Following up on the Star Tribune article that the Republican Party of Minnesota still owes thirty of Minnesota's counties money for recount costs, the Winona Daily News took a look closer to home and discovered GOP still owes counties for 2010 recount:
Winona County and its two southern neighbors are still trying to collect money from the state Republican Party nearly six months after party officials requested 2010 election documents for the governor’s race recount.
Winona, Fillmore and Houston counties have all sent multiple inquiries to GOP headquarters in St. Paul, seeking a combined $3,000 for staff time and copy costs related to election documents requested after Gov. Mark Dayton eked a slim victory over Republican challenger Tom Emmer last November.
“I’m not real happy about it,” said Sue Rivers, Winona County’s auditor and treasurer. “We did the work and expected to be paid. It took time for us to do all of that.”
Once again, failed burrito baron and MNGOP Chair Tony Sutton noted that the Republicans were saddled by $500,000 in debt related to the 2010 election.
Since Minnesota's campaign finance laws only require all sorts of state-level committees to report at the end of the year, it's hard for several reasons to get an idea of what the Republicans still owe and what they've paid--although there was a positive balance on their state account. The payments that are owed to the counties do not show up on this report, and thus must be coming from that other fund for the recount that Sutton named back in February, noted by MPR in MNGOP won't disclose recount fundraising:
The Republican Party of Minnesota and Republican Tom Emmer's campaign for governor will not disclose the money it raised to help with the recount. Minnesota Republican Party Chair Tony Sutton said today that the group created a separate corporate account, Count Them All Properly Inc., for their recount efforts. He said they won't disclose the amount of money raised or by whom -- and state and federal laws don't require them to release it.
That's on the state side. The gubernatorial race, after all, is a state-level affair.
But the party also reports to the FEC every month, so it's possible to see debts to the RPM's federal account month by month. Only some of this interesting, and none of it is related to the money owed to the counties, save that it is likely that Tony Sutton and his fundraising staff have to raise money for all three accounts.
What is interesting, however, are the debts and payments to consultant Dave Thompson, who is also a high-profile freshman state senator. While running for state senate, Thompson seems to have been paid or contracted for $3750.00 a month. In the amended 2010 end-of-year report filed on April 25, 2011, Thompson's name appears on the list of people and businesses to whom the Republican party owes money. In this iteration of the year-end debt, Tony Sutton's federal account owed senator-elect Dave Thompson $7500 for "General Party Media Consulting."
He also had another politically-related job. Back in June 2010, PIM's Paul Demko reported that Thompson was pulling double-duty, serving as communications director for CD7 challenger Lee Byberg. Byberg's own FEC statements show that the congressional campaign appears to be on a separate contract; Byberg paid Thompson $1500 in early October. Perhaps Thompson was doing triple duty: candidate, congressional campaign comm director and general party media consultant (whatever that is).
In the next amended report for the RPM(Febuary 2011), also filed on April 25, 2011, Dave Thompson was owed $18750.00 during the month of January. Thus, one might infer that the Republican Party of Minnesota retained Senator Thompson for $11,250 worth of additional services for "General Party Media Consulting." Thompson was not paid in January 2011 though March 2011 for any of the 2010 debt.
This changes in the May report, which details financial activity during April 2011. Thompson received two equal payments during April for the $7500 owed for 2010, when he was a candidate and consultant, while the $11,250 of consulting work from January 2011 remains charged as a debt.
I'll leave the questions of what it means for a political party to hire a candidate during a campaign for people more versed in campaign ethics than myself.
What's troubling here, though, is not just that the RPM can manage to pay off one of its own, while simultaneously preaching about cities and counties living within their means--and not paying bills to Minnesota counties for work it insisted had to be done. It's that Thompson performed $11,250 worth of work in the few days in January before he was sworn into office--and that the Republican Party thought this was special enough not to tighten its belt and live within its means, but worthy enough to rack up more bills as if on an extended New Year's bender.
Although he campaigned on cutting spending, Thompson had so far taken the max allowable amount of per diem, PIM's Briana Bierschbach reported in late April.
An assistant majority leader in the senate although a freshman, Thompson has been a high-profile figure in Senate Majority leader Michael Brodkorb's caucus. It's fair to say that not even Michele Bachmann commanded such attention as a first-term legislator (and she was very much disliked immediately with the caucus, I've been told by lawmakers and former GOP staff alike). I think this is a bigger problem internally for the GOP than it is a public concern, however irritating the triple-dipping might be.
Still, the activity sends a signal to Thompson's constituents that he is more interested in serving party goals than representing the public he serves. It bolsters the point Tom Bakk made about the GOP lawmakers' cult (and Thompson seems to be making that faith work for his own career, however late the checks may arrive).
It's most likely all legal-- though there might be so much dancing going on here it could be an ecstasy-laced rave at old man Drazkowski's farm--but the paper trail of payments and per diems undercuts the messages about austerity that Thompson was hired to craft during the campaigns and after. This is, after all, the caucus run by a communications director who is also deputy MNGOP state chair.
Oh, and it's good to be senator. (But not a county, even those that vote Republican).
Photo: State Senator Dave Thompson.