In my twitter feed, many readers express astonishment at this passage in Cindy Brucato's column in today's MinnPost, Emmer sends checks from campaign fund to reimburse counties for recount expenses:
Thanks to recent Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, the check really is in the mail for Minnesota counties waiting to get repaid for their recount expenses.
When Emmer heard that around 20 counties were still waiting for the state Republican Party to reimburse them, he contacted the county auditors directly and sent them checks from the balance in the Tom Emmer for Governor campaign fund – about $20,000 to $25,000, he estimated.
"This is not my responsibility, but I feel it's my obligation," he said.
Emmer said he was startled to learn that the counties were still waiting for reimbursements almost six months after the recount was finalized. The invoices for such services as copying costs and requests for information had gone to the Republican Party which, like the DFL, is stretched financially after the 2010 election expenses.
'It allowed me to help the party'
"It caught me a little off guard and so I started calling some of them," he said. "It allowed me to help the party. It allowed me to call these folks to say thank you."
Provided that Sutton really was telling the truth in the past few weeks when he's said that he hasn't talked to Tom Emmer about the recount bills, Brucato's readers shouldn't find Emmer's statement surprising.
They might be better able to understand this passage if they simply recall two facts from last November. First, failed burrito baron Tony Sutton moved with great alacrity to have the recount effort put under the control of the Republican Party of Minnesota, rather than the Emmer campaign.
The most entertaining contemporary analysis of this development last year remains Jay Weiner's article, also on MinnPost, GOP's saber-rattling Tony Sutton vows aggressive recount fight. Weiner wrote:
This was Day One of The Next Big Recount, and the Republicans aren't going to go gently after Tuesday's long election night.
For one, they're going national with their legal team. In 2008, Sen. Coleman oversaw his recount team and went local. This time, the state GOP is taking over the legal reins for candidate Tom Emmer, and they've hired Michael E. Toner. He's the former chairman of the Federal Election Commission under George W. Bush. He is highly respected by election lawyers nationwide. But Democratic sources told me they were unaware whether he has any extensive recount experience.
Minnesota Republican Party lawyer Tony Trimble, who was one of Coleman's chief lawyers, is also on the team.
For another, Sutton came out swinging, noting early and often at Republican Party headquarters today. . .
Thus, unlike the Coleman campaign, the Emmer campaign didn't oversee contact with election officials. Given that, why and how would Tom Emmer know--months later--who had or hadn't been paid? Has Sutton shared the RPM's books? Doesn't sound like in Brucato's article.
The second fact is like unto it, but more significant. For while the Federal Election Commission oversees regulation of the federal accounts of the Republican Party of Minnesota, and the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board reviews the state accounts of the party, no agency at either level reviews the accounts of Count Them All Properly Inc., the fund Tony Sutton set up to fund the recount efforts.
Via the Bluestem post, From the fascinating FEC reports of the Republican Party of Minnesota: of counties, committees, and candidates, MPR reported 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.
How would Tom Emmer--or his treasurer--know if this separate corporate account had paid any of its bills? How will anyone?
Brucato notes that the assumption of the county bills by the Emmer committee will take some fancy footwork with regard to the state campaign finance rules that regulate gubernatorial committees:
Emmer said the campaign surplus came from contributions that arrived after the November election and that repayment to the counties leaves the campaign with just a few dollars on hand.
It also leaves the campaign with some explaining to do to the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board. Usually, once all vendors are paid, campaign surpluses are designated to another campaign or political unit, like the Minnesota GOP, but Sutton believes such payments are a legitimate campaign expense.
There will be some kind of supplemental reporting, Emmer says.
Frankly, that seems fairly transparent. Meh.
Bluestem believes there's a far more interesting question posed by the element of this story that Brucato omitted from the columns. If Count Them All Properly Inc. didn't use money it raised to pay the counties, how was the money Sutton and his minions raised to pay for the recount spent?
While neither Sutton nor the RPM are legally obligated to disclose the books of CTAPI, perhaps the failed burrito baron might rise to the level of generosity displayed by Emmer and his committee. Surely, contributors must be wondering where the money went.