Accounts Payable

Posted April 22, 2008 at 6:37pm

The National Republican Congressional Committee continued to pay legal experts last month to help put back together the mess allegedly created by former treasurer Chris Ward.

[IMGCAP(1)]The tab so far: $140,000 and counting.

Covington and Burling LLP was paid $28,540 for Ward-related legal work in early March. The auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers also was paid more than $90,000 during the month, adding to the $25,000 check it was given Feb. 14.

NRCC spokeswoman Karen Hanretty on Tuesday confirmed that all expenses paid to the two firms this year were related to the ongoing Ward investigation.

Hanretty also said the NRCC is on track to wrap up its investigation of the Ward-related audit by mid-May.

NRCC Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.) told the GOP conference on March 13 that it likely would take six to eight weeks to thoroughly investigate suspicious transactions made by Ward, who had worked at the committee for more than a decade and is under Justice Department investigation for allegedly bilking the NRCC and other campaign committees.

Cole also told his colleagues at the time that preliminary findings showed that the NRCC’s actual cash total was “approximately $990,000 less than the amount reported” and that the committee’s February report was $740,000 short.

Robert Kelner, a Covington and Burling lawyer working on the case, said Tuesday that the case is “moving along pretty much at the pace we anticipated.”

Kelner also said that “the general picture is fundamentally the same” as it was six weeks ago.

“The numbers may be a little different, but not dramatically so,” he said. “We have found things that require further review … but at this point I wouldn’t say that we have found anything fundamentally different than what we knew on March 13.”

Kelner added: “It could be that some of things that we’ve found since then could lead in new directions, but you don’t really know until you’ve followed through on everything.”

I Am Anonymous. Politicians typically shake a lot of hands. Fundraisers, Fourth of July parades and countless grip and grins. And if a lawmaker is lucky, some constituents will go home and take out their checkbooks.

But for Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and perhaps many others, one donor appears to be going to great lengths to make sure the six-term incumbent can’t pick him or her out of a crowd.

Brady’s campaign committee took in numerous contributions last cycle from a donor who described himself as “I am

Anonymous.” The clever donor listed his address as P.O. Box 14222, Humble, Texas 77347” and likely made the payments in cash. The anonymous donor gave Brady $200 through 10 different $20 transactions in late 2006, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Google that and you’ll find Rep. Ted Poe’s (R-Texas) district office mailing address.

Both Brady and Poe — er, Anonymous — played it by the books. The apparently veiled lawmaker likely knew that Brady couldn’t accept the tongue-in-cheek payments if they amounted to more than $200, a threshold that trips a request for more descriptive information:

“If an individual who has contributed more than $200 during the election cycle fails to provide the required recordkeeping information (i.e., name, mailing address, occupation and employer), the committee must be able to show that it made “best efforts” to obtain (and report) that information,” according to an FEC guidebook for campaign accountants. “To demonstrate ‘best efforts,’ the committee must be able to show that it requested the information — first, in the solicitation materials that prompted the contribution and, second, in a follow-up request. Furthermore, if requested information is not received until after the contribution has been reported, the committee must report the information.”

FEC records show Brady’s campaign, which did not respond to an interview request, is still waiting for Anonymous’ real name.

But as it turns out, it wasn’t a case of mistaken identity after all. Kindra Hefner, a Texas political consultant who has worked for both lawmakers, explained that the snafu likely stems from an error at a data entry shop used by both Members.

“Someone comes to a barbeque [and gives money], we’re required by law to have an anonymous record,” Hefner said. “The ‘I am’ part, the FEC doesn’t like you to have a first name and not a last name.”

Although likely not Poe, it turns out that Brady’s reporting conundrum is not unique: donors named “anonymous” have given more than $17,000 in recent years to candidates and political action committees, according to FEC records.

Last Laugh: “I’m not sure we need characterizations of the political candidates.”

— Chief Justice John Roberts, scolding lawyer Andrew Herman this week. Herman, who argued against the Millionaire’s Amendment before the Supreme Court on Tuesday, had just sparked laughter after telling the high court, “certainly the public was not particularly interested in Mitt Romney … and many other spectacular flameouts.”

Submit items of interest on money in politics here