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The potential scandal came to light this winter, when a man named George Fraley received a certified letter from a Republican attorney, addressing him as the CEO of a company called Count them All Property Inc. and billing him for over $219,000 in legal fees.
According to the Star Tribune, Fraley had no connections to the Republican Party, had never heard of the company, and had no idea how he had come to be listed as its CEO.
Regulators have since determined that “in the last two years, Count Them All Properly has listed two CEOs, both of whom say they have never heard of the company.
Meanwhile, it is not even clear whether the state Republican Party will accept responsibility for the company’s debts, since the current party leaders have not indicated whether they will honor an agreement signed by the former party chairman.
Regulators have since determined that “in the last two years, Count Them All Properly has listed two CEOs, both of whom say they have never heard of the company. Count Them All Properly has no corporate office, no phone number and no website. It does, however, have roughly $500,000 in debt, mostly to recount lawyers.”
However, in Minnesota, “the secretary of state’s website makes it relatively easy for someone to change corporate CEOs or other company officers, either intentionally or by accident. It requires no special password, no signature and does not alert a company when changes are made.”
Mark Ritchie was elected Minnesota's Secretary of State in the November 2006 General Election. He was supported by the Secretary of State Project, a progressive organization formed in response to the 2000 presidential election.
In 2008, Ritchie presided over the most publicly scrutinized recount in the history of the United States Senate, the election contest of Al Franken and Norm Coleman. The Minnesota Supreme Court unanimously supported the conclusions of the recount.
Ritchie is also widely credited with increasing the number of overseas military voters in Minnesota elections.
[color=gold]In 2007, Ritchie initially denied knowing how his campaign received a list of e-mail addresses of participants in a state-sponsored program. The list was used to send a citizen an e-mail asking for political contributions. After an investigation by the Legislative Auditor of Minnesota he admitted that he personally transferred the list, which was publicly available, to his campaign. State Republican leaders, citing inconsistencies from him regarding his role in his campaign's procurement of the list, called on him to resign. The Legislative Auditor determined that he had not broken any laws by allowing his campaign to use the e-mail list because it was public data. However, the Auditor did say that he "did not fulfill his legal obligation to make a full and timely response to a request for information from the Legislative Auditor," although he disputed this statement.
Amid internal controversies over the Republican Party of Minnesota’s outstanding debts following state Chair Tony Sutton’s resignation last week, party officers and insiders have maintained that the state GOP is not legally required to pay back nearly $500,000 in legal fees racked up during the 2010 gubernatorial election recount.
But although it was apparently unknown to them, a top GOP recount attorney says that claim is false.
On Wednesday one of the GOP attorneys on the recount, Tony Trimble, told PIM that then-RPM Chairman Sutton signed an agreement legally obliging the party to cover the full cost of the recount legal fees, reportedly around $450,000. And late Wednesday afternoon, Sutton confirmed the existence of an agreement that he says he does not recall disclosing to other party officials. But Sutton went on to claim that he believes the party is only responsible for the debt in the event that the recount fund in question, incorporated as Count Them All Properly Inc., ceases to exist.
“As long as the recount fund exists,” Sutton said, “that’s the legal entity responsible, period. At least that’s my impression.”
The Republican Party of Minnesota Thursday night announced it agreed to pay a $170,000 fine for a series of federal campaign finance violations between 2006 and 2008. For three years, the party failed to properly report debts on its federal campaign finance reports. It also inappropriately transferred money between two accounts. “We learned a very hard lesson,” said Party Chairman Tony Sutton, who was the party's treasurer during 2006 and 2007.
The recount costs would only add to an already daunting debt load facing the party. At the end of October, the RPM had unpaid bills of more than $500,000, according to the party’s most recent FEC filing. That doesn’t include a recent FEC fine, for which the party still owes more than $100,000. All told, the additional recount costs could put the party’s debt closer to the $1 million mark.