February 26, 2008

When it comes to the nation’s finances, Republicans in Washington have shown, shall we say, a certain lackadaisical attitude. Deficits, debts, expensive tax giveaways, lax regulations on the financial industry, Enron-omics — when it comes to looking after our money, GOP officials don’t exactly inspire confidence.

But what about when they’re tasked with looking after their own money? Well, it’s a funny story, actually.

The accounting scandal now haunting the National Republican Congressional Committee was preceded by a series of decisions over the past decade to relax internal financial controls at the committee, according to numerous Republican sources familiar with the NRCC’s operations during those years.

Under Virginia Rep. Tom Davis and New York Rep. Thomas Reynolds, who chaired the committee from 1999 until the end of 2006, the NRCC waived rules requiring the executive committee — made up of elected leaders and rank-and-file Republican lawmakers — to sign off on expenditures exceeding $10,000, merged the various department budgets into a single account and rolled back a prohibition on committee staff earning an income from outside companies.

And wouldn’t you know it, the lack of oversight led to abuse — and apparent felonies.

As Josh Patashnik concluded, “House Republicans can be accused of many things, but at least inconsistency isn’t one of them: They adhere to the same low standards of ethics and competence in their own affairs that they expect of the federal government as a whole.”

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