December 2011 marks the month that the Republican Party of Minnesota drowned in a rising tide of financial and sexual scandals, resignations, firings, fiscal mismanagement, and financial misreporting.
Portrait of a party on the ropes: earlier this month, when longtime party chair Tony Sutton unexpectedly resigned, it was widely reported that the party was $500,000 in debt, and had a cash-on-hand balance of negative $10,000. (Don't ask me how you get a negative "cash on hand").
It now turns out that was just the tip of the iceberg. When you count unpaid vendors, bills marked as paid that weren't, unreported obligations, a non-reported credit line, and oh yes, add in an unpaid FEC fine – for failing to disclose debt! – the Minnesota GOP is in the hole to the tune of $1.3 million.
And when you add in yet another $700,000 in unpaid legal bills from the total-waste-of-effort that was the 2010 governor's recount, the total debt is over $2 million.
Let's hear it for the party of fiscal restraint.
Now to be fair, the Minnesota GOP is trying it's best to stiff the law firm, by claiming that the $719,000 owed is on the tab of a separate corporation they set up to handle the recount. So it appears that the stratergery is to let the recount corporation go bankrupt and walk away from the legal bill. (Say! Is that how those rich guys got rich?)
But the law firm isn't having any of it, and since they're, you know, lawyers, chances are they know something about legal fees and collecting them.
Now just to review the bidding: in 2008, there was a razor-close election for US Senate in Minnesota, wherein incumbent Norm Coleman was ahead by 200 or so votes in the initial count, and ended up losing to Al Franken by 300 or so votes in the recount. In other words, a 500 vote movement to the Dem side, which is pretty typical in a recount in both size and direction.
So when there was a close election again in 2010, with Republican teabagger Tom Emmer losing the governorship to Mark Dayton by about 3,000 votes in the initial count, it didn't take a genius to see where this was headed. The recount was paid for by the state, but the GOP lawyered up anyway, because apparently somebody (I'm looking at you, Tony Sutton) was convinced that only massive vote fraud could have caused Norm Coleman to lose, and the way to avoid that from happening again was to make sure legal eagles were looking in on Each And Every vote in Each And Every county courthouse across the state as the recount proceeded.
The price for the Republicans believing their own publicity turns out to be $719,000.
Oh, and by the way: one of the line items on the just-released list of red ink is $415,000 in "Obligations previously unreported on RPM financial statements". As Minnesota Public Radio reporter Tom Scheck has noted, that's another campaign finance violation. So we may be looking at yet another FEC fine in the future.
Sex and lies, but no video tape
All this comes on top of the barrel-of-fun sex scandal that's engulfed the Republicans in the Minnesota state senate. For a long, long time, Republicans had been in the minority in both houses of the Minnesota legislature, but somehow the Dems just couldn't get a governor elected. The result was Tim Pawlenty issuing veto after veto of progressive legislation.
In 2010, all that changed: a wave of tea party activism resulted in the GOP controlling both houses of the legislature for the first time in a generation. But, miracle of miracles, Democrat Mark Dayton won the governorship. Now the shoes were on different feet. One of the excuses Tony Sutton gave for the massive debt the party owed at his departure was that he had spent like a drunken sailor on all those legislative races.
When the GOP was in the minority in the Senate, their minority leader had been Dave Senjem of Rochester, an experienced (and fairly moderate) legislator of long standing. But when the elections put him in the driver's seat, he stepped down from his leadership post, saying he was tired of the job. The Republicans elected Christian conservative Amy Koch of Buffalo as their new leader, the first female Majority Leader in senate history.
In a stormy legislative session, Koch played the Republican game, shutting down state government rather than negotiate a settlement. Knowing any teabagger-type social conservative legislation wouldn't make it past Dayton's veto, Koch bypassed the governor by putting an anti-gay-marriage amendment on the ballot (it comes up in 2012).
But her brief reign of error collapsed a couple of weeks ago, when she abruptly resigned her leadership position, admitting that she had had an "inappropriate relationship" with a senate staffer.
Turns out, other GOP senators had known about the affair for three months, and did nothing until just after Sutton's resignation. Then, four top GOP senators took Amy aside into a private meeting, and spent hours upon hours trying to strongarm her into resigning. She resisted, and the meeting continued until the following day, when the Gang of Four prevailed. Koch gave up her leadership post and admitted the affair publicly. The Gang of Four initially claimed that they had just heard about the affair a few weeks previously, before being called out on that by their own whistleblower.
A day later, Michael Brodkorb was fired from both positions he had held in the GOP: first as assistant party chair (under Sutton) and second as spokesman for the Senate Majority. In the latter position he officially reported to Cal Ludeman, the Secretary of the Senate, but it has been widely rumored that Brodkorb was Koch's boytoy.
All this hit the fan again two days ago, when GOP senators met to elect a new leader to replace Koch. The meeting lasted eleven hours. Eventually, not just Koch but the entire GOP senate leadership team was replaced. None of the Gang of Four (who strongarmed Koch's resignation) were elected to leadership posts.
Instead, they turned back to Dave Senjem, their former leader.
And thus endeth the Minnesota GOP's love affair with the Tea Party.