Republicans in Minnesota hired felons to phone potential donors and solicit contributions to the state party.

Corey Miltimore, the Republican state director, said Friday that the party has an arrangement with the Hazelden treatment center to hire recovering addicts, mostly from a St. Paul halfway house. Party spokesman Randy Wanke said the party does not conduct background checks on phone-bank employees, but it was understood that some have criminal records.

Miltimore was among the Republicans who criticized the political group America Coming Together last week after The Associated Press reported that they hired felons to register voters door to door in some states. After the report, the organization said it would conduct a more rigorous background check.

Republican officials said it's unfair to compare the phone-bank work with registering voters door to door. Miltimore said the party is proud it offers recovering addicts "an opportunity to rebuild their lives." He added that the employees are in a controlled environment and don't handle credit-card transactions.

Mo Elleithee, a spokesman for America Coming Together (search), a Democratic-leaning group, called the Republican practice hypocritical and suggested that the party stop criticizing his organization and conduct background checks on their employees.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press first reported the story in Friday's editions.