On February 1st of this year, National Republican Campaign Committee Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK) abruptly released a statement about recently discovered “irregularities in our financial audit process.” That was it: no details about whether money might have been stolen, just word that they’d seen fit to bring in the federal authorities.
The details, as they’ve come, have been embarrassing for the committee, which works to get Republicans elected to the House (which was already hurting in comparison to its Democratic counterpart before all this began).
According to The New York Times this morning, it all began to unravel when Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX), a CPA, asked to meet with the audit firm that was supposedly checking the NRCC’s books, an idea that apparently no one had had for several years. Christopher Ward, then the NRCC’s treasurer, finally relented, but then chickened out 30 minutes before and fessed up that there actually hadn’t been any audits.
It was ultimately discovered that Ward had been faking the audits since 2003. The Politico, which laid out this general outline of events early last month, reported that Ward had forged everything, including the letterhead. So when it came time to actually talk to the people who’d supposedly written those fake reports, it all unraveled.
The FBI is currently investigating, and it’s not clear yet why Ward was so keen to hide the real numbers. But as the Times reports this morning, the signs are not good. NRCC internal audits since Ward’s discovery show that “hundreds of thousands of dollars are missing and presumed stolen.” And it gets worse: there are apparently indications that “the financial irregularities might extend beyond the national committee to the campaign funds of individual Republican lawmakers who also worked with Mr. Ward, a longtime party operative.”
Ward had been with the NRCC since 1993 and worked for dozens of Republican campaign committees, political action committees, and other organizations. It’ll be interesting to see what the FBI turns up.