Over at LeftMN, Steve Timmer writes about the decision of the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board on a complaint Common Cause of Minnesota filed against the Republican Party and state senator Dave Thompson. From LeftMN:
This is, of course, a problem, not only for regulators and law enforcement, but also for members and contributors to the MNGOP. Well, and to anybody else concerned about what the MNGOP was buying with its money — if, indeed, anything. Among those who might be concerned are probably the fifteen counties, four law firms, a printing company and a couple of PR firms that the MNGOP stiffed in 2010 (scroll down to the very last page of the fourth restatement of the 2010 report to the CFB dated July 25, 2012).
But Tony Sutton was able to find the money to pay Dave. [emphasis added]
Sadly, no. Thompson's fees are listed as debts on federal reports at the close of 2010 and beyond, though not state reports to which Timmer directs his readers (which was rather one of the points of the Common Cause complaint after all).
The Republican Party of Minnesota stiffed Dave in 2010 too, as Bluestem first noted back in June 2011 in From the fascinating FEC reports of the Republican Party of Minnesota: of counties, committees, and candidates.
Since Timmer doesn't link to the FEC reports, Bluestem will review the case, lest the other Sutton era unpaid creditors feel Thompson got ahead in line for that red money.
As we shall see, the counties have been paid (with the exception of Cook) and with two exceptions, the other creditors are Republican law firms and flacks.
In short, they're a lot like Thompson.
Like Thompson, they're creditors at the end of 2010--and party hacks. Not necessarily the sort of victims that should raise your outrage because somehow Thompson got the better deal from Sutton, whatever professional sympathy Timmer may feel for his fellow members of the bar.
Sutton stiffs Thompson in 2010
According to the debts listed in party's end of year FEC filing:
P.O. Box 1201
Lakeville, Minnesota 55044
|10||7500.00||General Party Media Consulting|
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.
Tony Sutton never did manage to pay off the entire debt to Thompson. Sutton resigned from the chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota in early December, and current party chair Pat Shortage took over On December 31, 2011.
In the party's 2011 year-end report, which covers the month of December 2011, the Republican Party of Minnesota remains $7700.00 in hock to Thompson. According to the Campaign Finance Board, Thompson ended up giving that to the RPM as an in-kind contribution:
He had an outstanding invoice with RPM of $7,700 as of December 2011. He has given that $7,700 to the Party as an in-kind contribution.
And those other 2010 creditors? Did Sutton ever pay? Maybe some, depending how one looks at it. For instance, the Emmer for Governor campaign committee is credited with a $13,038.65 in-kind expenditure for recount fees to all but one of fifteen counties the LeftMN mentions.
Some might consider that as Sutton paying, but from this distance, it looks like the Emmer for Governor committee paid for those Sutton debts to the counties, just as Thompson ended up forgiving a sliver of party debt to him.
Here are the 2010 debts:
The 2011 debts:
But let's check those out. AVVR is a live-media service company and Rapit Printing, a locally-owned business.
Those poor. poor lawyers and flacks: victims all (yeah okay)
The other creditors have the sort of political ties that Thompson had--for LeftMN to leave the crony connections out might make Thompson appear to be a greater cad, paid at expense of hard-working lawyers and flacks, but a closer look is more rewarding, as it illustrates in even greater depth the culture of corruption during the Sutton years.
Capitol Direct, one of those poor stiffed victims cited by Timmer, is owned by state senator Chris Gerlach. The Pioneer Press reported in March 2102 that Senator Chris Gerlach to retire amid questions of conflict:
Gerlach's direct-mail business, Capitol Direct, was paid by lobbying firm Freedom [Club] to print a letter sent to Republicans in the Legislature, said Mike Dean, executive director of Common Cause Minnesota. The letter urged support of a state constitutional amendment to ban requiring workers to join and pay dues in unionized workplaces.
Here, as with Thompson, Sutton was stiffing one of his own, a mail house owned by a state senator. And Strother Communications? Minnesota Public Radio's Tom Scheck and Catharine Rockert reported in Chairman's spending decisions on insiders helped lead to GOP debt:
A Republican leader with 25 years of hard-earned respect from the party that prides itself on fiscal discipline, awarded contracts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to consultants, lawmakers, candidates and party insiders over the course of nearly 30 months as state party chairman, contributing to the financial wreckage the party is trying to fix today.....
Strother Communications earned $221,000 and is owed an additional $52,446....
Strother's work is a good illustration of how the party at times contracted with people who had close ties to Sutton.
After becoming close with Aanestad through party activities, Sutton initially hired him in June 2009 to serve as the party's communications director. But one day later, Sutton said Aanestad was not going to serve in that role because of "business commitments."
Subsequently, Aanestad introduced Sutton to Strother and encouraged him to hire Strother's firm to rebrand the party, Sutton explained. In early October of 2009, Strother Communications got its first check from the party.. . .
The MPR report also goes into the debts owed to the Trimble Law Firmm which like Thompson and Strother was paid in part:
Trimble & Associates, a legal firm owned by Tony Trimble, saw the Republican Party through two election recounts and a redistricting battle. Since 2008, the firm has made more than $1 million from the party, much of it stemming from the eight-month U.S. Senate recount between Republican incumbent Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken. Franken ultimately won the election.
The Republican Party still owes Trimble's firm $330,000 for work during the 2010 gubernatorial recount between the GOP's Tom Emmer and DFLer Mark Dayton, according to state party leaders. But those leaders are challenging the expense, and questioning Sutton's role in obligating the party to pay it.
In short, it doesn't look like Sutton gave Thompson a privileged position over other political and legal hacks the Republican Party hired. Most were cronies who got a share of the action and like Thompson, remain unpaid or forgiving. With the exception of Cook County, Emmer's committee took care of the outstanding debts to the counties.
An AV firm and a printing company remain unpaid.
The Thompson contract illustrates the culture of cronism that thrived under Sutton, as well as the sloppy bookkeeping. It doesn't demonstrate special treatment for Thompson, beyond that received by the rest of the cronies.
We agree with LeftMN and Joe Repya on one thing: an audit of the Sutton years is probably not forthcoming.
Image: The ever-green Sutton peso bill, by Tild. Everytime we think we've gotten what we can from that investment, something else comes out.
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