The Minnesota Republican Party is sinking fast and Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan appears determined to go down with the ship.
Some party insiders have described the situation as a “dumpster fire,” which began Thursday with the arrest of Republican donor Anton Lazzaro on sex trafficking charges.
Lazzaro was reportedly a close friend of Carnahan, who “actively encouraged his complete immersion into the party structure and the homes of activists and donors,” Republican National Committeewoman Barb Sutter said.
“Not only has she known him for some time, she has counted on him to donate to the party when she needed money to meet payrolls,” Sutter claimed.
Lazzaro’s arrest unleashed a torrent of allegations against Carnahan online as former party activists and staffers felt compelled to speak up about the toxic environment she created within the Minnesota GOP.
Kayla Khang came forward Tuesday afternoon with allegations of sexual harassment against an unnamed former staff member.
“Young women in Minnesota Republican politics are not safe,” said Khang, also a former staffer, who claimed she was subjected to unwanted advances and derogatory comments about her race from the individual.
— Rebecca Brannon (@RebsBrannon) August 17, 2021
A few hours later, the chair of the Minnesota College Republicans said she has personally endured “several counts of sexual harassment while working within the Minnesota GOP.”
“For months, I endured constant sexual harassment from a campaign staffer,” Nia Moore said in a statement released on Twitter.
She claimed a different man who presented himself as being “more important than he was” made “physically inappropriate advances” towards her at a Minnesota Young Republicans happy hour.
Moore said she has spoken to numerous Minnesota College Republicans “who have similar and more severe stories” but fear retaliation from Carnahan like she did.
— Nia Moore (@niarrmoore) August 17, 2021
Moore’s predecessor, Karly Hahn, said she has “experienced firsthand the bounds [Carnahan] is willing to go to silence those she dislikes.”
The former College Republican accused Carnahan of circulating “horrendous allegations” about her, which left her in “a mental puddle.”
“It’s disheartening to see what she has done to our party. She’s not a leader. She’s a self-interested bully,” Hahn continued. She said she had to move to a different state to continue her work in Republican politics.
Hahn criticized Carnahan’s “blatant disregard” for the experiences of victims “under her watch.”
My statement on the #MNGOP
I’ve hesitated for years in fear of retaliation, but it needs to be heard. pic.twitter.com/dJCjTG1W3H
— Karly Hahn (@KarlyHahn) August 18, 2021
These descriptions fit with the testimonies offered by several current and past party leaders, who sent letters to their fellow Republicans earlier this year about Carnahan’s vindictive behavior.
Carnahan has also been accused of making liberal use of non-disclosure agreements to silence critics, one of many subplots in the unfolding drama.
Andy Aplikowski, former executive director of the Minnesota GOP, revealed in an email to members of the executive committee over the weekend that Carnahan offered him $10,000 in exchange for his silence.
Here is the letter from Apilkowski. pic.twitter.com/au207MBfVT
— Rebecca Brannon (@RebsBrannon) August 14, 2021
“You can’t ignore that every single person put in the ED position by Chair Carnahan has quit or been fired in a flash with little to no explanation,” he said in a follow-up email.
His emails prompted several Republican lawmakers to call on the party to release all current and past employees from non-disclosure agreements, or “silence severances,” as one state senator described them.
“As the Lazzaro situation unfolded, some individuals felt empowered to step forward and share some troubling information. However, there may be other parties involved who are unable to speak up as a result of NDAs they had signed with the MNGOP,” Bobby Benson, a member of the executive committee, said in a statement.
He then put forth a motion to “rid the party of the cancerous NDAs,” which passed in a vote of 8-6 during a Sunday night emergency meeting of the executive committee.
But now some members of the executive committee are already moving to rescind Benson’s motion, according to an email Carnahan sent to party leaders Monday afternoon.
She defended the use of NDAs as a “normal part of standard operating procedures with a majority of employers.”
“Non-disclosure agreements are important because they protect the party’s confidential, proprietary and organizational information. It’s of critical importance that we do not let the party’s proprietary information fall into the hands of the left or others that do not have our best interests and objectives in mind,” Carnahan wrote.
She also noted that NDAs do not prevent whistleblowers from coming forward to “expose illegality or impropriety within the organization,” but some have expressed online that they felt fear about coming forward because of the nature of their NDAs.
Carnahan then attacked executive committee members for “leaking” discussions from Sunday night’s meeting to “Twitter in real-time.”
“Such activity does nothing but disseminate mistruths and misinformation in an attempt to destroy my chairmanship and defame my personal reputation,” she said.
Carnahan joined WCCO Tuesday to discuss the situation and confirmed the veracity of a recording of her shared online by reporter Rebecca Brannon.
“Jim’s gonna be dead in two years. So be it,” Carnahan says in the recording, referring to her husband, Rep. Jim Hagedorn, who has cancer. Carnahan said she regrets the comment and apologized to her husband.
At least 20 Republican legislators, candidates, and causes have called on Carnahan to resign. She has thus far resisted those calls but directed the executive committee to take a “vote of confidence or no confidence” in her leadership at an upcoming meeting.
“Trust must be restored in the MNGOP leadership. Many of us work diligently to try to get Republican candidates elected, and the image of the party is crucial,” said Conservative American PAC Chairwoman Vicki Ernst, who called for Carnahan’s resignation.
“We are disheartened by practices put in place throughout the years of her leadership including new requirements to sign NDAs in order to keep board members quiet,” she added. “This is not a matter of whether you like or don’t like Jennifer Carnahan — it is a matter of what is right for the Republican Party.”
Alpha News reached out to the Minnesota GOP for comment. This story will be updated if a response is received.