ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The shell company that improperly shielded Minnesota Republican recount costs in the 2010 governor’s race has received an extension to formally register a campaign account and report its finances.
Count Them All Properly missed an end-of-July deadline to submit paperwork, but received 10 more days to comply. The corporation was ordered to disclose information after an investigation into the state GOP’s muddled finances concluded the arrangement skirted state laws.
The company owes $3,100 in fees and penalties assessed by state campaign regulators.
Gary Goldsmith, the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board executive director, also said that state Republican officials have approached him about establishing a payment plan to make good on nearly $27,000 in penalties levied against the party. The Republican Party faces a mid-August deadline to pay the fine, as does former party chairman Tony Sutton, who was fined $3,000 individually.
The fines stem from an exhaustive investigation into the party’s finances. According to state and federal campaign reports, the party is almost $1.8 million in debt as it heads into the fall campaign season.
Much of the debt comes from a costly recount two years ago. Republicans sought the ballot-by-ballot review after nominee Tom Emmer trailed Democrat Mark Dayton by 8,800 votes on election night. The statewide recount failed to switch the outcome, and Emmer actually lost ground.
Count Them All Properly is technically a separate entity from the GOP, despite Sutton’s hand in establishing it. The group, run by longtime party activists, was tasked with collecting money to pay legal fees associated with the recount, but it fell far short.
The entity registered as a corporation under Minnesota law, but regulators said there should have been a campaign account subject to periodic reporting requirements as well.
“Candidly, there is a real question whether CTAP should continue to exist given its limited function,” St. Paul attorney John Gilmore wrote to Goldsmith on Monday in his request for an extension. “Regardless of how that question is resolved, however, I believe it is important that it comply with all demands made of it by the board.”
Goldsmith said Thursday he intends to send a certified letter next week warning that weekly penalties will accrue if the company fails to file its report by Aug. 10.
Emails disclosed through the campaign board’s investigation show three law firms are vigorously pursuing payment for about $580,000 in remaining debt. In a campaign report filed this week, the state Republican Party lists the legal debt as its own.
In its July ruling, the campaign board found that Sutton violated a state law barring circumvention of disclosure laws by redirecting a $30,000 contribution from a prominent GOP donor to Count Them All Properly. The Republican Party was fined for how it handled the money. The board said the shell company didn’t violate the circumvention law, but it wasn’t in compliance with other requirements.
Common Cause Minnesota, the watchdog group that prodded the board to investigate, is now taking steps to pursue possible criminal prosecution in the case.
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