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GOP Losses To Ward Approach $800K; NRSC Also Victimized

Outside lawyers for the National Republican Congressional Committee confirmed Thursday that a former employee allegedly stole an estimated $725,000 from the campaign committee between 2001 and 2007, although the exact amount is still unclear.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee, because of joint fundraising it did with the NRCC, also lost an estimated $28,000 to Ward's illicit activities, and at least five other campaign committees and leadership PACs that he worked for have already reported that he allegedly diverted at least $47,000 from their accounts.

That brings the total GOP losses to Ward to nearly $800,000.

The NRCC's announcement is the culmination of an exhaustive forensic audit of the committee's records after staff discovered Christopher J. Ward, a former treasurer, had forged the audit from 2006. Wade actually allegedly submitted phony outside audits from 2002 to 2006.

"We'll never know the full extent" of what Ward allegedly stole, said NRCC Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.). "There is a dollar damage. There is an estimate. There could be more."

Cole said the Ward investigation has diverted needed resources into an investigation, and raised unwanted questions from donors about the committee's operations.

"It's clearly damaging in terms of the amount of time it has taken, the betrayal of colleagues, successive chairmen. It's really a hard thing," Cole added.

In documents released by the NRCC and a subsequent press briefing, lawyers and accountants brought in by the NRCC to handle the investigation said only the Justice Dept., which is conducting a criminal probe of Ward, may be able to determine the true scale of his "unauthorized transfers" in GOP funds to his own pocket. DOJ has filed a civil forfeiture claim against Ward's home in Bethesda, Md., claiming he took at least $500,000 from the NRCC.

"It's certainly possible that in the course of doing [additional auditng] that the in-house staff will find additional issues, but we think we've done as much as we reasonably can at this point in time," said Rob Kelner, the Covington & Burling brought in by the NRCC to help run the probe.

The NRCC has spent at least $530,000 on lawyers and accountants to help determine what Ward allegedly embezzled, and it will still have to spend several hundred thousand dollars more to conduct a formal 2007 audit. That audit will be needed if the committee is to qualify for a bank loan this cycle.

A lack of paperwork made it difficult for the auditors to explore millions the committee spent on independent expenditures on the campaign trail during the 2005-06 election cycle or dig much deeper than 2001. But the NRCC's lawyers did conclude that "it does not appear anyone other than Ward knowingly participated in this scheme."

The lawyers from Covington & Burling, along with a team of auditors from PricewaterhouseCoopers, interviewed more than two dozen current and former NRCC employees, officers and outside consultants. The team also reviewed 49 bank accounts for the committee and for various President's Dinners between 2001 and 2007.

However, the team did not interview Ward himself about these transactions.
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