Since my initial post on politics.mn about the issues involving the campaign finance reports of former U.S. Senate candidate Julianne Ortman, the story has ballooned into massive and complex political story. Here is where we are today with the story:
#1. Allegation made by candidate that an advisor to Ortman paid for endorsement
According to two former Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate, Andy Parrish, the campaign manager to then-Republican U.S. Senate candidate Julianne Ortman had conversations with them at the Republican State Convention in Rochester earlier this year, about the candidates endorsing Ortman’s candidacy in exchange for the payment of campaign debt by Ortman’s campaign.
In multiple interviews for my blog on the Star Tribune, Monti Moreno of Marine-on-St.-Croix and Phillip Parrish of Medford, confirmed Andy Parrish [no relation to Phillip Parrish] approached them both separately during the balloting for the Republican Party of Minnesota‘s endorsement for U.S. Senate with a request to endorse Ortman.
Both said Andy Parrish voluntarily inquired of each candidate about any campaign debt they may have and the possibility of repaying some of the debt in exchange for their endorsement of Ortman.
Moreno accepted the deal he claims Andy Parrish made and endorsed Ortman’s candidacy for payment of $5,000 – an amount Moreno said he never completely collected. Phillip Parrish refused to even discuss the specifics of any formal payment of debt and voluntarily endorsed Ortman.
#2. Moreno and Ortman failed to file timely campaign finance reports
Moreno has not filed any campaign finance reports in 2014, as required by campaign finance laws. Moreno previously said in an interview that he estimated that his committee raised and spent “approximately $10,000.”
A spokesperson with the FEC last week that a committee is required to file reports if the committee raises and spends over $5,000. By Moreno’s own definition of his committee’s financial activity, he would be required to file reports with the FEC. I asked Moreno about why his campaign committee had not filed reports with the FEC and he said he was waiting to resolve the issue with the payment he claims he is owed from Ortman’s campaign.
Ortman has also failed to file timely reports. Last Wednesday, the FEC posted the campaign reports filed by the campaign committee. This included one overdue report, and amendments to every previously filed report. The reports filed this week by Ortman’s treasurer, Charles P. Erickson, who is also a member of the Waconia City Council, clear up some of the issues raised by the FEC, but also generate more questions about the financing of her candidacy for the U.S. Senate.
One of the major questions raised by the FEC was related to inconsistent opening and closing cash on hand balances on two consecutive reports, creating the appearance of almost $130,000 in “missing” funds, which I detailed here. The new reports correct this inconsistency, but over 100 pages of the campaign’s newly amended April Quarterly Report are missing, including all of the pages which would detail the campaign’s expenditures.
A FEC spokesman said today that’s Ortman’s campaign failed to send all of the pages to the FEC and that her committee will have to file another amended report. Without the detail that should be included in the missing pages, it is impossible to reconcile the report that was previously filed with the new report to determine what was changed. It is also not possible to tell where and how the campaign’s money was spent.
#3. Missing payments to a consultant who claimed he worked on Ortman’s campaign
John Gilmore, a Republican blogger and attorney, wrote last June that he “was a paid consultant for [Ortman’s] campaign for April and May, with research and writing my main tasks.” But no payments to Gilmore appear on Ortman’s campaign finance report nor is a debt listed to Gilmore on Ortman’s report. Gilmore did not respond to a request for comment about his “paid” role with Ortman’s campaign.
#4. Key players refuse to comment, they offer conflicting statements, or give non-denial denials to questions
Since the story first broke about Ortman’s problems with her FEC reports, she had not been willing to discuss the issue directly. Statements from Ortman have been provided by former campaign staff or she has requested questions be submitted in writing. But even after submitting questions to Ortman in writing, she refused to answer many of the question. When pressed for specifics, Ortman offered non-denial denials in response to some questions.
Ortman said in an initial statement that the problems with her FEC reports were caused by “an apparent miscommunication between the Treasurer and the FEC Compliance expert.” But Ortman’s treasurer told the FEC the issues with Ortman’s reports was caused by a “software error.”
Her campaign treasurer has refused to comment and Ortman’s assistant campaign treasurer Jim Sanborn, who was just elected mayor of Waconia, would also not answer questions about her committee’s filings with the FEC. In response to a request for a comment about his conversations with Moreno and Phillip Parrish about their endorsement of Ortman and the discussion of payments of campaign debt, Andy Parrish replied in an email, “out of respect for candidates I do not speak publicly about private conversations.”
#5. Potential legal issues involving Ortman’s campaign
David Schultz, a Hamline University political science professor who teaches classes on numerous subject areas, including election law said in a previous interview that “if the facts as alleged are true, paying somebody money for the purposes of getting them out of the race, or paying someone money to endorse you is a felony under federal and state law.”
In a highly unusual move, Ortman’s campaign filed amendments to every report that they had previously filed with the FEC. In each of the reports (except the 2014 Pre-Primary Report, which only covers three week’s time) Ortman’s campaign overstated the amount of money it had raised and understated the amount of money her campaign had spent, which led to inflated cash on hand totals at the closing of the reporting period. After a comprehensive review by FEC staff, Ortman’s campaign could face penalties for failing to file timely and accurate campaign finance reports.
As always, please check back to politics.mn or my blog with the Star Tribune for additional information on this developing story.