A Minnesota government watchdog group today called on state GOP chairman Tony Sutton to disclose the client list of his political consulting firm, saying his dual role as consultant and state party chair raise questions about the possible appearance of impropriety.

The group, Common Cause, says Sutton has special access and influence over lawmakers in his role as head of a major state party, which receives “significant financial support from taxpayers.” The state GOP and its candidates received more than $1.7 million in taxpayer public subsidy payments last year, according to the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure board.

“Legislators and the public deserve to know whose interests Tony Sutton may be representing,” said Mike Dean, executive director of Common Cause Minnesota. “Mr. Sutton should have nothing to fear by disclosing which interests he represents.”

Sutton declined comment on the Common Cause release. Sutton told the Star Tribune earlier this week that his client list is nobody’s business but his own. Last year he blasted gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner for not disclosing the clients of his former public relations company.

Sutton said in the interview on Tuesday that he is not running for public office, and thus does not have the same obligation to disclose his clients.

“Governor of the state, you’re making decisions in an official capacity on behalf of the taxpayers,” Sutton said. “I’m in a political party -- a private group. It’s not part of the government. It’s not an organization that’s part of the government.  That’s the difference.”

In January, Sutton’s consulting firm, Winning Strategies, announced a partnership with Public Affairs Co. Public Affairs Co., run by Republican activist Steve Knuth, inked a contract this year with Citizens Against Gambling Expansion. Sutton and his wife, Bridget, sit on the board of the non-profit advocacy group.

Sutton won’t say whether he’s getting any money from the deal.

“I’m not going to talk about my personal business affairs,” Sutton said. “I’m just not going to do it. As soon as I start going down that road, I’m just not going to open that can of worms. I’m just not going to do it.”

A story that ran Thursday in the Star Tribune detailed a bitter and public feud between Sutton and a former business associate who said Bridget Sutton approached pro-gambling forces seeking business for her husband. Both the Suttons deny that ever happened.

Sutton is up for re-election a party chairman at a meeting of statewide delegates on Saturday at the Ramada Mall of America. The gathering starts at 9 a.m. He is currently an unpaid chairman, but said earlier the week he's considering running as a paid chairman. He will announce that before the vote Saturday.