- 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 fundraising apparatus begins the 2011-12 presidential election cycle more than $20 million in the hole.

“A record for any year in the past 30 years,” Maria Cino, a candidate for the RNC chairmanship and a former deputy transportation secretary, told The Washington Times.

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

The 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.

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 re-election 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 chairman. As of Dec. 29, the RNC had $15,013,443.70 in debts and loans — $12 million more than the deepest RNC financial hole in at least 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 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 election period.

The contrast is even more startling in presidential election years, FEC data show. The RNC began 1996, 2004 and 2008 debt-free. 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 election season.

“The Steele Budget document calls for $10 million of 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 committee Chairman Mike Duncan told The Times.

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

RNC Finance Committee Chairman Peter Terpeluk, chosen by Mr. Steele, 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 past two years.

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