party still owes Magnuson's law firm $221,000, Trimble's firm $212,000 and Toner's firm $163,000."---Pioneer PressAnd not in general, but rather in the pointedly particular:
"...the board also found significant problems with the party's bookkeeping over the past two years, saying managers hid debt from executive committee members, filed inaccurate reports with the state and left critical and nuanced campaign finance reporting work to managers with little or no experience."----Star TribuneSo what to do, gentle reader?
Put on some more sunscreen.
Refill the iced tea.
Visit iTunes Apps> "Lifestyle"> AffirMe (21 day freebie!)
...and know, yea verily REVEL, in this fact:
YOU, are not sweating NEARLY as much as the MN GOP these days!
From yust southeast of Lake Wobegon,