When Priebus arrived at RNC headquarters after defeating Steele and others for the party’s top job, he found the following financial situation: cash on hand of little more than $350,000, with payroll of $400,000 due six days later. The overall debt stood at $24 million.

By the end of March, the party had $3.2 million cash on hand and debt of $19.8 million. Although the debt is still substantial, it is only a couple of million dollars more than the Democratic National Committee is carrying. Priebus believes that to show progress, getting the debt under $20 million was critical. Now he feels he has breathing room to manage the party’s finances more intelligently.

Steele’s neglect of major donors was well-known, but the problem was even more severe than advertised. According to a party source who declined to be identified in order to share internal accounting details, the RNC’s major donor program had generally brought in $40 million to $45 million during previous two-year cycles. During Steele’s tenure, the program raised just $7 million.

One of Priebus’s early steps was to meet with a who’s who of major Republican donors to enlist their help in getting the committee back in financial shape.