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Minn. GOP At Least $1.3M In Debt

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — It’s been a rough few weeks for Minnesota Republicans with the Senator Amy Koch sex scandal, resignations and a big debt.

We found out Friday just how serious their money problems are. A financial review committee found the party is nearly $1.3 million in the red.

And there’s another $719,000 under review, from the recount in the governor’s race.

At the beginning of the news conference, the chairman of the finance committee acknowledged there have been rumors and questions about the party’s finances for quite a while.

The members of this review committee appointed in October wouldn’t say how it got this bad, but they did break down the numbers for us, and the chairman said it’s ugly.

“We really believe our Republican activists and donors deserve to know exactly where the party stands, warts and all and there are some warts in here,” said Jeff Johnson.

We’re told some of the nearly $1.3 million of debt comes from $415,000 in financial statements that went unreported, $18,000 in credit card debt, $200, 000 owed to the bank, $68,000 to unpaid vendors, along with a $120,000 fine from the Federal Election Commission.

The party is also disputing $719,000 in legal fees from the Tom Emmer/Mark Dayton recount.

Earlier this month Republican Party Chairman Tony Sutton stepped down as a committee was about to review the party’s finances.  Members of the committee refused to comment on who is responsible.

“I can’t give you a specific answer, it does happen,” said Mike Vekich, who headed up the financial review committee who examined the funds. “But the more important part is the fact they have a handle on it now, and going forward you have leadership committed to making sure this does not occur again.”

Interim Chair Kelly Fenton talked about their responsibility to their activists and donors.

“This is one of the first steps in being accountable and being more transparent. I promised when I was elected I promised the delegation honesty and transparency and this is the first step in moving forward,” said Fenton.

The Republican party will get new leadership this weekend when it meets in St. Cloud to elect a new chair person. Whoever they pick, they will have their hands full with the party’s debt and with 2012 being an election year.

University of Minnesota political analyst Larry Jacobs calls it a “mess.” He said the financial mismanagement so massive, activists and donors have already lost confidence in a critical election year. Jacobs also says the party will not only contend with a presidential election, but the re-election of Congressman Chip Cravaack.

It must also try to maintain the majorities in the legislature as well as find a challenger for Senator Amy Klobuchar.

“The Minnesota Republican party is going to have to make some tough choices,” said Jacobs. “They need to select a leader who is pragmatic and who can rebuild the reputation of the party and do some fast fundraising. They are also going to have to pick their battles. They cannot be the full service party they have been in the past.”

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