Uh oh: Donor shell game with RNC, Michigan GOP?

posted at 10:55 am on April 7, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

The Daily Caller reports from a source within the RNC that it cut a deal with the Michigan state GOP organization to move donations between the two in order to bolster fundraising numbers for the RNC.  According to DC’s Alex Pappas, Michael Steele and now-departed Ken McKay cut a deal with Michigan GOP chair Ron Weiser to have big-ticket Michigan donors give directly to the RNC but that the money would go directly back to Michigan after making the fundraising numbers public:

The Republican National Committee at the end of last year struck a deal with the Michigan Republican Party that if the state party could raise what turned out to be a half a million dollars for the RNC from its donors, the committee would immediately give the money back, in a scheme apparently devised to increase the RNC’s 2009 fundraising numbers.

“It was a known secret that a deal had been struck on the topic,” a former RNC official confirmed to The Daily Caller. …

The allegations appear to be backed up by FEC reports: Fifteen donors from Michigan maxed out their donations to the committee on a single day —Dec. 31 — the last day of 2009 — giving $456,000 to the committee. Over the next two months, $500,000 was disbursed back from the RNC’s coffers to those of the Michigan Republican Party, with $250,000 given in January and another $250,000 disbursed in February.

Chairman Michael Steele has boasted bringing in over $90 million dollars since his term as chairman began in 2009. Michigan state law allows individuals to donate an unlimited amount to political parties, though contributors who give to the party are subjected to federal campaign laws that restrict spending on federal races to $10,000 per year, per individual.

The two national parties often send money back to state organizations.  That’s a significant part of their job.  The committees (RNC and DNC) include the chairs of state party organizations for that purpose.  Sending money back to Michigan doesn’t mean much, unless the transfer was significantly similar to the donations listed in the FEC report and it differed significantly from contributions to other state orgs.

Unfortunately ….

No state came close to reaching the half a million dollars disbursed back to the Michigan GOP over the following two months. Michigan received by far the most disbursed money of all states over January and February, followed by Delaware, $129,800 (including in-kind equipment); Oregon, $75,000; Colorado, $66,500; Massachusetts, $42,000; and Mississippi, $15,000.

Michigan is also larger than any of the listed states, but Massachusetts seems significant.  The special election that eventually put Scott Brown in the Senate was scheduled in September.  One might expect the RNC to have bolstered Massachusetts first for that special election, although in 2009 it was still considered a long shot.  Furthermore, the Michigan primaries are later than most other states in this cycle (August), which also makes the big budget push there look suspicious.

Bear in mind, however, that Michael Steele is also currently moving people out of key positions.  An anonymous source in the RNC at this time could very well have a big axe to grind against the RNC chair.  It also doesn’t appear that any of this necessarily breaks any laws, even if it did serve to inflate fundraising numbers by a half-million dollars.  The RNC just announced today that it raised over $11 million in March, a record for a midterm March, and it has no debt.  If it served to pump up Steele’s efforts a little more than reality, it also still represented some serious fundraising, and Steele has continued to succeed in that area without mortgaging the RNC to do it.

Still, it’s just another flash point of scandal in a tenure that has already seen plenty of it.  This won’t make Steele any more popular around the Republican campfire, but it’s not anywhere near as damaging as a $2000 bartab at a lesbian-bondage strip club.


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