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Ward May Have Taken As Much As $600K From NRCC

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.) will disclose the results of an internal audit conducted after its former treasurer, Christopher Ward, was fired in January for allegedly stealing money from the committee. Ward is suspected of diverting hundreds of thousands of dollars from NRCC coffers, although GOP officials have been tight-lipped so far on what the exact number is.

Cole will brief the NRCC's executive committee and House Republican leaders on the audit results next Thursday, according to GOP insiders. The audit was conducted by the accounting firm Deloitte & Touche, and cost the committee at least $370,000 to conduct, according to NRCC disclosure filings.

Ward is under investigation by the FBI for alleged embezzlement and bank fraud. As of today, five GOP campaign committees and PACs have reported that Ward misappropriated at least $47,000, although the diversion from the NRCC is expected to be much larger, possibly in the range of $550,000 to $600,000 over several years, according to several GOP insiders.

Ward allegedly transferred the funds into dormant campaign accounts originally set up for joint House-Senate Republican dinners with President Bush, huge gala events that raised millions of dollars. Ward would then either directly pocket the funds or transfer them to a company he controlled, said the sources.

The NRCC declined to comment for this article.

 A $600,000 loss would be less than some Republicans had feared, although it would still make the NRCC case the largest of a rash of campaign embezzlement cases in recent years.

The audit is also expected to reveal that Ward's alleged diversion of funds began during the tenure of former NRCC Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) and continued until Ward was forced out of the committee earlier this year.

Ward, who was described as the "gold standard" for Repbublican campaign treasurers in a Washington Post profile, oversaw dozens of campaign committees taking in hundreds of millions of dollars, with most of that total coming from the NRCC. He had authority to transfer funds without requiring further approval, and he reportedly did not even record some of the transactions for funds he misappropriated, said multiple Republicans sources.

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