Friday, April 11, 2008

Major Campaign Treasury Problems with the GOP

I would have posted this one sooner, but I've been busy defending someone accused of tortious interference in a hypothetical case. That takes precidence over this blog. Sorry, folks. That's done, and one story recently has rocked the small circle of people known as political committee treasurers. I've been following this story for awhile. This scandal is not getting much press, but it pisses me off more than anything that Spitzer, Kwame, and Tom Athans has done. This isn't as flashy and doesn't deal with sex, gays, or hookers. It's simply old fashion skimming off the top. Embezzlement. I'll preface this by saying that everyone is innocent till proven guilty. I will also preface this by saying that Christopher J Ward is NOT Christopher C Ward, my state representative. It is a completely different person.

I've been a treasurer myself. I normally don't brag about myself on this blog as I like to let my actions do the talking, but on the state/local levels, I am one of the best at my work. Even those within the party that do not care for me all that much respect my work on treasurer and campaign finance issues. I consider myself one of the top 10 treasurers in the state. I have not screwed up on reports in six years, and when I did screw up, it was a "fix it" and not a fine. I've proven myself here enough where I don't treasure organizations for free anymore. You want my work, it costs, but at the same time I do very good work. There are a few treasurers who are better. Those are the people I call when I have a question.

One who probably is better at ability was Christopher J Ward, who I will refer to as CJ Ward to make sure there is no confusion with Chris here in Livingston County. CJ Ward was the treasurer for the NRCC, which is the house campaign committee. He also treasured other campaigns.

From the Wall Street Journal

WASHINGTON -- The House Republicans' campaign committee, already strapped for cash going into the 2008 election, said yesterday that it is missing several hundred thousand dollars, and possibly more, after discovering suspected fraudulent activity by its former treasurer.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, which helps elect Republicans to the House, dismissed its longtime treasurer, Christopher Ward, Jan. 28 after it said it discovered he had been submitting bogus financial audits of the committee's accounts since 2002.

The committee previously said it had notified the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the false audits, and that it was cooperating with the FBI's criminal investigation.

The NRCC yesterday gave new information about the potential scope of the fraud. Mr. Ward apparently made unauthorized wire transfers totaling "several hundred thousand dollars" from NRCC accounts into other Republican campaign committees that he also managed as treasurer, said NRCC lawyer, Robert Kelner of the law firm Covington & Burling LLP. Mr. Kelner said that Mr. Ward then apparently made wire transfers from those outside Republican accounts into his own personal and business bank accounts. The NRCC has traced such activity back to 2004, but its investigation is continuing, he said.

"The evidence we have today indicates we have been deceived and betrayed for a number of years by a highly respected and trusted individual," Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, the NRCC chairman, said in a statement.

If he's guilty, lock him up. I really hope he's innocent, but from what I have heard, I'll just say his attorney had a tough job to do.

The Argus has its own story on this with our congressman Mike Rogers. I believe Mike here, and I'll explain why.

When Rogers was finance chairman of the National Republican Campaign Committee, its treasurer was Christopher J. Ward (no relation to state Rep. Chris Ward, R-Genoa Township). The NRCC has accused Ward of misappropriating potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars from the committee, whose goal is to raise money to elect Republicans to the House of Representatives.

Rogers said the fundraising and operations functions were separate at the NRCC, so he didn't work directly with Ward and didn't know him.

"My job as finance chair was to raise money for the NRCC. The operations and expenditure sides are separate," he said. "Obviously, it's disappointing. We worked awful hard on our end of the shop."

I am certain Congressman Mike is telling the truth here. I'm sure he trusted CJ Ward to take care of it. Nobody gets one of the top 2-3 treasury jobs in the country without being trusted. I'd say the same thing here, even if it was Granholm. I know enough politicians to know their attitudes on campaign finance related matters. I have enough treasury experience as well to know the attitudes. Even those with a strong interest in the matter, like my rep Chris Ward (Livingston County) don't like dealing with the filings. Politicians HATE this part of the job in a way that most people do not believe. It's about as popular as a root canal or a conservative in Ann Arbor. They do not want to deal with the tricky filings and would rather spend their time campaigning. That's why committees have treasurers, so they do not have to deal with it. "Give my donation to the treasurer over there. He'll take care of it. Thank you." is not an uncommon saying at fundraisers. Some pols do not even see the money. They have no desire to see it, and do not want to deal with it. Most pols have a very irritated look on their face when the words "Campaign finance" are mentioned next to each other.

That gets to my next point. Most treasurers in my experience are given blind trust with the campaign funds. They are not checked up on and scrutinized by the pols. I wasn't checked up on, except by one organization (probably two today with the precedent I helped set). I could have skimmed off the top, like CJ Ward was accused of, and have gotten away with it if I tried in all but one organization. One org had a chair who scrutinized financial transactions as much as I do, so both of us kept detailed records on filings and transactions. I'm not that kind of a person, but I'm explaining how easy it is to people here, largely due to politicians, board members, corporate chairs, corporate presidents, and corporate vice presidents, not wanting to deal with these tedious, boring, and difficult matters. They often give blind trust in treasurers. This is why I'm a complete a-hole about these types of matters. One major treasury scandal is enough.

I close with this advice. An organization's treasurer should be the most trustworthy person in the organization, and one of the most competent in the organization. After that, "Trust but Verify," as President Reagan would say. Proper checks and balances prevent situations like this. If the NRCC admins did this, we wouldn't have this. Prior planning prevents piss poor performance.

1 comment:

keithr said...


Don't let this bug you. A couple things I've learned in life:

1)Some people are crooks. Period. Every race, religion, political party, nationality, etc . . . has it's share of crooks. It doesn't seem to matter whether people are rich or highly educated, some of them will steal.

2) There is no way to prevent all crime. Period. Organizations have all kinds of controls in place to make it tougher, but in the end there are always opportunities. That's why we have auditors doing frequent audits. We can't always keep people from stealing but hopefully we can catch them afterward. The hope is that auditing is tough enough to deter crime but some people will always be willing to take the chance.

All we can really do is try and set up the best controls possible, do audits, and prosecute people that get cheating. So don't feel too bad as at least he did get caught and it is likely he'll end up in prison.