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Another Victim in GOP Embezzlement Scandal

Add retiring Rep. James Walsh (N.Y.) to the list of Republican lawmakers who now believe they were ripped off by Christopher Ward, the former treasurer of multiple GOP campaigns who is under federal investigation for allegedly embezzling funds from the National Republican Congressional Committee.

On April 14, Walsh's political action committee, COLDPAC, filed six amended reports with the Federal Election Commission covering much of 2007. Why? The answer can be found in the PAC's amended report for last April, which includes a $20,000 disbursement to Ward for "Misappropriated Funds."

Walsh's PAC is at least the sixth GOP committee to report that Ward took funds, and he appears to be the biggest individual victim measured by dollar amount (not counting the NRCC), so far in the scandal. Committees connected to GOP Reps. Charles Dent (Pa.), Vito Fossella (N.Y.), Jeb Hensarling (Texas) and a moderate Republican group have also reported having funds taken by Ward.

Alleged Victims of Christopher Ward:
Campaign CommitteeAffiliated Member"Misappropriated"
Amount
NRCC $990,000*
COLDPAC Rep. James Walsh (R-N.Y.) $20,000
Tuesday Group PAC moderate Republicans$15,000
Committee to Re-elect
Vito Fossella
Rep. Vito Fossella (R-N.Y.)$6,000
JEB Fund Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas)$4,000
Dent PACRep. Charles Dent (R-Pa.)$2,000

*This is the amount by which the NRCC's 2006 report overstated its true cash-on-hand, according to the committee. The actual amount Ward allegedly took from the NRCC remains under investigation.

Source: Federal Election Commission reports

The alleged theft from Walsh's PAC occurred when it was largely dormant. The committee didn't raise a cent in 2007 while only spending a total of $32,000. The revised accounting after the addition of Ward's misappropriation meant the committee ended the year in the red, reporting a cash balance of negative $1,400. Last month, Walsh donated $5,000 from his regular campaign committee to his PAC to cover the loss. Walsh's office did not return a call seeking comment before this item was posted*, and Ward's attorney declined to comment (as he has since the scandal broke).

While COLDPAC has not reported spending any money on lawyers or accountants as a result of Ward's actions, the NRCC hasn't been so lucky. The committee's latest FEC report shows that it has now spent upwards of $140,000 dealing with the scandal, including $28,500 to the law firm Covington & Burling and another $116,000 to the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

*UPDATE 2:36 PM: Walsh's office has responded. "Obviously Mr. Walsh is very angry. He feels he and his supporters were taken advantage of by this guy," said spokesman Dan Gage, adding that the information about COLDPAC had been forwarded to "law enforcement authorities."

By Ben Pershing  |  April 23, 2008; 2:24 PM ET
Categories:  2008 Campaign , Ethics and Rules , Fundraising Circuit  
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