Minnesota GOP pays severance to chair who quit over ties to alleged child sex trafficker

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Anton Lazzaro was arrested on several charges of federal sex trafficking earlier in August.

The chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota resigned on Thursday, a week after a top donor and close ally of hers was arrested on federal sex trafficking charges.

She is still set to receive tens of thousands of dollars in severance payments.

In a statement, Jennifer Carnahan said she had "no knowledge or involvement" in the alleged "heinous acts of sex trafficking and obstruction of justice" for which GOP strategist Anton Lazzaro was indicted.

"It is unfortunate that the mob mentality has come out in this way to defame, tarnish and attempt to ruin my personal and professional reputation," she stated. "[But] it's in the best interest of the party and my mental health to resign from my position as Chairwoman."

Lazzaro, through his lawyer, has denied all the charges against him.

The party's executive committee had convened an emergency meeting Thursday to consider whether Carnahan should stay on as chair, prior to her announcement that she would be stepping down.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported late Thursday night that Carnahan herself was the deciding vote on the party's executive board to grant herself severance upon her departure. The 15-member board voted for her ouster 8-7.

According to local news outlet KARE 11, Carnahan, who ran in the same social circles as Lazzaro and co-hosted a podcast with him, will still receive about $37,000 in severance pay over the next three months despite quitting her job. A party spokesperson did not immediately respond to an inquiry on the matter.

Minnesota Republican lawmakers quickly weighed in on her departure.

"The allegations and revelations of this past week have been heartbreaking. As a mother and grandmother, my sympathy and support are with the victims," tweeted U.S. Rep. Michelle Fischbach. "Chairwoman Carnahan's resignation allows the Republican Party of Minnesota to move forward."

Rep. Tom Emmer tweeted, "Jennifer Carnahan's resignation is the first step in moving the Republican Party of Minnesota forward. However, if we are to restore integrity and live by the conservative values we stand for, there is more work to be done. I urge the executive board to continue on with full investigations into any alleged impropriety."

Emmer told Minnesota Public Radio that he would give the more than $13,000 he received from Lazzaro to two Minnesota domestic violence shelters.

The National Republican Campaign Committee — which Emmer chairs — has not said whether it plans to donate the at least $10,000 Lazzaro has given to the group in the past and has not responded to multiple requests for comment on the matter.

Carnahan's husband, Rep. Jim Hagedorn, does not appear to have released a statement yet on her departure from the state party seat, though he previously announced he would divest the at least $21,000 he received from Lazzaro.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.