‘They sell food at a strip club, don’t they?’ Minnesota Republican Senate candidate flagged for questionable campaign spending

Ex-basketball player is running in with state GOP’s endorsement in August primary

John Bowden
Washington DC
Monday 10 June 2024 19:37
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A former NBA player running for Senate with the support of Minnesota’s statewide Republican Party attacked the media in an interview as a reporter pressed him to answer why his Federal Election Commission (FEC) indicated that his 2022 campaign spent money at a strip club.

Royce White appeared for an interview on Friday with David Pakman on the progressive host’s nationally syndicated show and quickly resorted to lobbing jabs at both Pakman and The Daily Beast as he faced questions about his campaign expenses. The Beast reported last week that White’s failed 2022 primary campaign for the nomination to take on Rep Ilhan Omar is the target of a FEC complaint from a elections watchdog, the Campaign Legal Center, over its reported spending to the FEC.

In total, the questionable expenses flagged by the Beast and the Campaign Legal Center total in the thousands. But of particular interest was more than $1,000 spent in a single night at Gold Rush Cabaret, which describes itself as a “fully-nude strip club” on its website. Notably, Gold Rush Cabaret is located in Miami — Florida, not Minnesota.

Pakman pressed White repeatedly to explain the $1,200 expense at Gold Rush Cabaret in his interview. White initially responded that the FEC filing was an error, but pivoted quickly to claiming instead that his staffers — not him — had visited the nightclub with the sole purpose of buying food. The entirety of the $1,200 check, he asserted, was spent on the restaurant’s menu offerings.

“It was recently revealed you spent campaign donations at a strip club. Is that true?” Pakman asked.

Royce White, candidate for Senate in Minnesota, appears on The David Pakman Show on 7 June 2024
Royce White, candidate for Senate in Minnesota, appears on The David Pakman Show on 7 June 2024 (The Independent)

“The Daily Beast is not a good source, that’s for one,” an irritated White said. “No, they didn’t say that I spend the funds at a strip club.”

But then the pivot: “Or no, let’s say, they didn’t say that I spent the funds on strippers,” White clarified. “They sell food at a strip club, don’t they?”

Pakman then responded: “You spent the money on food at a strip club. Is that more accurate?”

After a back-and-forth, White responded to that query: “I’m not saying that I spent the money. I’m saying that there was a filing on my FEC report that shouldn’t have been there, and potentially should have been reimbursed by somebody [else], who may have been at the strip club. But ... there is food at the strip club, so to say it was spent on strippers is not based on factual evidence.”

White then commented that Pakman seemed to have a lot of time for the subject of his campaign spending, to which the host responded: “Well it’s because you’re obviously lying.”

His excuse seems unusual at best. A quick visit to the Gold Rush Cabaret’s website reveals that the establishment’s food offerings are quite inexpensive: the priciest item is an appetizer sampler including empanadas, wings, mozzarella sticks, and a veggie quesadilla for $25. Every other item on the menu, including all entrees, are priced below $20. Alcoholic beverages are not typically permitted as part of expensed staff meals under FEC guidelines.

Many of the expenses, the Campaign Legal Center argued, appear to be illegal regardless of any explanation the White campaign can provide. Other spending from the White campaign highlighted by the group included a trip to a water park, dues at a fitness center, and large disbursements to itself through cash, wire transfers and personal checks.

White’s campaign initially responded to local media in a statement last week, calling his filings “incomplete”. He has given no explanation for why the filings were submitted if they were supposedly in error.

“Any novice could look at my FEC filings and tell that they’re incomplete,” he said in a separate interview which aired on a local Minnesota TV station on Sunday. “By any standard, they’re just incomplete.”

The potentially illegal spending could be a serious obstacle for White, who was on track to consolidate support in the state from the state Republican Party as well as Trumpworld. Endorsed by both Steve Bannon and in May by the Minnesota’s state GOP, White remains well-positioned to become the party’s nominee to take on Amy Klobuchar, a popular incumbent senator, in November. Minnesota’s congressional primaries are set for August. He lacks significant backing in Washington, however, where Republicans are reportedly backing Navy veteran Joe Fraser for the nomination.

Polling shows Klobuchar far ahead of any potential Republican challenger.

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