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Gary Goldsmith Executive Director Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board 190 Centennial Office Building 658 Cedar Street St. Paul, Minnesota 55155-1603 Dear Mr. Goldsmith: For more than five months, the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board (CFPDB) has been investigating a complaint brought forward by Common Cause Minnesota against the Republican Party of Minnesota and Count Them All Properly, Inc. First, Common Cause Minnesota would like to thank the board and staff for your work investigating this issue. We realize the monumental task that the board has undertaken in investigating the complaint and, and therefore, express our gratitude. With that said, we have unfortunately uncovered some new information that will require Common Cause Minnesota to amend our complaint. In a May 7, 2012, report, the Minnesota Republican Party publically disclosed the nature of the work that Senator Dave Thompson provided to the Republican Party of Minnesota over a three year period. The report said:
Dave Thompson entered into three separate contracts with RPM, one prior to his election to the Minnesota Senate in November 2010 and two after his election: • 10/1/09 - 11/30/10 - Represent the RPM on radio, TV and other media outlets; participate in meetings and events for the RPM; train state and local candidates to deal with media, interviews, etc.; provide 50 hours per month. Fees -$3,750/month • 12/1/10 - 5/31/11 - Work with RPM staff and officers to raise money for the RPM; general communications and messaging issues, as requested; train state and local candidates to deal with media, interviews, etc.; provide 50 hours per month. Fees - $3,750/month. • 8/1/11- 7/31/12 - Work with RPM staff and officers to raise money for the RPM. Fees - $1,000/month, plus 15% of money raised and no additional fees have been incurred or paid to Thompson during 2012. Thompson was paid a total of $70,568.56 from RPM pursuant to the above contracts. 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
The memo clearly states that Sen. Thompson provided services to train “state and local candidates” from October, 2009 through May, 2011. However, these expenses for state campaign activity do not show up on any of the Republican Party of Minnesota state campaign finance reports for 2009, 2010, or 2011. This expenditure to Sen. Thompson does appear on the Republican Party of Minnesota Federal Election Commission report for 2009 - 2011. This represents a violation of Minn. Stat. §10A.20, subd. 3(g), which
requires disclosure of all expenditures made to support state and local candidates by the Republican Party of Minnesota. Part of this expenditure should appear on the state campaign finance reports for any work to assist state candidates. In addition, any media relations work that Sen. Thompson provided to Republican Party of Minnesota on state campaign issues should also be recorded as an expenditure on state campaign finance reports. Common Cause Minnesota urges the CFPDB to more closely look at the relationship between the Republican Party of Minnesota state and federal accounts. It is possible that other state expenses are being moved to the federal account to make the balance sheet appear better than it really is for the Republican Party of Minnesota. While the expenditures are still being disclosed on the federal report, allowing groups to move expenditures in such a way misrepresents the true financial picture of the organization state activities and still is a violation according to state law. It is the role of the CFPDB to investigate these matters if there is the appearance of a violation. Common Cause Minnesota believes that the last six months has shown that there is a pattern of poor accounting and failed compliance with state campaign finance and disclosure laws by the Republican Party of Minnesota that requires a deeper look into other potential violations. The contract with Sen. Thompson also suggest that there is a violation of Minn. Stat. §10A.20, subd. 6(a) requires independence between party unit filing a report and a candidate for state office. Specifically the statute states that the party must “report a sworn statement that the disclosed expenditures were not made with the authorization or expressed or implied consent of, or in cooperation or in concert with, or at the request or suggestion of any candidate or any candidate's principal campaign committee or agent.” It is clear that Sen. Thompson was both a paid consultant of the Republican Party of Minnesota and a candidate for state legislature in 2010 at the same time. This violates the state law because a candidate is forbidden from cooperating with an independent expenditure, regardless of which candidates the independent expenditure is supporting or opposing. Based on the Republican Party memo, Sen. Thompson did raise money that was used to run independent expenditures. Common Cause Minnesota asks the CFPDB to investigate this and other potential violations not mentioned in the initial complaint as they become apparent to the CFPDB during their investigation. The need for a complete investigation The investigation into the Minnesota Republican Party will be heading into its sixth month. It seems that the investigation could likely go on for several more months because, as more information becomes public, new potential violations emerge. Common Cause Minnesota would like to ask the CFPDB to complete the investigation into the recount fund activities and release those findings as soon as possible. It is critical that a decision be made on the circumvention of recount expenses to Count Them All Properly, Inc., to give guidance to groups who may be thinking about engaging in similar behavior this election cycle. Unfortunately, the Citizens United decision has emboldened groups to test the boundaries of state campaign finance laws in regards to non-profit and for-profit corporations. To prevent future violations, these findings should be a priority for the CFPDB. Then, the CFPDB can continue the rest of investigation
into the other violations. Considering remedies for potential violations Considering the public information that has been released regarding the Common Cause Minnesota complaint against the Republican Party of Minnesota, it is likely that the CFPDB will find some violations occurred. Common Cause Minnesota asks that you seriously consider the penalties in this case. Over the last several years the CFPDB has focused more on compliance of campaign finance and disclosure rules, rather than enforcement. Common Cause Minnesota is concerned that this philosophy is creating an environment that encourages groups to play fast and loose with Minnesota campaign finance rules because they understand that will not be held accountable if they are caught. While some of this is also being brought on by the recent Citizens United Supreme Court decision, Common Cause Minnesota is seeing a considerable increase in the number of potential violations. The Citizens United decision has created a new “Wild West” in the world of political spending. If the CFDB does not to begin to “lay down the law” in this area, then it will just be inviting associations and individuals to become more brazen in their activities. Without effective enforcement of the law and real penalties for those that violate the law, there are no consequences for the action of these associations or individuals. The CFPDB has been willing to provide clarification to anyone who has questions about what is and is not permissible under the law. In many of the issues presented in our complaint, no one sought an advisory opinion to confirm that the creation of such a fund was permissible. It is the responsibility of the CFPDB to “promote public confidence in state government decision-making.” Unfortunately, that confidence appears to be at such low levels that have not seen since the Watergate era, almost forty years ago. The Minnesota legislature has made it clear that they want to limit the amount of secret money flowing into state campaigns. Common Cause Minnesota asks that you enforce those laws set by the people of Minnesota and not just seek compliance. Sincerely,
Mike Dean Common Cause Minnesota
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