The RNC, a ‘civil war,’ and a hidden debt

THE RNC, A ‘CIVIL WAR,’ AND A HIDDEN DEBT…. It’s clearly a busy media day, with a variety of stories generating plenty of discussion, but the RNC’s hidden-debt controversy is probably under-appreciated at this point. It has the potential to be a very big deal.

A GOP civil war has broken out between RNC Chairman Michael Steele and RNC Treasurer Randy Pullen.

The dust-up reveals new levels of dysfunction at the RNC and suggests the Republican National Committee is having real money problems.

In a memo obtained by ABC News, Pullen makes startling allegations against Steele’s chief of staff, accusing him of trying to hide unpaid invoices and causing the RNC not to report more than $7 million in debt in its April and May filings with the Federal Election Commission.

Now, we know that at least some of what Pullen is charging is already true — the RNC had to file amended reports to explain previously unreported debt. But according to the RNC’s own treasurer, Steele and others at party headquarters did this deliberately, allegedly going to literally criminal lengths to hide party debts and financial troubles.

Ed Morrissey, a prominent conservative blogger, added, “If Pullen’s claims turn out to be true, it’s a potential disaster for the RNC and Republican candidates, and not just because of the restricted cash flow. The GOP has been arguing that they are the party of fiscal responsibility and reform.”

Right. What makes this story serious is the fact that it has multiple angles, all of them bad news for the RNC. We have (1) the in-fighting among RNC officials, with the chairman going up against his own treasurer; (2) potentially illegal accounting tricks; (3) weak RNC fundraising in advance of a critical election season that necessitated the illegal accounting tricks; (4) another distracting scandal for Steele to deal with, just a few weeks after the last one; and (5) the fact that the controversy itself steps all over the Republican message of fiscal responsibility.