APNewsBreak: Dayton ran up $750K recount legal tab

Published 2:22 pm Monday, August 1, 2011

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Democrat Mark Dayton spent almost $750,000 in legal fees defending his narrow victory in Minnesota’s tight 2010 race for governor, according to a new disclosure report.

The legal fees paid from a special political fund to five law firms are detailed in the report quietly filed with the IRS during the weekend. The legal bills took until March to fully pay off.

Dayton beat Republican Tom Emmer by nearly 9,000 votes, a margin close enough to trigger a recount of 2.1 million ballots by hand. Emmer conceded defeat just as the recount was concluding in mid-December.

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After the election, Dayton raised large sums from labor unions, including five-figure checks that came in after he was sworn in. Dayton raised the money through a federally regulated account, allowing him to bypass much tighter state contribution limits.

The Republican Party footed Emmer’s recount expenses, but routed them through a special account that isn’t subject to public disclosure laws.

Party chairman Tony Sutton reiterated Monday that details on his side’s recount spending won’t be released voluntarily. “We’re not required to, so we’re not going to,” Sutton said, declining to say if all bills have been paid.

Legal fees were Dayton’s main expense. His Dayton Transition Fund/Dayton Recount Fund reported spending roughly $1.8 million between last November and this June.

All but one of the Dayton-hired law firms are based in Minnesota. The exception was Perkins Coie, which is headquartered in Seattle. That firm, which made almost $200,000, was the legal force behind Democratic Sen. Al Franken’s narrow win in a 2008 Minnesota race that also went to recount.

Minneapolis-based firm Lockgridge Grindal Nauen pulled in the most, with about $400,000 in legal fees.

A separate report listing Dayton fundraising and costs toward his inaugural celebration also was filed with the IRS. It shows almost $124,000 in spending from January to June. The biggest costs were for catering, food and venue rental for his inaugural ball.