The man in charge of keeping the House under GOP control refused to defend his party’s main super-PAC for using information from what should have been a confidential document to attack a Democratic candidate.
National Republican Congressional Committee chairman Steve Stivers (R-OH) said Friday that the Congressional Leadership Fund’s use of information from Democrat and former CIA officer Abigail Spanberger’s private security clearance application shouldn’t be used for attack ads.
“That probably deserves some examination,” he said during a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor after a reporter pointed out to him that the CLF had released an ad featuring the information it found in the documents even after the U.S. Post Office admitted that it should never have released that information.
The CLF is closely aligned with House Republican leaders including Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who have appeared at events for the group.
The release of what should have been redacted documents for Spanberger set off a firestorm in Washington. Spanberger, who is running against Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA), accused the group of improperly obtaining the document, which by law should not have been released.
The USPS publicly apologized for the document’s release, admitting it had screwed up, and said it would “request the return of the information which we mistakenly disclosed.”
Stivers initially argued that while the documents shouldn’t have been released, the CLF hadn’t done anything dishonest.
“I’m sure the Congressional Leadership Fund had no idea that they weren’t supposed to get it and from what I read in the paper this was done by a postal employee who just sent it, it was not nefarious or some sort of collusion… it was an accident,” he said.
“I wish that wouldn’t have happened, but I don’t think the CLF did anything wrong,” he continued. “CLF continues to use it but it’s now out in the press, it’s public information.“
A reporter then pointed out that the CLF launched its attack ad even after the Post Office had asked for the document back.
“Just to clarify, the ad came out after the Postal Service said that they mistakenly put it out,” the reporter said.
“Oh, it came out after?” Stivers replied. “So that probably deserves some examination.”
After this story was initially published, the NRCC reached out to argue that Stivers wasn’t criticizing the CLF, and argued that he meant that comment to refer back to the Post Office, not the CLF.
“As I said clearly, CLF did nothing wrong. Spanberger tried to ascribe nefarious motives to the group, when, in fact, the USPS was the only one at fault. Again, the process that allowed the USPS to release this information needs to be examined,” Stivers said in that clarification statement.
This story and its headline were updated at 11:02 a.m. to include Stivers’ response and more of his initial remarks.