Sunday, August 21, 2011

A deal he couldn't refuse

By now, most have heard about the final resolution of the Republican Party of Minnesota's numerous violations of federal election law that took place when its current chair, Tony Sutton, was holding down the fort as treasurer. We've highlighted this ongoing investigation here, here, here, and here. In a Conciliation Agreement with the Federal Election Commission, available as a pdf from the MPR website, the Party admitted to the violations and agreed to pay a fine of $170,000.

Among the facts agreed to in the settlement are:

The party withheld retirement payments from employees' paychecks while not paying the money into those employees' accounts until months later and failing to report the money owed as a debt.

The party failed to disclose $994,319 in money owed to vendors in 2006.

The party neglected to report unreimbursed staff expenses as debt.

The party did not bother to properly allocate expenses of $574,342 between state accounts and federal accounts and excessive transfers to the federal account.

A simple mea culpa might be expected from a more thoughtful organization, but we're dealing with Tony Sutton here. So of course we get the unsurprising bellyaching we've grown to expect from Mr. Sutton. In a press release issued to address the issue (also available from MPR), no blame is accepted and all manner of excuses offered.

First, he claims that the complaint was filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a "liberal organization," implying that - heck, I don't know - that the financial mess didn't exist because some liberal organization pointed it out? Calling those who disagree with him names is nothing new to Mr.Sutton, so this is to be expected. Then, Chairman Sutton insists that the party has "proactively made changes to its FEC accounting and reporting processes." Not so fast, Mr. Sutton. In the agreement, the FEC specifically found (Par. 17) that the "proactive" steps taken "did not disclose all previously undisclosed debt." Nice try, but no dice.

Then of course, there's the excuse that "this is complicated stuff!" as if that excused one from following federal law. Withholding money from employees' paychecks and not depositing the funds where they belong isn't complicated, Mr. Sutton. Recording your debts - especially if they amount to over half a million bucks - isn't complicated either. Ask any bookkeeper - such things happen all the time in the mysterious world of accrual accounting.

Implicitly recognizing how ridiculous those excuses are, former treasurer Sutton falls back onto more familiar and pathetic grousing: "Some Democrats have problems too," and "this is nothing more than excessive government regulation."


While it's going to be a difficult task to repay the money when the party's so broke, the agreement does have an easy payment plan set up with payments over the next year or so. Good thing that Tom Emmer stepped in with the cash to pay the counties that the party still owed money to for last year's recount, or they would have to wait all that much longer.

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