One of the big stories making the rounds in Republican circles these days is the alleged theft, through illegal wire transfers, of money donated to the Republican National Committee, by the man in charge, Christopher J. Ward. The matter was turned over to the FBI six weeks ago, according to an article by Paul Kane in the Washington Post, (March 14, 2008) and it appears that Ward may have diverted as much as one million dollars to defunct campaign accounts or his own private bank account(s), through the use of wire transfers.
Ward had been on the job as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee as audit committee chairman for at least five years, which now seems a bit akin to having a fox in the hen-house.
Ward had authority to wire transfer funds, the only such NRCC official so empowered without a second approval needed. After he transferred the money into accounts he controlled, which often went into a fundraising committee that was no longer active, Ward would move the money into accounts that represented his political consulting company, or into his own personal bank accounts.
Ward was fired January 28th, after his successor, Representative Mike Conaway (R, TX), a CPA, forced the issue and turned evidence over to the FBI for investigation. Conaway had realized that the audit submitted for 2006 was bogus. It was Ward’s practice to submit audits on gerrymandered letterhead from real outside accounting firms, but none of the audits were legitimate.
For five years, Ward forged audits. Not a single member of Congress, nor a single NRCC staffer ever actually met with or talked to any of the outside firms’ accountants that were supposedly conducting these “audits.”
Walden expressed concerns long before the whistle was blown on Ward’s duplicity, but Ward would always offer excuses about why the outside auditors could not meet: a different firm was doing the audit; we’re waiting for the newest audit; the auditors are too busy, etc.
Walden is quoted as saying, “It frustrated me that I could not get it done.” It should be noted that Walden is not a CPA.
After the 2006 election, Tom Cole (R, Okla.) took over the job and things began to spin out of control. Conaway, who is a certified public accountant, saw through the bogus faked audits and the house of cards began to fall.
Cole, in an article in the Friday, March 14th Washington Post, written by Paul Kane, said, “The evidence we have today indicates we have been deceived and betrayed for a number of years by a highly respected and trusted individual.” Cole also commented, in an article written by Ben Pershing for the Washington Post online that Cole said, “If you remember when I first got there (the NRCC), I was accused of being a micro-manager. You don’t hear that much any more.”
Cole reported the bright side of this embezzlement scandal this way, “Our team found it, our team reported it, and our team fixed it.” The committee has already spent at least $360,000 on legal and accounting fees to “fix” it. The National Republican Congressional Committee collected $49 million in donations in 2007. It had not acknowledged that any money was missing until March 13th, 2008, when it announced that it had discovered “irregularities” and the axe fell on Ward. The year-end report filed the Federal Election Commission (FEC) in 2006 overstated the NRCC’s cash on hand by $990,000.