WASHINGTON – The Federal Election Commission warned the Minnesota Republican Party that it must straighten out its paperwork and clarify its 2014 year-end reports by mid-May, due to several mistakes.
The warning letter comes several months after the FEC fined the state party $26,000 for failing to disclose $250,000 in receipts, payments and debts between 2009 and 2011.
That was the second large fine to hit the state committee in recent years. In 2011, the FEC fined the party $170,000 for misrepresenting debts.
This time, in a letter dated April 10, FEC officials ask the Republican Party of Minnesota to disclose a copy of a loan agreement, as well as reporting discrepancies in dollars that were shifted from nonfederal to federal spending accounts.
State GOP Treasurer Bron Scherer said Monday the expenditures totaling $372,292 all were above board, but that software problems caused reporting mistakes. Scherer said they have had similar software problems in the past.
Asked why they don’t get a new system, Scherer said the party had limited resources “and we don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
It’s unclear whether the FEC will buy that defense. In a 2007 ruling, the FEC spells out that parties or party committees that say a computer or a software system fails is not a defensible position with paperwork filing mistakes.
“The Commission will generally conclude that a committee has not met the best efforts standard if the committee’s failure to obtain, maintain, or submit information or reports is due to … the failure of a committee’s computer system … a committee’s failure to use Commission-or vendor-provided software properly.”
Scherer said he is working with the FEC to get the problems quickly solved before the May 15 deadline set by the FEC.
The state party faces $1.4 million in debt, which has shrunk under the leadership of current executive director Keith Downey.
Downey was handily re-elected over the weekend to continue at the helm.