NRCC to Reveal Embezzlement Details
The National Republican Congressional Committee will reveal today the results of a pricey forensic audit of its books in the wake of a massive alleged embezzlement scheme by its former treasurer, Christopher Ward.
The NRCC has been tight-lipped so far about how much Ward ultimately took and the results of the audit, details of which will be provided to top lawmakers and the media in briefings today. A range of numbers in the high six-figures have been circulated, and one GOP source familiar with the audit said it showed Ward took approximately $725,000 from the NRCC and its affiliated accounts from 2001 to 2007. As high as that number is, it is actually less than some original estimates. In March, the NRCC said at a preliminary briefing that it had found discrepancies in its books amounting to more than a million dollars.
"There's no staggering numbers here," a source familiar with the final audit's findings said Wednesday. "There's no millions. There were no surprises."
At the same time, NRCC Chairman Tom Cole (R-Okla.) has said that payments to the auditing firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and to lawyers at Covington & Burling dealing with the scandal could well top $1 million, meaning the committee could end up spending more investigating the theft than was actually stolen.
The Washington Post reported Saturday that Ward allegedly embezzled more than $500,000 from the NRCC in order to pay for renovations and mortgage bills on his Bethesda home, according to documents filed in federal court by government prosecutors seeking to seize the house. The court papers said Ward had moved money from the NRCC's coffers to those of special committees established for the annual President's Dinner fundraiser, and had then transferred the cash to his own bank account.
That was one of at least three ways Ward allegedy took cash. He also transferred money that belonged in the President's Dinner accounts to directly to himself (rather than using those accounts as a conduit), and he moved cash from the NRCC to other GOP political action committees he controlled, and then to himself. In addition to his work at the NRCC, Ward served as treasurer of more than 80 other Republican committees. At least five of those committees have reported alleged thefts by Ward, in amounts ranging from $2,000 to $20,000.
The NRCC has an insurance policy that will likely end up reimbursing the committee for all or part of what Ward stole, though that process is expected to take months and would not result in a payment to before the November election. The NRCC is currently trailing the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the fundraising department by a wide margin.
June 12, 2008; 6:00 AM ET
Categories: 2008 Campaign , Ethics and Rules , GOP Leaders
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