- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 7, 2010

Despite help from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican National Committee’s severe money problems have only worsened as the GOP’s chief campaign fundraising organization enters the last few weeks of the midterm elections, The Washington Times has learned.

The RNC has come up $3.8 million short of its money-raising target for September and well over $5 million shy for the past two months, RNC Treasurer Randy Pullen said in private e-mail to members of the RNC’s Executive Committee. A copy of the Pullen e-mail was obtained by The Times.

Mr. Pullen said he has found more instances of unreported debt and has had to file an amendment to his Sept. 20 financial report to the Federal Election Commission, increasing the reported debt to $2.8 million from the $1.1 million originally reported.

Mr. Pullen, who is chairman of the Arizona GOP, also had to file FEC amendments correcting underreported debt for his June, July and August reports.

The RNC did not respond to requests for comment.

The disappointing donation figures were reported despite Mrs. Palin’s signature of a mass fundraising appeal in September that was expected to boost the RNC’s cash intake to at least the recently revised, more modest goals. The Palin letter was as part of a deal involving the RNC’s agreement to pay more than $250,000 of her defense fees related to lawsuits filed when she was governor, as The Times first reported last month.

The former Alaska governor has achieved some high-profile successes in endorsing GOP primary candidates. More important from the RNC’s viewpoint, she has proved to be a potent fundraising draw for GOP donors.

Mr. Pullen’s e-mail memo, sent Thursday to members of the RNC executive committee, detailed the extent of the organization’s money problems.

“In August, we raised $7.7 million versus a budget of $9.4 million, a $1.7 million shortfall,” the RNC treasurer wrote.

“In September, we raised $9.7 million versus a budget of $13.5 million, a $3.8 million shortfall,” Mr. Pullen wrote. “In total, a shortfall of $5.5 million in two months.”

State Republican parties and campaigns rely on support from the RNC to finance the all-important “ground game” identifying likely voters, encouraging them to vote and helping get them to the polling sites on Election Day.

But many Republican donors, especially the ones who can afford to give the most, have expressed distrust in the financial management of the RNC under Chairman Michael S. Steele, whose first two-year term as party chairman expires in January.

Mr. Steele is the midst of a six-week, national “Fire Pelosi” cross-country bus tour, scheduled to wind up in New York and New Jersey in the run-up to the Nov. 2 vote.

The continuing money shortfall led Mr. Steele to appeal successfully to the RNC executive committee to boost the party’s line of credit from $10 million to $15 million. Borrowing on the eve of a major election is not unprecedented the Democratic National Committee set up major credit lines in both 2006 and 2008, and, like the RNC, has secured a $15 million line of credit this year on which to draw to fund campaign activities.

“As treasurer, I greatly appreciate the authorization to add $5 million,” Mr. Pullen wrote in his e-mail. “We will need it. I say this because fundraising in August and September was less than planned in the revised budget you approved in August.”

Mrs. Palin is scheduled to headline RNC fundraising rallies with Mr. Steele on Oct. 16 in Anaheim, Calif., and on Oct. 23 in Orlando, Fla. Seats run from $20 up to $30,400 on stage.

The California date has raised eyebrows because Mrs. Palin, who is pro-life and a favorite of the “tea party” movement against big government spending, is considered a double-edged asset in the Democratic-leaning state.

California GOP candidates Meg Whitman a former eBay CEO challenging Democratic state Attorney General Jerry Brown for governor and Carly Fiorina the former Hewlett-Packard executive taking on Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer are not scheduled to appear with Mr. Steele and Mrs. Palin at either the Anaheim or Orlando events.

• Ralph Z. Hallow can be reached at rhallow@gmail.com.

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