Friday, July 31, 2009

Where have I heard that name before?

Something that’s been percolating around my brain for a while is a question about this Tony Sutton dude. No, not whether the Mexican restaurant chain is introducing a line of chimichangas named after prominent GOP gasbags, but his new gig as Chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota. As I read about his new job, I had this sneaking suspicion that his name was not entirely new to me, that there was something in the past that he’d done.

Then it came flooding back to me. This Sutton guy was, before ascending to the throne room at the RPM, the treasurer of the RPM. He’s the one whose name is most closely associated with the horrific accounting and auditing nightmare that is the treasury of the RPM. He’s been front and center in that complaint filed with the Federal Elections Commission and he’s the one who has had rather pointed questions directed at him by the FEC here, here, here, and here. He also had to send in those humiliating letters – over and over and over again – stating that "An amended report correcting this error will be filed when the committee's internal audit has been completed." In short, he was apparently the doofus in charge as this mess was allowed to fester and grow into what some think will eventually lead to the largest FEC fine in history for poor bookkeeping.

For most of us, being so intimately connected with this monumental mess would be such a professional embarrassment that we’d slink off to North Dakota or something. We’d at least have the good sense to drop out of politics.

But not Mr. Sutton. Nope, he decides that such a stellar performance only means one thing – he’s destined for bigger and better things! He’s going to run for the top office in the party! He's going to win that top spot and he's going to reboot that party! Proclaiming that the Minnesota GOP is “alive and running hard,” he feels he’s just the man to engineer the renaissance of the party after some pretty lousy election cycles.

But wouldn’t you think that the party might be asking for a bit of trouble by elevating the inept treasurer while the FEC complaints are still pending, still unresolved, still going to eventually lead to trouble - and a sizable fine - at Mr. Sutton’s doorstep?

In a word, no. You see, the Federal Elections Commission, thanks to appointees of outgoing President Bush, has become a toothless joke:
Election-law experts, supporters of campaign-finance regulations, and even some members of the commission itself are expressing growing concern about a string of cases in which the three Republicans on the commission -- led by Tom DeLay's former ethics lawyer -- have voted as a block against enforcement, preventing the commission from carrying out its basic regulatory function. As the normally mild-mannered Washington Post editorial board wrote recently: "The three Republican appointees are turning the commission into The Little Agency That Wouldn't: wouldn't launch investigations, wouldn't bring cases, wouldn't even accept settlements that the staff had already negotiated."

And when the agency that is supposed to investigate and punish the malfeasance and illegal actions of the Republican Party of Minnesota can be counted on to continue to do nothing, why not install the guy as chair? They've gutted the system and they know that even thought they've been caught, they're not likely to ever be held responsible. In the meantime, the RPM has smear campaigns to run. They have questionable operations to coordinate with political operatives who escape oversight. They have to continue to recycle those "tax and spend liberals" press releases over and over and over again. Go team!

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