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NRCC Document Links Cash Shortfall to Ward’s Actions

The National Republican Congressional Committee overstated by $740,000 its cash on hand as of Jan. 31 because of fraud allegedly committed by a former employee, an NRCC document obtained by Roll Call reveals.

An ongoing investigation into accounting irregularities at the NRCC has determined that ex-committee Treasurer Christopher J. Ward allegedly funnelled “several hundred thousand dollars” from the NRCC into his own bank accounts since at least 2004. The probe has also found that Ward submitted to the NRCC’s bank and to House GOP leadership “bogus” audit reports for years 2002-2005, with an additional “bogus” audit report provided to the NRCC’s bank for 2006.

An NRCC document detailing this information and prepared for the NRCC executive committee for presentation this afternoon represents the first time Ward has been publicly named by the NRCC as the culprit in the accounting scandal.

Ward’s Washington, D.C., attorney Ronald Machen, reached via e-mail on Thursday, declined to comment.

The revelations come at an inopportune time politically for the already cash-strapped committee, which badly trails the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in available funds.

“Based on analysis conducted to date, it appears likely that over a period of several years Ward made several hundred thousand dollars in unauthorized transfers of NRCC funds to outside committees whose bank accounts he had access to, including joint fundraising committees in which the NRCC participated,” reads the document, which was prepared at the direction of NRCC Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.) for presentation to the NRCC executive committee.

Ward “also appears to have made subsequent transfers of several hundred thousand dollars in funds from those outside committees to what appear to be his personal and business bank accounts. Those unauthorized transactions date back to at least 2004.”

As a consequence, in addition to overstating its cash on hand at the end of January, the committee also had $990,000 less in the bank than it had originally reported on Dec. 31, 2006, the document reveals.

Ward worked at the NRCC beginning in November 1995, and served as treasurer from 2003 through July 2007. He continued to consult for the NRCC as an outside contractor through Jan. 28, and also served as campaign treasurer for several Republican officeholders and committees.

Cole on Thursday afternoon was scheduled to brief House GOP leadership and the NRCC executive committee on the progress of an investigation into accounting irregularities at the NRCC that the chairman himself publicized on Feb. 1. The NRCC was also set to file an “informational notice” with the Federal Election Commission to reflect its accurate cash-on-hand figures for disclosure periods allegedly affected by Ward’s actions.

The NRCC originally reported $6.4 million on hand as of Jan. 31. That figure should have been about $5.7 million.

Cole in February requested an FBI probe of the accounting irregularities that remains ongoing. Simultaneously, Cole launched an internal forensic audit of the NRCC’s books, which was undertaken by the accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers at the behest of Covington & Burling, the law firm retained by the committee to provide it legal counsel in this matter.

The document as prepared for delivery to the NRCC executive committee on Thursday stressed that the current findings are “preliminary,” but noted also that the FBI investigation has progressed to the point where the NRCC does not believe revealing the facts as currently known will hamper the probe. The NRCC expects the forensic audit to take another six to eight weeks to complete.

Among the key findings of the NRCC’s internal investigation, according to the document prepared for the executive committee:

• “The last year for which the NRCC obtained a completed independent audit report was calendar year 2001. That audit was conducted and completed during 2002.”

• “The exact dollar figures are currently a moving target, and as the investigation progresses, it is entirely possible that these figures will change, either by increasing or decreasing. The forensic investigation has also noted numerous instances in which the unauthorized transfers [made by Ward] were either not accurately reported, or were not reported at all, on FEC reports.”

• “We have learned the amount reported as outstanding on the NRCC’s line of credit was $200,000 less than the actual amount owed.”

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