The Republican National Committee has quietly disclosed more than $4 million in previously unreported debt in amended filings with the Federal Election Commission, meaning yet another headache for embattled party chairman Michael Steele.
In a letter to the FEC Wednesday, RNC official Boyd Rutherford said the unreported money woes "were discovered during a self-initiated internal review process, which was undertaken in connection with the arrival of a new Chief of Staff and Finance Director."
The additional debt numbers only add to earlier reports that the RNC was not fully disclosing its unmet financial obligations. In July, ABC News and others reported that the RNC had failed to report more than $7 million in debt to the FEC in what some alleged was an attempt to make the party appear to be in better shape than it was. The Washington Times revealed a memo in which the party's treasurer, Randy Pullen accused RNC Chairman Michael Steele and his chief of staff of trying to hide the ugly numbers.
RNC officials responded at the time that it was standard practice to file amended reports over time as debt figures became more clear. "With a new Chief of Staff and a new Finance Director on board, the Chairman felt that the time was right for an internal procedures review," party spokesman Doug Heye told the web site Hotline On Call in July. "That review is now being conducted by an outside company recommended by the Ethics Committee of the RNC. We will continue to work very closely with our Legal Counsel and our Treasurer to ensure that the RNC meets all FEC reporting requirements."
The latest disclosures appear to be a continuation of the new policy instituted in July. But they have had the effect of dribbling out in a series of amended filings with the FEC that each show the RNC was farther behind on its payments than earlier thought. Separate amendments show additional new debt of $1.8 million from its July report, another $1 million from August, and $1.2 million from the September report, which was amended Oct. 18.
Each amendment has resulted in a terse letter from FEC enforcement officials, including one last month that asked for "clarifying information about why the RNC's August report failed to disclose $1,047,467.03 in additional debts. "Failure to adequately respond," the FEC warning stated, "could result in an audit or enforcement action."
All the disclosures serve only to compound a series of unflattering leaks and unexpected disclosures about financial troubles inside the party that have become fodder for a raft of contenders now seeking to replace Steele. Party committee members convene in January to choose a chairman. Criticism about the party's finance surfaced again last month in the form of a resignation letter from the man who had been serving as the RNC's political director, Gentry Collins.
"I believe I have a responsibility to share with you and the members of the Executive Committee my assessment of the RNC's current state," Collins wrote. He then laid out what he said were facts about the party's financial troubles. "We enter the 2012 presidential cycle with 100 percent of the RNC's $15 million in lines of credit tapped out, and unpaid bills likely to add millions to that debt," he said.
But Steele has defended his record, releasing his own memo on Nov. 18 that argues the RNC "smashed the record for most money collected in a midterm cycle by any political committee whose party did not control Congress or the White House."
"The RNC has raised and spent more money in this cycle on behalf of Republican candidates--by far--than any other entity, including both official GOP campaign committees and nominally independent groups that are not bound by the limitations that apply to the RNC regarding amounts or sources of donations, or disclosure of donors," Steele wrote.
"Final totals," he added, "are pending."