RNC’s Financial Picture Even Worse Than It Looks

August 24, 2010 10:21 a.m.

As if a bad fundraising report released in the dark of night on Friday wasn’t bad enough for the Republican National Committee, a closer look suggests the party’s financial picture is worse than it appears.

By the numbers, the RNC brought in $5.5 million in July, compared with $11.5 million for the DNC. But only $4.6 million of the haul actually came from donations — tucked inside the RNC’s July report was a $900,000 insurance payment.

The payment came from Illinois National Insurance, a subsidiary of AIG. But Democrats are exploiting the bigger picture of their own financial health and made sure reporters knew about the insurance settlement and that it came from AIG, which received bailout funds.The RNC won’t reveal the nature of the claim due to confidentiality. A GOP official explained that it’s an RNC-specific “payment on an insurance claim” that is not related to class action lawsuits. The official stressed it’s “Nothing Wall Street related at all.”

As of July 31, the RNC had $5.3 million in the bank and $2.2 million in debt, while the DNC had $10.8 million in the bank and $3.5 million in debt.

RNC officials, natch, say there’s nothing to be concerned about. A spokesman highlighted all the things they say put them in a better position than the Democrats for November, and pointed out that, in the same month in the 2006 cycle, the DNC only raised $5.07 million. The Democrats argue they have far more money to get-out-the-vote this fall and that they’ve bolstered state parties with cash infusions.

TPMDC also asked Republicans — and didn’t get a complete answer — if they worried that having so little in the bank this close to Election Day means they won’t have access to the same emergency fund that they’ve used many times in years past — like when they gave then-Sen. George Allen (R-VA) a few million at the last minute to try and save what had been considered a safe seat.

All of Republican operatives and members of the RNC with whom we spoke emphasized that in the the financial picture isn’t really that dire. RNC member Shawn Steel raised an interesting point, telling me that, under the new RNC regime, there is just far less centralization of resources.

Under Karl Rove, the RNC “was the only game in town,” he said, but now there are outside groups and a robust operation at the party campaign committees and the Republican Governors Association (which just picked up $1 million from News Corp, the parent company of Fox News). The new model allows for more flexibility in where the party devotes resources (there is very little spending on television ads, for example) and includes a focus on state ground game, Steel said. “We’re filling our niche very nicely,” he said.

Steel made the same points as other Republican officials that, for a party that controls neither the White House nor Congress, they are “right on target.”

The RNC official said it sent $4.3 million to state parties this year. The DNC plans to give $20 million out from its coffers to the campaign committees and states before the election. (Slightly edited from original.)

The RNC also bragged that they’ve opened 294 “victory” offices across the country and have phoned 5.7 million voters this year, which is up substantially from the 1.9 million calls made in 2008.

“When you look at what we’ve done with the money we’ve spent, we’ve put ourselves in strong positions to help bring the party back from where it was a year and a half ago,” spokesman Doug Heye told TPM.

RNC member David Norcross said fundraising is “not dismal” when you lump in the money raised by Rove’s new American Crossroads and other outside groups. He called them “very very savvy Independent Expenders.”

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