The Republican National Committee has spent last several weeks batting away stories that its financial situation is a mess. As part of its efforts to look into how exactly the committee could be spending so much money on so many lavish items, RNC officials commissioned an internal investigation that essentially was an audit.
The audit, it turns out, is causing as many headaches as the wave of stories that spurred it in the first place. On Thursday, the Washington Times got its hands on the findings and discovered that the RNC is "beset with questionable financial management and oversight and is spending more money courting top-dollar donors than it raises."
If that finding isn't uncomfortable enough, it turns out that the person the RNC entrusted to investigate its questionable spending actually has been involved in questionable spending himself. RNC Treasurer Randy Pullen, who prepared the report, has been entangled in at least two campaign finance-related controversies during the past year and a half, while serving as chairman of the Arizona Republican Party.
In January 2010, Pullen was charged with intentionally hiding a $50,000 transfer from the Republican National Committee to the Arizona State Party so he could pay off unreported debt. He ended up filing the money after several members of the executive committee pressed for (of all things) a "fraud audit" of the party's finances.
More than a year prior, Pullen was embroiled in another controversy in his capacity as state party chair. In November 2008, he was accused of accepting more than $105,000 in donations from a list of anonymous donors -- that money was turned around and used to pay for a nasty advertising campaign against a local sheriff candidate (the ads accused the candidate of, as one paper put it, "sexual shenanigans"). Pullen said at the time that he didn't know who the donors were and was pushing for their names. He then listed the donations on campaign finance reports without any identification, insisting (at a later date) that he had planned all along to amend the report when the names come in.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the donations were later tied to allies of the incumbent sheriff who was being challenged. Pullen denied that the money was given to the Arizona Republican Party on the promise that it go to the smear ad. But the incident was enough to compel one columnist to "divorce" the Republican Party, calling it "the most disgusting thing I've seen in nine years as a reporter."
That the national Republican Party is now entrusting Pullen to investigate its books is both humorous and telling. His involvement in the local campaign finance scandal doesn't, on the surface, take away from his capacity to run an audit -- RNC officials stress, in fact, that Pullen was not officially asked to do the review but took on the responsibility himself. It just adds a coda to an already difficult and embarrassing story line.
Not surprisingly, the Democratic National Committee had some fun with the revelation.
"Having Randy Pullen, a man implicated in hundreds of thousands in potential FEC violations, conduct an internal RNC spending review is like asking John Ensign for ethics advice," said Brandi Hoffine, a DNC spokesperson.