Jeff Larson defends use of RNC funds [INTERVIEW]

By Andy Mannix and Mike Mullen

AP Images
Larson was the CEO and treasurer for the 2008 Republican National Convention host committee.
In 2008, St. Paul hosted the Republican National Convention. Republican strategist Jeff Larson was the CEO and treasurer of the host committee, which raised $65 million prior to the four-day event (Read this week's feature, RNC Piggy Bank). After the convention left town and its debts were paid, the host committee still had a surplus of more than $7 million.

Though the bulk would go to charity, a number of individuals and companies continued to receive payments from the surplus years after the convention. Several campaign finance experts who analyzed the expenditure reports for City Pages say the pattern of spending so long after the convention is abnormal, and deserves an explanation.

For this we went to Larson, the man in charge. Larson declined to be interviewed over the phone, but agreed to answer questions via e-mail. Larson did not respond to questions about payments made to specific individuals after the convention. Here's an abbreviated version of what he would tell us:

City Pages: Can you start by explaining who selected you to be CEO of the 2008 Republican National Convention Host Committee? Why were you interested in taking this job?

Jeff Larson: I believed the Twin Cities needed a shot in the arm. It had been a long time since the Minneapolis St Paul had hosted anything nearly as large as the National Convention. You would have to go back to the Super Bowl in 1991 since we were on the national stage...

...Since it was the Republican Convention that decided to come here, and since the Host Committee needed someone who knew the community and knew the workings of the RNC, they asked me to take this position. I did it to help ensure Minneapolis Saint Paul put on a world-class Convention that put us on the map with other convention cities like Chicago, Boston, New York, New Orleans, Denver and Los Angeles. We did exactly that thanks to our Board, our team, and the community.

Larsons did not answer questions about specific payments to individuals.
CP: It's been more than two years now since the convention, and the host committee still exists. Why has the committee not closed yet?

JL: The short answer is the Federal Elections Commission had not allowed us to do so

CP: You told National Journal reporter Ed Pound in 2008 that your position as CEO of the committee was unpaid. Why?

JL: I was brought on as the Chief Executive Officer of the Host Committee on July 1, 2007. According to the written Consulting Agreement, I could be reimbursed for expenses but draw no consulting fee or payment. I was eligible for a discretionary bonus at the conclusion of the convention based on the Board's view of how well I achieved certain goals and if there was any money left over.

On July 21, 2009, the Board of Directors held an Executive Session to discuss my performance as Chief Executive Officer of the Host Committee. At that time, I had served as the CEO for over 2 years. The Board voted to pay me $400,000 for this work.

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