The Republican National Committee failed to report more than $7 million in debt to the Federal Election Commission in recent months – a move that made its bottom line appear healthier than it is heading into the midterm elections and that also raises the prospect of a hefty fine.
In a memo to RNC budget committee members, RNC Treasurer Randy Pullen on Tuesday accused Chairman Michael S. Steele and his chief of staff, Michael Leavitt, of trying to conceal the information from him by ordering staff not to communicate with the treasurer – a charge RNC officials deny.
Mr. Pullen told the members that he had discovered $3.3 million in debt from April and $3.8 million from May, which he said had led him to file erroneous reports with the FEC. He amended the FEC filings Tuesday.
Campaign-finance analysts said that simply misreporting fundraising numbers to the FEC can lead to millions of dollars in fines and that criminal charges can be levied if the actions are suspected to be intentional.
If Michael Steele did try to hide the RNC’s debt, which would clearly be a violation of the law, then he certainly ought to be held accountable, not only by the folks who elected him to lead the RNC, but also by the proper authorities.
Former Federal Election Commission Chairman Michael E. Toner has been retained as outside counsel to the RNC, presumably to help the RNC deal with the possible repercussions of this situation, and Toner joins an RNC legal team headed by RNC General Counsel (and Republican Party of Wisconsin Chair) Reince Priebus, who also happens to be a close confidante of Michael Steele.
However, putting aside the possible illegality of the RNC attempting to hide its debt from the FEC, if I were a member of the Republican Party, I’d be more than a little worried about what’s been going on with the RNC’s finances since Michael Steele took over as chair. The RNC’s financial shenanigans since Steele took over have been well-documented, and the possibility that the RNC could face a steep and possibly crippling fine from the FEC right before the November elections should be more than a little disconcerting for Republicans across the nation, including candidates who may be relying on the RNC for some measure of financial support for their campaigns.