The Republican Party's national organizing body failed to report more than $7 million in debt to federal election officials this year, making it appear to be in better shape than it was as mid-term elections approach in November, a Washington newspaper said Wednesday.
In a memo to GOP budget officers, Republican National Committee
Treasurer Randy Pullen
accused RNC Chairman Michael Steele and his chief of staff of trying to hide the damaging information from him by ordering other staff members not to communicate with Pullen, the Washington Times
Pullen said he discovered $3.3 million in debt from April and $3.8 million in May after earlier filing incorrect reports with the Federal Election Commission
, the newspaper said. If his numbers are accurate, the RNC could face a substantial fine for not reporting its obligations in timely fashion. The Republican committee, based in Washington, is the GOP's national arm for fundraising and recruiting candidates -- and word of the money mess comes as it prepares for the heat of a fall campaign for U.S. House and Senate seats.
But RNC Communications Director Doug Heye said it is "standard practice" for political committees to file amended reports in complying with extensive and detailed federal election disclosure laws. Heye denied Chief of Staff Michael Levitt had barred RNC staff from answering Treasurer Pullen's questions.
The RNC, under Chairman Steele, has been plagued with questions about its fundraising practices
, most embarrassingly an expense report for credit card charges from a strip club in West Hollywood last February. Separately on Wednesday, the Washington Times said the RNC has retained former Federal Election Commission Chairman Michael E. Toner as an outside counsel, a move suggesting it needs some expert advice in dealing with election officials.