Gross Misconduct At The RNC

July 06, 2010 11:50 am ET — Melinda Warner

When was the last time the RNC was in the press for doing something right?  National parties aren't generally news-making entities, but lately the RNC has been getting some pretty negative attention for the decisions made by its employees.

Irresponsible Employees

According to reports, RNC staffers were in the habit of forging Finance Director Rob Bickhart's name on receipts (including the infamous strib club reimbursement) and used party credit cards to charge clothes and entertainment as office supply expenses.  Additionally, a creatively written contract with Bickhart provided him with "more than twice the $223,500 in salary Mr. Steele gets as chairman" essentially for only netting the party $800,000.  For a party that is seemingly hemorrhaging money, this kind of behavior is unsustainable.  Especially given the way they're trying to raise money.

Fundraising PowerPoint

In March, POLITICO obtained a copy of a PowerPoint presentation the RNC gave to a group of donors in Florida.  The presentation, while including some of the basic language expected from a fundraising document, covers some surprising, weird, and inappropriate content.



Freely admitting to donors that they (and other donors) are manipulated by reactionary and visceral emotion (including fear), peer pressure, and appeals to their vanity and expecting the tactic to be lucrative is nuts.



"Putting the Fun Back in FUNdraising"?  I'm sorry; I thought this was a national political party and not a bake sale.



Maybe showing donors that they're not above co-opting the hateful but creative signage made by the extreme fringe of the political spectrum is the RNC's way of proving that they're connected to the populous.  No matter the motivation, it is inappropriate for anyone to encourage or promote this type of propaganda.

No matter how ridiculous we find the RNC's fundraising tactics, the way they spend the money raised is certainly suspect.

Abortion Funding

The RNC has raised over $1.7 billion since 2000.  The RNC has also been anti-choice for years.  And yet, since the party provides health insurance for employees and uses donor funds to subsidize those policies, you'd think someone would have thought to make sure their insurance policies didn't cover abortion.  No one checked, the RNC policy covered abortion, and so the RNC was using their unwitting donors' money to pay for abortions.  Oops.

Strip Club Visit & Other Party Expenses

An RNC staffer took the fall for a $1,946.25 reimbursement the RNC made for a party held at a lesbian bondage-themed strip club called Voyeur in California.  But it's unclear as to who was able to justify spending $17,000 on private jets, $35,000 on hotel rooms, and over $43,000 in expenses for the party's Hawaii field trip at a time when the country was in the middle of a recession and many of their small donors were out of work. 

Staff Purge

Maybe it's not so unclear.  RNC Finance Director Rob Bickhart and Deputy Director Debbie LeHardy were canned in May 2010 and Chairman Steele sent off Chief of Staff Ken McKay on his way after the story broke.

Paying An "Unpaid" Consultant

And the staff they've kept around aren't necessarily doing them any favors.

Our partner organization, Media Matters for America, discovered a blatant discrepancy in the RNC's accounting records.  RNC consultant Alex "Father of the Attack Ad" Castellanos was hired by CNN but was "allowed" to continue to consult for the RNC because he was unpaid.

Or so they thought.  In 2009, Castellanos was paid $12,000 by the RNC on October 15th, weeks before CNN reported that his position was unpaid.  Castellanos didn't return the money until December 7th.

Both Castellanos and the RNC would have known that the $12,000 should have been returned as soon as a contract with CNN was finalized...and yet it took months for the money to reappear in the RNC account.

Taking Cues From The Tea Party

Panicked at the prospect of losing its base to the fringe element, the RNC and Chairman Steele have both been attempting to co-opt the power of the Tea Party movement and bring the Tea Partiers back into the Republican fold.  But the Tea Party - consisting mainly of people who are disillusioned with the current state of national politics - aren't likely to be wooed by a Party that uses donor funds to pay for abortions, private jets, and strippers.