Minnesota GOP chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan is facing calls to resign in the wake of the arrest and indictment for child sex trafficking of a close friend and donor.
The arrest of Anton "Tony" Lazzaro on Thursday has sparked turmoil within the Minnesota GOP after it emerged he was a significant donor to more than a dozen prominent state Republicans and party campaigns.
Republicans who received donations from Lazzaro have quickly said they would be donating them after he was indicted on 10 charges, including 6 for child sex trafficking, but it is his close links with Carnahan and her husband, 1st District Congressman Jim Hagedorn, that is now putting greater pressure on the party, to the extent that some members are now calling for Carnahan's resignation.
Lazzaro rose to prominence in the Minnesota GOP after he became part of the team that helped Carnahan unexpectedly ascend to the role of chair in 2017.
Their close relationship continued, with Lazzaro one of the few invited to Carnahan and Hagedorn's 2018 wedding in California, FOX 9 reports. The pair hosted a podcast together in 2019/20, entitled #TruthMatters, and Hagedorn was the recipient of Lazzaro's largest donations, to the tune of $31,000.
Sen. Roger Chamberlain (R-Lino Lakes) on Friday evening became the first sitting lawmaker to call on Carnahan to step down, saying: "Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan must resign immediately.
"The charges against Anton Lazzaro are deeply disturbing, disgusting, and repulsive, and Carnahan's close, ongoing relationship with him is troubling to say the least.
"I find it impossible that she didn't know about his activities."
There has been nothing released by authorities at this stage that suggests Carnahan was aware of Lazzaro's alleged activities, with Carnahan telling KARE 11's Lou Raguse on Friday that she learned it all from the media.
Carnahan was criticized for not responding to Lazzaro's arrest until Friday, when she issued a statement saying that: "If the allegations against Mr. Anton Lazzaro are true, this is an abhorrent act that we condemn in the highest possible terms," and saying all donations the party received from him will be donated.
She also called for "due process" to be provided to "all parties involved."
Another Republican calling for Carnahan to step down is Kelly Fenton, a former state lawmaker and GOP party chair in Woodbury, who said Carnahan "is a liability to our Party and anyone running under our banner."
"Those actively engaged should call for her to step aside so new leadership can clean it up and focus on winning. 2022 could be a good year for #GOP. I’ll start: For good of Party, please resign!" she tweeted.
Carnahan's leadership of the GOP is under pressure from another angle too, with conservative photojournalist Rebecca Brannon making a series of allegations on Twitter relating to the use of threats and intimidation by some of her staffers, including Lazzaro, as well as the use of non-disclosure agreements with employees.
Bring Me The News reached out to the Minnesota GOP for comment on these allegations Friday afternoon, but has yet to receive a response.
The apparent use of NDAs by Carnahan has been reported by the Minnesota Reformer, which in a story on Friday cited anonymous sources who said they were employed by Carnahan to "insulate her from criticism."
It is understood that the Minnesota GOP Executive Board met Friday evening, though further details of what was discussed have not yet emerged.
Raising eyebrows in the wake of Lazzaro's arrest is the revelation that authorities seized $371,000 in cash – and more in foreign currency – as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars-worth more in gold and other precious metals in his possession. You can read more about this here.