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Common Cause: Campaign finance board will investigate MN GOP

Jake Grovum//January 9, 2012

Common Cause: Campaign finance board will investigate MN GOP

Jake Grovum//January 9, 2012

Pat Shortridge, the new state Republican Party chairman.

The state Campaign Finance Board will investigate allegations levied against the Minnesota Republican Party late last week by watchdog group Common Cause, according to a letter the group released Monday.

Campaign Finance Board Chairman Gary Goldsmith said, per state law, he could not confirm or deny whether an investigation is underway. The existence of such inquiries, and their findings, are confidential until presented by the board at their conclusion, he said. Further, Goldsmith would not confirm or deny the veracity of the letter itself.

But in the Jan. 6 letter released by Common Cause, Goldsmith wrote to Mike Dean, the group’s executive director, that the board will conduct an investigation into the allegations raised by the complaint filed last week. Goldsmith also wrote that the board will discuss the investigation at its Feb. 14 hearing in executive session, a proceeding not open to the public.

The Common Cause complaint alleges party leaders tried to circumvent disclosure laws, particularly when it comes to a separate recount legal fund established following the 2010 gubernatorial election. Debts associated with those efforts played a large role in the financial and disclosure turmoil that forced the resignation of former GOP chairman Tony Sutton a month ago.

The Common Cause complaint also says the party filed false reports with the state and failed to gain party treasurer approval for expenditures over $100. It asks the Campaign Finance Board to conduct a full audit of GOP finances going back several years.

In a statement, Dean said the investigation could take months to complete and carry hefty fines if allegations of malfeasance are found to be true.

“The Republican Party of Minnesota has broken the trust of party activists and the public by hiding hundreds of thousands of dollars in spending,” Dean said. “Now is the time to be open and honest about its party finances.”

Goldsmith said standard board procedure calls for the executive director to review any complaint brought to it and evaluate whether, if the allegations were found to be true, they would be violations of campaign finance law. If so, he said, an investigation would begin.

The complaint — and potential state investigation — are coming just more than a week after party officials said a review of finances had uncovered as much as $2 million in debt, a figure four times larger than activists were led to believe just a month ago.

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