- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 3, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Two vendors are accusing the Minnesota Republican Party of dragging its feet on hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid bills.

In emails sent to state GOP Chairman Keith Downey and obtained by the Star Tribune (https://strib.mn/1AWgXyC ), executives at Republican-owned consulting firms say they haven’t been paid for services. The national firms provided direct mail and other communications for federal and state Republican candidates in Minnesota.

Downey said the party owes vendors about $300,000, and that it has paid 80 percent of its debt that is tied to campaigns to vendors. He said it takes a few months for parties to catch up on bills after elections.

“Do we need to get caught up on the invoices of our vendors? Certainly. Is it in process? Yes,” Downey said.

Vendors and party leaders typically discuss debts after elections, Downey said. But he said he didn’t understand “the decision to play this out publicly.”

Peter Valcarce, founder and manager of Arena Communications, confirmed he wrote and sent an email to Downey. He claimed the Salt Lake City-based firm is still owed $211,473.

“It’s the first time I’ve taken a step like this with a state party in the almost 20 years I’ve been in business,” Valcarce said.

The Minnesota Republic Party owed $1.47 million to creditors at the end of January. It had amassed nearly $2 million in debt when former chairman Tony Sutton exited his post, and Downey said the party would continue to try to work down its obligations.

The party feels confident about its financial footing, Downey said.

“If you look at the financial position compared to when I came in, it’s night and day,” he said.

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Information from: Star Tribune, https://www.startribune.com

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