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Player of the Week: Michael Conaway

When Michael Conaway was elected to Congress from Texas in 2004, he figured he could use his background as a certified public accountant to advance the Republican cause on big-picture policy issues like the federal budget and the national debt. Little did he know then that he might end up providing a more valuable service -- unearthing a massive embezzlement case right under the party's nose.

This week the simmering scandal surrounding the National Republican Congressional Committee's missing money finally boiled over, as the House GOP campaign arm publicly revealed that its former treasurer, Christopher Ward, appears to have transferred several hundred thousand dollars out of the committee that eventually ended up in his own bank accounts.

Without Conaway's discovery of the scheme, it might still be going on today, and that makes him Capitol Briefing's Player of the Week.

Conaway is no stranger to the worlds of finance and big-league Republican politics. After growing up in Odessa, Texas, and playing on Permian High School's first state football championship squad (the program that spawned the book, movie and TV show "Friday Night Lights"), Conaway got his accounting degree, served in the Army and then went to work for the firm then known as Price Waterhouse. He later went on to serve as chief financial officer at Bush Exploration, George W. Bush's oil firm.

Elected to the House in 2004 from the 11th District in west central Texas, Conaway was picked after the 2006 election by NRCC Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.) to run the campaign arm's audit committee. Before long, he started asking Ward to schedule a meeting with the outside firm that had been tapped to audit the NRCC's 2006 books. But Ward kept putting Conaway off, making the Texan suspicious.

"My expectation was that that frank meeting would take three minutes," Conaway told The Washington Post, adding that he was troubled by Ward's "passive aggressive" behavior.

And when the lawmaker saw the supposed audits Ward had produced before, he recognized them as fake.

"We're very fortunate to have Mike Conaway as chairman of our audit committee," Cole said, putting it mildly. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the previous audit committee chairman, had also pressed Ward for information over the years, but he was not a professional accountant and did not recognize the audits Ward gave him as fakes the way Conaway did.

It's not clear yet how much money the NRCC actually lost as a result of Ward's actions -- the total could end up over $1 million. But it is also clear that the number could still be growing had it not been for Conaway's actions. Now if he could only do something about that national debt.

By Ben Pershing  |  March 14, 2008; 5:00 PM ET
Categories:  Ethics and Rules , House , Player of the Week  
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Next: Final Week Yields Plenty of Campaign Fodder

Comments

Conaway worked for Bush, Price Waterhouse, the Enron accountants...of course he knew crooked books when he saw them. Stealing American's money is one thing, stealing from fellow Republican's is another. Even if you're stealing the money to fund the swiftboat attacks or the Contras...steal someone else's money!

Posted by: thebobbob | March 15, 2008 7:01 PM | Report abuse

Just when Republicans would like to focus on the positive. Then another piece of Republican corruption surfaces to public view.

It is just really hard to be proud to be a Republican in this century.

Posted by: ChocoChuckles | March 16, 2008 5:58 PM | Report abuse

How in America could any law-abiding, honest, caring Citizen vote Republican now!? The Bush economic terrorists haved lied to, and looted America, in ways that Bin-Laden could have never of dreamed up! 9/11 seems small compared. And how many of the blind and fearing voted for these Criminals is embarrassing. America is bankrupt thanks to the Bush-Group and backers. Hope You are happy for the untold pain and suffering subjected on Our Once Great Country! - Impeach Bush / Cheny NOW! - And abolish, and send back to Europe, the Economic Terrorists,- the so-called Federal Reserve.

Posted by: Joe Ward | March 17, 2008 8:54 AM | Report abuse

Even Fredo worked for Enron's law firm.

Posted by: Kenny-boy | March 17, 2008 10:26 PM | Report abuse

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