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Ward May Have Taken As Much As $725K From NRCC

Christopher J. Ward, the former NRCC treasurer, improperly diverted as much as $725,000 from the committee to himself over a six-year period, according to several GOP insiders.

Ward's alleged improper diversion of NRCC funds also began earlier than had previously been reported, with the "unauthorized transfers" starting in 2001, when the NRCC was chaired by Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), the sources said. NRCC officials, including Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.), has stated publicly that Ward began diverting money from the committee sometime in 2003. NRCC officials now believe the transfers started much earlier.

Cole is expected to unveil the results of a three-month forensic audit by the firm PricewaterhouseCoopers to the NRCC ececutive committee, GOP leaders, and the press on Thursday.

Politico had previously reported that NRCC losses from Ward's activities was somewhere in the range of $550,000 to $600,000, although this total apparently represents only what Ward allegedly transferred to himself just from bank accounts for the annual President's Dinner galas. Those events were huge, multi-million dollars fundraisers where President Bush helped raise funds for the NRCC and National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Ward is under investigation by the Justice Dept. over his alleged embezzlement from the NRCC. On Friday, the Justice Dept. filed a civil forfeiture claim against Ward's home in Bethesda, Md. Court documents filed by DOJ charge that Ward diverted more than $500,000 from the President's Dinner accounts to his own use, using the funds to pay his mortgage and finance nearly $200,000 worth of home renovations.

GOP insiders said that the transfers by Ward took three basic patterns: Ward reportedly transferred funds from the President's Dinner accounts directly to himself or a company he controlled;. Ward shifted NRCC funds to Republican leadership PACS he acted as treasurer for, and then to himself; and Ward moved NRCC funds to the President's Dinner accounts and then to his own bank accounts.

It is unclear why Ward engaged in these multi-step transactions, but Republican insiders said he did not record the transactions in NRCC records, or those of any of the dozens of other committees and PACs for which he served as treasurer. Five GOP campaign committees and PACs have formally reported to the FEC that Ward misappropriated at least $47,000 from their accounts.

Patrick O'Connor and John Bresnahan reported this story.

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