MN GOP party leaders to hold emergency meeting over federal sex trafficking charges against Republican agent and donor – WCCO

MINNESOTA (WCCO) – The Minnesota GOP executive committee will hold an emergency meeting Friday night following allegations that a Republican donor “deeply involved” in party politics illegally trafficked minors for sexual purposes.

The Minnesota District Attorney’s Office said Anton Lazzaro, 30, was arrested and charged with federal sex trafficking charges for allegedly recruiting six underage victims to engage in commercial sex acts. Lazzaro’s lawyer said his client was falsely accused.

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Since court documents were released on Thursday, Lazzaro’s ties to the party and elected Republicans have raised questions and prompted politicians on both sides of the aisle to condemn the allegations.

Lazzaro has donated tens of thousands of dollars to Republican candidates and party units, as shown in state and federal campaign finance records, including at least $ 42,000 to the Minnesota GOP; $ 15,600 to United States Representative Tom Emmer, who is the chairman of the Republican National Committee of Congress; and $ 21,000 to US Representative Jim Hagedorn.

Several Republicans, including Emmer, Hagedorn and other members of the legislature like Republican House Leader Kurt Daudt, have since pledged to donate to charity for the contributions Lazzaro has made to their campaigns or committee. political action in recent years.

Jennifer Carnahan, president of the Minnesota GOP, said in a statement the party would do the same.

“If the allegations against Mr. Anton Lazzaro are true, this is a heinous act which we condemn in the highest possible terms,” Carnahan said. “The Minnesota Republican Party will donate the contributions Mr. Lazzaro has given to our organization to charity. “

Two party officials told WCCO that Carnahan called an emergency state executive council meeting for Friday evening, offering no details other than to ask that they attend through Zoom.

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Board members said they believed the meeting was to discuss Lazzaro and what has been described as “deep” involvement in the party. Some of them are asking for an audit of the party’s finances.

David Schultz, a professor at Hamline University and expert in electoral law, said that if the Republicans’ goal is to root out the money given by Lazzaro, it will be difficult because the funds can be transferred between political units and donations can be “difficult to trace.” after a while.”

“If this is all true, you are looking at what most people would say is unbelievably dirty money at this point. And even though they may have unwittingly taken that money, without knowing what someone is involved in, it’s dirty money, ”he said. “They have to find a way to dissociate themselves from him and all the money he’s given them.”

Hagedorn, who is married to Carnahan, posted a photo of himself in 2017 on social media during a Vikings game with Carnahan and Lazzaro.

Carnahan and Lazzaro hosted a podcast together in 2019 and early 2020. The party president made no mention of a personal connection to Lazzaro in her statement.

Senator Roger Chamberlain (R-Lino Lakes) asked Carnahan to step down from his relationship with Lazzaro on Friday night.

“President Jennifer Carnahan must resign immediately. The charges against Anton Lazzaro for child sex trafficking are deeply disturbing, disgusting and disgusting, and Carnahan’s close and continuing relationship with him is troubling to say the least, ”Chamberlain said. “I find it impossible to believe that she was not aware of his activities.”

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Hagedorn’s campaign could not be reached for comment on Friday, but MPR reported that Hagedorn also donates Lazzaro’s campaign contributions to charity.

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