(The Center Square) – Embattled Minnesota Republican Party Chair Jennifer Carnahan resigned Thursday after the FBI charged a major party donor, Anthony Lazzaro, 30, with six counts of human sex trafficking a minor between May and December 2020.
On Thursday, the party's 15-member board voted 8-7 to give Carnahan three months salary, or about $38,000.
“It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve as chairwoman for the Republican Party of Minnesota,” Carnahan said in a statement after the vote. “However, I signed up for this party to help us elect Republicans and I want to ensure that we can continue to do that.”
Carnahan’s resignation follows Lazzaro’s arrest and allegations of toxic work environments in which sexual harassment was ignored.
Carnahan denied all allegations.
“Our party has faced difficult circumstances this past week with the indictment of one of our party’s major donors for the heinous acts of sex trafficking and obstruction of justice,” Carnahan said in a statement. “I want to be very clear in unequivocally stating I had no knowledge or involvement in those activities. I trust that justice will be served, and he will spend the rest of his life in prison.
Lazzaro recently worked for Lacy Johnson, the Republican candidate challenging Rep. Ilhan Omar for Minnesota's 5th Congressional District last year, and was a large donor to Republicans.
Lazzaro worked on a podcast with Carnahan between October 2019 and January 2020. Last December, the FBI raided Lazzaro’s downtown Minneapolis condo, seizing $371,000 in cash, 13 cell phones, and a Ferrari, court documents say.
Carnahan initially resisted resigning, claiming she had no knowledge of Lazzaro’s alleged illicit activities and she denied alleged sexual harassment claims.
“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,” Carnahan said in a statement. “I am confident a full investigation will uncover the facts and prove my innocence.”
Andy Aplikowski, the former executive director of the Republican Party of Minnesota, released a statement alleging "abusive leadership by Jennifer Carnahan and her connections to Anton 'Tony' Lazzaro."
Republican Party of Minnesota released a statement condemning her leadership.
“Ten years ago, Chair Tony Sutton resigned because, under his leadership, the Republican Party of Minnesota was financially bankrupt. Today, the Party is morally bankrupt due to the leadership of Chair Jennifer Carnahan,” the statement read.