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NRCC Suspects 'Several Hundred Thousand Dollars' Stolen

National Republican Congressional Committee officials acknowledged publicly today that they have found discrepancies in their books of more than a million dollars and evidence that the NRCC's former treasurer, Christopher Ward, made "several hundred thousand dollars" worth of unauthorized wire transfers out of the committee that appear to have ended up in Ward's own bank accounts.

The NRCC launched an internal probe and contacted the FBI in January after learning that Ward "apparently fabricated and submitted 2006 financial statements to the NRCC's bank," according to a memo issued by the committee today. Some details of the probe have been reported previously, but today's memo and press briefing by a lawyer retained by the committee marked the fullest public accounting so far of the unfolding scandal.

The initial dollar amounts disclosed by the NRCC today suggest that this case could be the biggest campaign swindle ever recorded.

"Based on analysis conducted to date, it appears likely that over a period of several years Ward made several hundred thousand dollars in unauthorized transfers of NRCC funds to outside committees whose bank accounts he had access to, including joint fundraising committees in which the NRCC participated," said the NRCC memo.

"He also appears to have made subsequent transfers of several hundred thousand dollars in funds from those outside committees to what appears to be his personal and business bank accounts. Those unauthorized transactions date back to at least 2004."

The NRCC has found that the amount of cash on hand it reported to the Federal Election Commission at the end of 2006 was approximately $990,000 more than the committee actually had in the bank. The total the NRCC reported in the bank to the FEC as of Jan. 31, 2008, was $740,000 more than the actual amount, and the committee has discovered that it owes $200,000 more on its outstanding line of credit than it has reported to the FEC.

It is not clear yet to investigators whether those discrepancies are all due to money transferred out of the committee by Ward, or whether at least some of the shortfalls are attributable to other accounting errors.

"The evidence we have today indicates we have been deceived and betrayed for a number of years by a highly respected and trusted individual," NRCC Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.) said in a statement.

Ward and his attorney have not spoken to the media since news of the NRCC investigation first broke.

While the FBI's investigation is ongoing, the NRCC has also hired the law firm Covington & Burling to conduct an internal probe, and that firm has in turn hired PricewaterhouseCoopers to do a forensic audit of the committee's books. NRCC officials now believe the last bona fide audit of the committee took place in 2001, and that Ward submitted "bogus audits" every year from 2002 through 2006 on faked stationary from a genuine, respected accounting firm.

Rob Kelner of Covington & Burling explained to reporters today that his firm's initial probe revealed a "pattern in which Ward would wire transfer funds to other committees where he did accounting work and had signature authority." The evidence further showed transfers from those committees to Ward's bank accounts.

"The exact dollar figures are currently a moving target, and as the investigation progresses, it is entirely possible that these figures will change, either by increasing or decreasing," the NRCC memo said.

The NRCC borrowed $8 million in 2006 from Wachovia Bank in order to fund that year's Congressional races, and the committee was required to give the bank detailed financial information in order to secure the loan. It is illegal to knowingly submit false information to a bank for such a transaction, though Kelner said he believed the committee itself would not face any charges for its submissions to Wachovia.

"We're not aware of any reason why the NRCC should have any [legal] exposure," Kelner said.

In addition to the NRCC, Ward has served as treasurer for more than 80 other GOP fundraising committees, many of which are now concerned they may also have had money stolen.

Kelner pointed out that it is "not that unusual" for campaign committees to fall victim to embezzlement schemes, and several past examples can be found here.
As of now, Kelner said, this appeared to be a one-man operation. "We're not aware of anyone colluding with [Ward] on this," he said.

The NRCC already faces a challenging election cycle. Plagued by a rash of retirements, the GOP has far more open seats to defend in the fall than Democrats do, and the party suffered an important symbolic blow on Saturday when Democrats captured the Illinois seat of ex-Speaker Dennis Hastert (R) in a special election.

Republicans are also at a significant financial disadvantage. As of Jan. 31, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had nearly $30 million more in the bank than the NRCC had.

By Ben Pershing  |  March 13, 2008; 4:00 PM ET
Categories:  2008 Campaign , Ethics and Rules , GOP Leaders , House  
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Next: Carson Becomes Second Muslim to Serve in Congress


If the Democrats weren't so busy committing suicide, they might be able to take advantage of this story. However......

Posted by: GmcDuluth | March 13, 2008 4:27 PM | Report abuse

I guess there is no honor among thieves.

Posted by: cab50151 | March 13, 2008 4:28 PM | Report abuse

This is news? Republicans steal -- when they're not cruising the public toilets looking for quickies. Party of Values, baby!

Posted by: sglover | March 13, 2008 4:28 PM | Report abuse

There is so much of this kind of stuff going on, it is REALLY too bad that our laws forbid sterilization of persons who commit both crimes of violence and 'white-collar' crimes. With a safeguard against false conviction (preserving a sample of the convict's genetic material for, say, 20 years) we might gradually improve the quality of the human race.

Posted by: nmaif | March 13, 2008 4:29 PM | Report abuse

yeah, real scared of these guys this fall...

Posted by: LAC | March 13, 2008 4:29 PM | Report abuse

How do reasonably intelligent people expect to get away with this? This, and Sptizer's large wire transfers that triggered the FBI probe, aren't exactly the work of drug-crazed desperadoes sticking up a bank in order to afford their next fix. These are people who should know that they were leaving a trail.

Posted by: DualAg | March 13, 2008 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Ha Ha.

Posted by: Nelson from the Simpsons | March 13, 2008 4:32 PM | Report abuse

They're finally eating their own. Bwahahahahahahah.

Posted by: Deaniac | March 13, 2008 4:32 PM | Report abuse

The cyst at the cancer's center--

Posted by: Klem | March 13, 2008 4:34 PM | Report abuse

"The evidence we have today indicates we have been deceived and betrayed for a number of years by a highly respected and trusted individual,"

Nooooooooooooooooooo! Not a Christian Republican!

Posted by: Roy | March 13, 2008 4:34 PM | Report abuse

One more thief caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

Posted by: T. Traub | March 13, 2008 4:36 PM | Report abuse

I knew republicans were crooks but ...

Posted by: Greg in LA | March 13, 2008 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Is this guy another Bush appointee?

Posted by: Jill Goodsell | March 13, 2008 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Who'd of thunk that Republicans were nothing but a band of thieves?

Bye bye GOP. Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

Posted by: Monica | March 13, 2008 4:41 PM | Report abuse

How do reasonably intelligent people expect to get away with this? This, and Sptizer's large wire transfers that triggered the FBI probe, aren't exactly the work of drug-crazed desperadoes sticking up a bank in order to afford their next fix. These are people who should know that they were leaving a trail.

Posted by: DualAg | March 13, 2008 04:29 PM
I think it's because they always think that they 'are the ones' who are smart enough to get away with it. The real question is how many are getting away with it?

Posted by: Patrick NYC | March 13, 2008 4:41 PM | Report abuse

I can see the next headline:

Ward to become ward of state.

Posted by: Alexander | March 13, 2008 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Holy cashbox!!! Can't any of these Republicans keep their hands out of the till?

I guess that's a dumb question!

Posted by: A. Mazed | March 13, 2008 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Holy cashbox!!! Can't any of these Republicans keep their hands out of the till?

I guess that's a dumb question!

Posted by: A. Mazed | March 13, 2008 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Best news I've heard all day. Now, if the Dems can stick to their guns and not give Chimpy his telecom immunity, it will be a good week.

Ha Ha Repukes!! You got ripped off by one of your own. And you are all going to LOSE in November.

2009 is going to be the Year Of The Donkey.

Posted by: Tom3 | March 13, 2008 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Turns out Christopher Ward was just using the money for counseling services at someplace called, let's see, where are my notes. Oh yes, the "emperor's club". I hear it's very popular. Lots of referrals.

Posted by: aint | March 13, 2008 4:50 PM | Report abuse

The daily reminders of what is wrong with politics just keep coming don't they??!!

Posted by: LovinLiberty | March 13, 2008 4:54 PM | Report abuse

I let the voters go about their business while Republicans cook the porkified books. Beautiful! Those are definitely the guys if anyone ever chooses to ride upon the master with his crimson mantel and glittering sword.

"Wisdom is vindicated of her children", so why are we displaying, for all of our cow-orkers to see, such impeccable, such utterly enviable insight into the way we think?" Sam put it best when he told Frodo, 'One more step and this is the farthest I've ever gone from home'.

Face it: Democrat backwards is Tarcomed. And that goes for some of the rest of us, too.

Forever, for all the puny, precious people,

Auld A. Long

Posted by: A. A. Long | March 13, 2008 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Looks like Ward was being a little hard on the beaver.

Posted by: June Cleaver | March 13, 2008 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Any rip-off of the the party of Bush, Cheney, Abramoff, Ney, David Duke and John McCain is a rip-off in the interests of the nation. This guy may have been just another stinking republican party crook, but he was a good stinking republican party crook. He stole from the bad guys.

Posted by: DCSage | March 13, 2008 5:00 PM | Report abuse

What a bunch of sleazy filthy business. If you're tired of it, 'vote' for Bert. I'll put it 'in writing' that I won't accept any campaign donations, but it IS a long drive from my house to D.C., and if Wells Fargo wouldn't mind, I'd accept a penny from so-inclined persons to help cover the fuel costs. I don't want to be on the side of the road begging for nickels to put in the fuel tank the day I have to go pick up the keys from George, you know? Poor form, etc. But, I'll also keep the tires up, keep the speed down, waste not, want not.
Think the bank would go for it, put a penny jar at the front counter for me? Worth a try...turn the excess money over to the IRS to help get the debt down...
oh, and I'll only take the job on a couple conditions, one being that Congress be ready to 'fire' me at a moment's notice, 'cause I don't have hardly any government experience, never even really been in a leadership position before, been in the service, but that's about it, but going by the 'competition', that may be a factor that's actually in my favor, 'cause I think the Preside-nt pretty much is supposed to be just that, the person who presides over, but strives not to interfere etc., but is ALSO ready to call forth the Little Green Men and live up to their part of the War Powers Act of 1973.
I think I'm 'all that', or at least, to a greater degree than THESE three clowns...
if you concur, and don't judge me to be a COMPLETE lunatic, then write 'vote for Bert' on a piece of paper, and post it somewheres that other people can see it, and stuff. It's a thought, anyway!
Bert08(Independent, shoestring/bargain bin, here)

Posted by: Bert | March 13, 2008 5:04 PM | Report abuse

Look at it THIS way, you silly posters!

The less money the Republican congressional committee has, the fewer
crooked republicans they can elect.

Be grateful. Hope the money has disappeared. Expect that he was one of the evangelical holier than thous.

Posted by: Sillies | March 13, 2008 5:09 PM | Report abuse

For those throwing party insults above, please try to grow up. Human nature and weakness is not dependent on political views.

Two years ago headline: A fundraiser for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee admitted to embezzling more than $360,000 donated to the organization, and faces as much as 20 years in prison.

Posted by: jfx | March 13, 2008 5:11 PM | Report abuse

And think what this is going to do to their fund-raising (such as it was) in the future. I just wish it had happened 5 years and 4,000 lives ago.

Posted by: Andy | March 13, 2008 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Yet another example of Republican oversight.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 13, 2008 5:13 PM | Report abuse

In order to find all the money Chris Ward needs to interrogated.

I suggest we follow George Bush's lead on this and waterboard Chris Ward.

Posted by: Alan Browne | March 13, 2008 5:13 PM | Report abuse

Surely the Republican National Committee should know better than to appoint a Republican to a treasurer's position.

Posted by: Dennis Burges | March 13, 2008 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Most successful operations split up duties so that this very thing doesn't happen. You'd think the NRCC would be a little more saavy. Then again, maybe not.

Posted by: Chris | March 13, 2008 5:47 PM | Report abuse

And this is a government official stealing the money from a government agency?

Is anyone REALLY surprised?????

Posted by: Dan the Man | March 13, 2008 5:50 PM | Report abuse

The Washington Post and the far leftist-liberals are looking for anyway to take the media heat off of Eliot Spitzer and his sorry mess. If Ward is guilty which he has not even been indicted yet I hope the two of them can share the same cell!

Posted by: Heinrich | March 13, 2008 5:51 PM | Report abuse

Those of you pinning your hopes on party affiliation can expect to be disappointed. Ethics, probity, character are not the exclusive domain of either party. Only a moron votes the straight ticket. However; that might tend to explain why we, the people, haven't really gotten much to choose from as far as candidates for decades.

Any candidate you support should mirror your views, values and interests, and above all else, should place the interests of his, or her, constituents above any (and I emphasize ANY) other concerns. Face it ladies and gentlemen, if we took these norons to the dance, they should have to dance with us!

Posted by: Ed Weirdness | March 13, 2008 5:56 PM | Report abuse

Talking about values, isn't Eliot Spitzer a Democrat? Just a thought.

Anyway, Spitzer's misusing of tens of thousands of dollars pales in comparison to what this Ward guy did. I must admit, it takes some guts (and stupidity, too) to keep swindling that amount of money for so long time!

Posted by: Mr. T | March 13, 2008 6:06 PM | Report abuse

No wonder the NRCC HOUNDS people like me for donations; they need to continuously replenish the stole coffers! or

Posted by: KYJurisDoctor | March 13, 2008 6:57 PM | Report abuse

I tripped over him a couple of years back, and posted this diary at dKos. Besides the diary itself, there is additional info on him in the comments from others.

I need to update for the last two years--Kline's up for re-election, and maybe this time Ward will have legs.

As many PACs as he was working for, I wonder how many he ripped off.

Posted by: chriscol | March 13, 2008 7:10 PM | Report abuse

How about the 40mil stolen by the DC bureaucrats? My money says they are part of the Liberal patronage system.

The perk of stealing the peoples' money is more common than we told. I believe it outstrips private sector fraud. At least business has practical oversight and performance safeguards.

Posted by: Margaret Stokely | March 14, 2008 12:18 PM | Report abuse

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