NRCC Audit: Ward Embezzled $725,000

Posted June 12, 2008 at 12:40pm

Former National Republican Congressional Committee treasurer Christopher Ward allegedly diverted about $725,000 from GOP coffers to his personal bank accounts beginning as far back as 2001, according to an audit that NRCC officials shared with Republican Members on Thursday afternoon.

Forensic auditors found that Ward transferred money to himself in three ways over a period of six or seven years, spanning the tenure of three NRCC chairmen: Reps. Tom Davis (Va.), Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) and Tom Cole (Okla.). They found that he transferred money from the NRCC account to the annual President’s Dinner account and then from there diverted the money to his bank accounts. He also used the leadership political action committees of several Members whom he served as treasurer in his scheme, moving money out of the NRCC to the PACs and then to his personal accounts. The audit also revealed that Ward transferred money directly from the President’s Dinner account.

“For years, Chris Ward submitted bogus financial audits to banks and concocted a scheme to direct NRCC funds to his personal accounts for his own selfish purposes,” Cole said in a statement. “Misappropriated funds and related accounting irregularities took nearly five months for financial experts to unravel, diverting precious financial resources and time that would otherwise have been devoted to our main job of electing Republicans to Congress. However, because of the time and effort devoted to the forensic audit, the NRCC is in a much stronger position to protect against such a fraudulent act from happening again.”

Ward served as assistant treasurer at the NRCC for six years and was promoted to treasurer in 2003, when then-treasurer Donna Anderson was relieved of her duties.

The NRCC has already made some internal changes recommended by the Covington & Burling officials that conducted the audit, such as hiring a new treasurer and a chief financial officer. Other recommendations include dedicating more resources to administration and having vendors who provide independent expenditure services make reconciliation documents available at the end of an election cycle.

Insurance is expected to cover the NRCC’s $725,000 loss of funds, according to the source familiar with the audit. But it remains unclear whether the committee will recoup the cost of the audit and legal fees associated with the investigation. Those costs could reach more than $1 million.

The NRCC may be able to recoup those costs through U.S. Justice Department legal action. Last week the Justice Department filed a civil claim against Ward’s Bethesda, Md., home, charging that he used the money he allegedly embezzled from the NRCC to finance home renovations and pay his mortgage.