- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Republican National Committee’s inability to reach its own fundraising goals for this year’s elections was more serious than its budget makers expected and the malaise has even spread to small-money donors, The Washington Times has learned.

As a result of poor fundraising compounded by controversial spending practices, the RNC will enter the 2012 presidential election cycle between $20 million and $25 million in debt — not the $15 million reported over the weekend.

“It’s the biggest debt the national committee ever had going into a presidential election cycle — at least in my memory,” said former RNC General Counsel David Norcross.

The only apparent bright side is that Republicans’ money-starved national governing body at least may not have to go even deeper in debt to keep the doors open and the lights on through the election of a new national chairman, scheduled for Jan. 14 in Washington, as some veteran RNC members had feared.

“I don’t think we will borrow more money,” Treasurer Randy Pullen told The Times. “However, that would be up to the Budget and Executive committees. At some point, key vendors need to be paid.”

In a weekend memo to other committee officials and members, Mr. Pullen said that, “going into 2011, the RNC should have about $20.5 million of debt carried over.”

The official Pullen debt estimate, however, may be on the low side.

“I believe it will be closer to $25 million than $20 million,” Mr. Norcross said. “I just got off the phone with Randy, and that’s the impression I get. It costs them a couple of million to keep the building open till January.”

Mr. Pullen said his report shows the RNC’s finance division “has performed poorly” as measured against the target fundraising in the budget, itself a downward revision of earlier fundraising goals.

From January to November, the RNC’s direct marketing programs - mail and telephone solicitations aimed at small donors - hit only about 77 percent of their targeted monthly budget goals.

“Major donor programs were even worse,” Mr. Pullen said. He reported that the RNC raised only 53 percent of its budgeted goals from donors who give $1,000 or more.

The overall amount raised from small and large donors combined was 75 percent of budgeted expectations, 25 percent short and “well below the acceptable 10 percent variance that is usually considered reasonable.”

Mr. Pullen noted that the largest share — $76.3 million — of the total fundraising came from direct marketing, while big-donor contributions made up only $7.5 million.

Requests for comment from RNC Budget Director Louis Pope and spokesman Doug Heye were not returned.

RNC Chairman Michael S. Steele and his supporters have argued that comparatively poor fundraising totals — $179 million this year compared with $405 million in the 2007-08 cycle by the RNC under Chairman Mike Duncan — are the expected result of the Democrats having the presidency, which attracts more donors, especially major donors seeking access.

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