BY ERIN KELLY
WASHINGTON — An FBI investigation of financial irregularities and possible fraud at the National Republican Congressional Committee is becoming an issue in Republican Rep. Tom Reynolds’ bid for re-election to a sixth term.
A campaign spokesman for Democrat Jon Powers, a candidate for Reynolds’ seat, accused the Clarence congressman of “poor leadership” Tuesday because the irregularities may have occurred at least partly while Reynolds was chairman of the congressional committee from January 2003 through December 2006.
Reynolds has not been accused of any wrongdoing in connection with the investigation, which is reportedly centered on Christopher Ward, former longtime treasurer of the NRCC. However, Powers’ campaign pointed to an article in this week’s Roll Call newspaper saying the NRCC apparently has not had an independent audit of its financial records since summer of 2003, the first year that Reynolds was chairman.
Audits are not required by federal law, but they are routinely conducted by the major campaign committees, according to Federal Election Commission records.
“Western New Yorkers deserve better than this,” said John Gerken, Powers’ campaign manager. “They deserve real leadership and accountability in Washington, D.C., not a congressman embroiled in scandal.”
But Reynolds said Tuesday that if irregularities did occur, he was an unknowing victim. He said he believed audits had been done.
“It was my understanding that throughout my tenure as NRCC chairman, audits were performed on a regular basis,” Reynolds said in a written statement. “At no point in time were any red flags raised about those audits. It now appears over an extended period of time, a long-serving professional staff member may have put together an elaborate scheme resulting in financial irregularities that are currently under review. I fully support this investigation in an attempt to uncover the truth.”
Ward, the reported subject of the investigation, has declined comment. He worked as treasurer under five different chairmen for nearly 15 years, Reynolds’ aides said.
Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., who served as the committee’s audit chairman under Reynolds, issued a statement this week saying simply that he supports current NRCC Chairman Tom Cole’s efforts to identify how far back the irregularities may go and to put safeguards in place for the future.
Cole announced Feb. 1 that the committee had learned “of irregularities in our financial audit process.”
“Since these irregularities may include fraud, we have notified appropriate law enforcement authorities,” Cole said, referring to the FBI. “We are aggressively and thoroughly investigating the matter and, while we determine the details, have terminated our relationship with a former employee (Ward) who had been engaged as an outside vendor.”
In addition to the FBI investigation, the NRCC has hired an accounting firm to review the committee’s finances. Until an audit is complete, it is not clear whether wrongdoing occurred or how much money the committee may have lost, GOP officials have said.
BY ERIN KELLY
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