Could a New Report Spell More Trouble for the RNC?

Michael Steele

On the same day the Republican National Committee is touting impressive fundraising figures for the past month, a new report suggests the organization's fundraising tactics may have broken the law.

Citing an unnamed source formerly associated with the RNC, the Daily Caller reports today that the RNC struck a deal with the Michigan Republican Party for the state party to raise money for the national party, so that the committee could boost its fundraising numbers. Then, the money was then reportedly immediately returned.

"It was a known secret that a deal had been struck on the topic," the former RNC official told the Daily Caller.

Federal Election Commission reports indicate that 15 donors from Michigan gave a total of $456,000 to the committee on one day, Dec. 31, 2009, the Caller reports. The RNC then reportedly gave $500,000 back to the Michigan Republican party over the next two months.

The Michigan Republican Party told the Caller that it was "patently false" any deal had been struck, while the RNC did not comment.

The Daily Caller reports that Michigan received far more money from the RNC in those two months than any other state, with Delaware receiving the next largest sum at $129,800. Meanwhile, all but five of the 28 donors from across the country who gave the maximum amount of $30,400 to the RNC in December were reportedly from Michigan.

Federal campaign laws restrict state parties from spending more than $10,000 per year from an individual donor on a federal race. Therefore, donors who allegedly gave to the RNC, knowing the money would be returned to the state, could surpass that limit.

If the RNC did engage in a quid pro quo with the state party, it may be a violation of the law, according to CBS News Chief Political Consultant Marc Ambinder.

"You can't concoct a so-called 'pass-through' scheme to avoid contribution limits," Ambinder said. "If that's what happened here, it violates the law. At the very least, the timing of the donations and the spending are suspicious, and the internal lack of transparency about the program is troubling."

Such an arrangement with the Michigan GOP could be a more serious concern for the RNC and its chairman, Michael Steele, than other recent scandals and controversies. In recent weeks, the organization has come under fire for missteps such as reimbursing expenses from a trip to a topless, bondage-themed nightclub. In the wake of that incident, a handful of RNC officials have been fired or left the organization.

Steele has said he is focused on fundraising and winning elections, but his leadership has nevertheless been called into question from top conservatives and GOP donors. However, it would take far more serious missteps than the reimbursement of expenses from a racy nightclub to oust Steele as chairman.

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