Common Cause of Minnesota’s case against the Republican Party and some of its former officers recently got the green light from the Office of Administrative Hearings [OAH] to proceed.
Common Cause is going after the GOP for setting up a separate account called Count Them All Properly, Inc., [CTAP] that was used to pay costs that were accrued from the 2010 gubernatorial recount. The watchdog group filed a complaint on July 20 under the Fair Campaign Practices Act alleging that the party and some of its officers, including former chairman Tony Sutton, violated state law prohibiting corporate contributions to political parties.
The OAH complaint was filed last summer, a week after Common Cause won a related case at the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board that determined the Minnesota GOP was on the hook for $600,000 in legal fees. The party was also assessed a $27,000 fine, while Sutton received a $3,000 fine.
The case in front of the OAH takes the matter further by alleging criminal misconduct. If the OAH rules in favor of Common Cause, the matter could be referred for possible criminal prosecution.
The GOP called for dismissal by arguing the money was spent after the election and therefore isn’t subject to laws concerning government campaign spending. A panel of three administrative law judges found that “the recount procedure is part of the election process.”
The Republican Party also moved for dismissal by claiming contributions from CTAP were made after a the one-year limitation under state law. In denying the GOP’s motion to dismiss the case, the judges ruled that although the payments had been made more than a year before July 2012, Common Cause couldn’t have detected the CTAP payments until the CFPD issued its report on July 13, 2012.
“Viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the Panel concludes that Common Cause has demonstrated that genuine issues of material fact exist regarding whether the failure to disclose the payments made and the contribution received, as well as other actions by the Respondents set forth in the Board’s Findings and depositions taken by the Board, amount to concealment that tolled the limitations period,” the order stated.
The parties are in the process of scheduling a hearing with a panel of administrative law judges between October 29 and December 20.