The vicious infighting at the Republican National Committee escalated over the weekend, with an ally of RNC Chairman Michael S. Steele warning the party's treasurer of legal consequences if he did not stop making a fuss over erroneous financial disclosures to the Federal Election Commission.
New Mexico RNC member Patrick J. Rogers told Treasurer Randy Pullen on committee letterhead that his disclosures about millions of dollars in unreported debt "are covered by attorney-client privilege or the fiduciary requirements of corporate officers."
At one point in his letter, Mr. Rogers, who is Mr. Steele's appointee to the RNC's powerful executive committee, tells Mr. Pullen that the "dissemination of sensitive information under the circumstances (as I understand them) appears problematic as a legal matter."
The Rogers letter reached Mr. Pullen on Sunday as the treasurer was preparing to inform budget committee members for the first time that he had uncovered on July 22 "approximately $700,000 to $1 million in undisclosed expenditures, some dating back to March."
The amount comes in addition to more than $7 million in debts that were not reported to the FEC for April and May. Mr. Pullen filed amended returns with the FEC last month and notified the RNC budget panel.
"On a subsequent check run last week, I identified additional invoices that need to be reviewed," Mr. Pullen wrote in his newest note, adding that this "is likely to require additional amendments" to the financial reports that party treasurers are required to file monthly with the FEC.
Delaying debt reporting makes the RNC's fundraising bottom line look better than it is, and gives prospective donors the impression that the RNC is managing its finances well.
Mr. Rogers sent copies of his letter to fellow executive committee members, in which he accused Mr. Pullen of distributing what he called proprietary information to The Washington Times and other media outlets.
The Times has reported on the infighting over RNC financing based on memos circulating among RNC members. Neither Mr. Rogers nor Mr. Pullen could be reached for comment.
Mr. Pullen immediately responded with his own missive to the panel. He has told Mr. Steele and his allies privately that he is sick of their efforts to keep him from information about what the RNC owes vendors.
"Based on the repeated demonstrated inability of this management team to get it right, I have grave concerns about the next FEC report," Mr. Pullen says in his memo. That report will be due Aug. 20.
The latest revelation pointing to possible fiscal mismanagement threatens to dominate the agenda when the GOP's governing bodys 168 elected members convene in Kansas City, Mo., on Wednesday for their annual summer meeting.
In his letter to Mr. Pullen, Mr. Rogers, who voted for Mr. Steele in the January 2009 election for RNC chairman, mentions a July 21 memo to all 168 RNC members and signed by RNC attorneys Tom Josefiak and Michael Toner, both former FEC chairmen.
They flatly reject Mr. Pullen's contention that the RNC ever "carried" $7 million in debt that should have been reported to the FEC. While the Josefiak-Toner memo is technically correct, the RNC has carried $3.3 million in unreported debt in April, most of which was paid the next month, and $3.8 million in May that was paid in June.
Under its rules, the FEC could fine the RNC significantly, which could cut into the $10.9 million cash on hand the RNC reported in its July 20 FEC filing.
In July, The Times reported that Mr. Pullen said the April and May debts had been hidden from him by Mr. Steele's chief of staff, Michael Leavitt, on direct orders from Mr. Steele.
An angry and frustrated Mr. Pullen sent the following memo to Mr. Steele on May 20: "At the direction of your COS [chief of staff], I am precluded from inquiring of staff about financial transactions without first getting his approval. He has no authority to do this unless you have so instructed him. This order to staff is inappropriate. Please let me know what you intend to do."
Mr. Steele did not respond to Mr. Pullen, and the RNC denied silencing staffers; but Mr. Pullen said financial staff then became responsive to his queries about past-due invoices.
Mr. Pullen's latest debt disclosure contradicts the following unpublicized "affidavit of disclosure" that Mr. Leavitt and Mr. Josefiak had signed before Mr. Pullen filed his July 20 FEC report.
"As of July 19, 2010, I hereby affirm that all invoices received or payments owed on contracts by the Republican National Committee on or before June 15, 2010 have been shown or disclosed to Randy Pullen, elected Treasurer of the Republican National Committee and that to the best of my knowledge and belief there are no others."
Mr. Pullen or anyone else who is a national party's treasurer has reason beyond the desire for honest governance to dot his i's and cross his t's on FEC reports - the intentional falsification of such reports can result in criminal prosecution.
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Chief political writer Ralph Z. Hallow served on the Chicago Tribune, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Washington Times editorial boards, was Ford Foundation Fellow in Urban Journalism at Northwestern University, resident at Columbia University Editorial-Page Editors Seminar and has filed from Berlin, Bonn, London, Paris, Geneva, Vienna, Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Belgrade, Bucharest, Panama and Guatemala.
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