- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 2, 2011

The next chairman of the Republican National Committee will face a money-raising challenge of historic proportions.

The unreleased official budget of the RNC reveals that the Republican party’s national governing body and premier fund-raising apparatus begins the 2011-2012 presidential election cycle more than $20 million in the hole.

“A record for any year in the past 30 years,” RNC chairman candidate and former Deputy U.S. Transportation Secretary Maria Cino told The Washington Times

The budget was approved by Republican National Chairman Michael S. Steele’s Budget Committee.

The budget document also reveals that the RNC will enter the 2012 presidential election year at least $10 million in arrears. “That is also unheard of in 30 years for a presidential year — or for that matter, any congressional election year,” Ms. Cino said.

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That figure also comes from the same budget approved by Maryland RNC member Louis Pope — Mr. Steele’s hand-picked Budget Committee chairman and a supporter of Mr. Steele’s Jan. 14 reelection bid.

“We’ve never had a debt that big, ever, going into a presidential election cycle,” former RNC General Counsel David Norcross told The Times.

Federal Election Commission records show a dismal picture for the next national chairman. As of Dec. 29, the RNC had $15,013,443.70 in debts and loans — or $12 million more than the deepest RNC financial hole in at least the last 14 years.

That $15 million in IOUs compares with the zero indebtedness in the comparable period before the 2007-08 presidential cycle, the insignificant $1,446 in the same period before the 2003-04 period, the $3 million going into the 1999-2000 cycle and the $2.5 million at the comparable point before the 1995-96 presidential-race period.

The contrast is even more startling in the actual years presidential elections took place, FEC data show. The RNC began the 1996, 2004 and 2008 presidential election years completely debt-free. And although the national committee began the 2000 presidential election year with $2 million in debt, it was $8 million less than the Steele budget says will be the case on Jan. 1, 2012.

Senior Republican officials expressed astonishment at the extent of the debt.

Unable to raise money from major donors who said they did not trust the RNC to use the money wisely under Mr. Steele’s stewardship, the national committee voted to borrow $15 million to help get it through the 2010 midterm elections.

“The Steele Budget document calls for $10 million of the that debt to be carried forward into 2012 — far more than the RNC has ever had to carry forward in my memory,” Kentucky RNC member and former national chairman Mike Duncan told The Washington Times.

Mr. Steele took six months to find someone who would agree to serve as the RNC’s finance chairman — a role that requires a person of widely acknowledged probity who has the private cellular phone numbers of other captains of industry and banking and who can recruit them to bundle maximum allowable contributions from still other wealthy prospects.

RNC Finance Chairman Peter Terpeluk, Mr. Steele’s selection for finance chairman proved to be not up to the task, especially given the public spanking that successful former RNC finance chairmen have handed Mr. Steele over the last two years.

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