More drama over cash flow for Steele and the RNC

Holly Bailey

The Republican National Committee entered October with just $3.4 million cash in the bank, nearly $10 million less than the Democratic National Committee.

According to a newly filed Federal Election Commission report, the RNC raised just $9.8 million in September, another disappointing month for the committee, which has struggled for months to raise funds under embattled Chairman Michael Steele. By comparison, the DNC raised nearly $17 million last month, a new party record, and ended September with just over $13 million in the bank.

To make up the gap, the RNC took out a $2.5 million loan last month—part of a larger $15 million credit line that GOP officials approved in August. All told, the RNC ended the month with nearly $4.6 million in debts.

In a statement Thursday, RNC spokesman Doug Heye defended the fundraising take, saying it was a decent total for a party that does not have control of either the White House or Congress. He also added that the RNC has raised $4.3 million since Oct. 1. By comparison, the DNC says it has raised $11 million.

The lousy fundraising numbers are sure to add more pressure to Steele, who has been under fire for his management of the RNC this midterm campaign. On Monday, the RNC filed several amended reports with the FEC, clarifying debts that the party had previously misreported. In September, for example, the RNC had originally reported that it ended August with just $1.2 million in debt. But an amended report filed Monday revealed the party had actually ended August with $2.5 million in debt.

Over the summer, RNC Treasurer Randy Pullen accused Steele and his staff of hiding nearly $7 million in debts to make party fundraising reports look better—a charge that RNC officials strongly denied. In turn, Steele and his allies accused Pullen of leaking unflattering stories about the RNC's finances and Steele to the media, which Pullen has denied.

As the Hotline's Reid Wilson reports, the bickering between Pullen and Steele hasn't stopped. On the heels of the amended reports, Steele allies have been pointing reporters to nearly $43,000 in party reimbursements to Pullen this election cycle. The costs were mostly for flights between Arizona and D.C., where Pullen travels to review the RNC's monthly FEC reports.

Pullen has insisted the costs were justified, telling Wilson that he has never purchased a first-class ticket, flown on a private jet or taken a limo—all digs at Steele, who has been criticized by RNC members for doing all those things on the party dime. "I think my expenses are less than one month's rental of the Fire Pelosi bus," Pullen said, referring to Steele's recent bus tour, which has also been questioned by GOP officials.

Steele, who will make a rare appearance on "Meet the Press" this Sunday, has defended his RNC tenure and hinted that he plans to run for another two-year term next year.

But rumors persist that he will face a challenge from former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, who first voiced his interest in the job over the summer.

(Photo of Steele: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)