Ronna McDaniel and RNC Budget Chair Reply to RedState Story, But Don’t Address the Elephant in the Room

Ronna McDaniel and RNC Budget Chair Reply to RedState Story, But Don’t Address the Elephant in the Room

The reaction to RedState’s story, published December 14, analyzing the Republican National Committee’s expenditures between 2017 and 2022 has been intense. As Deputy Managing Editor Susie Moore covered, talk radio legend Mark Levin called for Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel‘s resignation on his Thursday show. In addition, Tucker Carlson covered the story, and John Rich joined him to reiterate the statement he provided RedState, and it was covered on Steve Bannon’s War Room, the Charlie Kirk Show, the Jesse Kelly Show, Dan Bongino Show, and The Ingraham Angle.

Probably due to all of this, email communications between RNC committee members has been intense, and much of it has been leaked to numerous journalists. Their communications purport to “debunk the lies about roughly 0.8% of the RNC’s total spending,” according to an email sent from McDaniel to the committee members, but they don’t seriously address the many line items noted in the original piece.

That the RNC under Ronna McDaniel has brought in a lot of money isn’t in dispute. The point of the analysis, coming after losses in critical races, was the expenditures, both the types and the amounts. None of those expenses were addressed in their emails. They simply, and sadly, chose to use the same exact strategy former Rep. Katie Hill used against me to attempt to avoid ccountability for her actions.

McDaniel’s email to the committee members is a forward of an email RNC committee member Glenn McCall from South Carolina sent to members earlier in the day, with her own additional comments at the top. Since these are the talking points now being put forward to attempt to discredit RedState’s reporting and me individually, I am going to address them.

McDaniel’s email begins:

First, I hope you all saw Glenn McCall’s email this morning about the falsehoods in the blog post my opponent’s client wrote about RNC finances. I am glad facts were able to debunk the many mischaracterizations that were made without any serious effort to contact me or my team.

The email she references from McCall contained the subject line, “The Truth about the False Blog Post Posted Overnight.” It began:

I am outraged by the falsehoods in the article published in the dark of night, which was written by a client of Harmeet Dhillon, who has publicly endorsed her bid for Chair, masking as a reporter. This type of low-brow tactic is beneath the dignity of the RNC. Having said that, while everyone should take this fake news with a grain of salt, I am happy that this incident gives me an opportunity to provide an overview of the Chairwoman’s invaluable fundraising efforts over her tenure, and to set the record straight.

Just as Katie Hill and her legal team did, Ronna McDaniel and Glenn McCall refer to RedState as a “blog” and to me as someone “masking as a reporter” to impugn our credibility. It’s interesting that while the critique of the RNC’s finances has to do with spending, McCall is grateful for the “opportunity to provide an overview of the Chairwoman’s invaluable fundraising efforts over her tenure.” And, one thing the numerous RNC committee members who spoke to RedState were frustrated about was that all they receive from McDaniel is an “overview” of expenditures. Why isn’t McCall happy to provide details about spending?

McCall then referenced the same 0.8 percent of funds raised point (which is a little different than McDaniel’s statement that it was 0.8 percent of expenditures) that was made in the RNC’s statement to RedState prior to making a truly astounding comment:

If anything, an article should be written about the amazing job Ronna, the Executive Committee and Budget Committee have done in running one of the best funded and most efficiently run political organizations in the world.

He then provided information on some of the categories of expenses listed in RedState’s story. Regarding the expenditures at the Salamander Resort & Spa, McCall says:

The RNC contracted with the Salamander for a donor retreat in 2020, which we were forced to cancel due to COVID. We had to use or lose, so we applied it toward a donor retreat with a sister committee in the summer of 2021, as well as a working Senior Staff Retreat.

With $17 million in donor mementos on the books, why would the RNC also be planning a donor retreat for $260,000? Why didn’t national committee members know about this retreat?

Speaking of donor mementos, McCall says (the quotation marks are found in the original):

  • Donor mementos referenced in the “story” refer to money spent towards White House events, such as Christmas parties, Congressional picnics, and Easter Egg Rolls.

  • Gifts for donors and guests of the White House were purchased at the discretion of The White House, as is standard practice. Regardless of which party has the Presidency, the respective party committee is responsible for paying for these events and gifts – not the American People.

The financials contain payments to the White House and the US government for donor mementos, which are in the millions. Those payments only make up slightly more than $2 million of the $17.1 million not included in RedState’s original report. It’s also likely, according to sources, that donor gifts purchased from Ann Hand jewelry (known as one of Melania’s favorite jewelers) and Beacon Design were at the direction of the White House, but those total less than $500,000.

Regarding private jet and limousine travel, McCall said:

  • When working with an incumbent President or candidates who fly private, the RNC is obligated to reimburse the airfare for staff and members to the appropriate entity, whether they flew on Air Force One or on a chartered plane.

  • I’d also like to point out that during the 2015/2016 cycle, prior to Ronna’s Chairmanship, over $2 million was spent on private jets and car services alone.

  • For someone to say spending on transportation for political events and campaigning is “not standard practice” clearly does not understand costs associated with campaigning nor do they understand how to navigate to see this spending is comparable to every other committee.

The totals reported by RedState for private jet travel do not contain amounts paid to the federal government for travel, or paid to various candidate committees for travel. In addition, RedState’s original report didn’t claim that any spending on transportation for political events and campaigning is not standard practice. The chart below shows the totals paid to various federal government entities for travel, donor mementos, and event production (which would presumably include the Easter Egg Roll and Christmas parties).

RNC payments to US government from 2017 through 2022 by category. SOURCE: Federal Elections Commission

To reiterate, RedState’s report of $3.1 million paid to private jet companies does not include monies paid to candidates for RNC members or staff to travel with them, and it does not include monies paid to the government for travel with Donald Trump when he was President. The chart below shows how the $3.1 million figure was arrived at.

RNC spending on private jets from 2017 through 2022, exclusive of any travel with candidates or on Air Force One. SOURCE: Federal Elections Commission

RedState’s report referenced high-end clothing retailers, but it seems that McCall believed it was about giving clothing to campaign workers. He wrote:

I, nor should anyone on this committee, will never apologize for providing t-shirts, hats, jackets, etc. to our hardworking paid and volunteer door knockers.

Within the FEC reports there are more than $100,000 in expenses for custom t-shirts, hats, jackets, et cetera. RedState’s reporting on expenses at high-end clothing retailers are completely separate, which should have been apparent to McCall and McDaniel. To assert that $38,000 at Rhoback, $5,000 at Lululemon, and $5,000 at Footjoy was for t-shirts, hats, and jackets is insulting to thinking people everywhere.

Regarding those media expenses, simply listing them is taken as an “attack” and “sexist.”

To attack Ronna, or Harmeet, who ALSO has benefited from the RNC paying for hair and make-up for TV appearances, is extremely sexist, and I strongly encourage every member to condemn this personal attack on either of them.

Nowhere in RedState’s story was Ronna attacked for getting her hair and make-up done for TV appearances. There’s also $27,000 of dry cleaning expenses that were paid for by the RNC, which McCall doesn’t address.

McCall says that the $30,000 private box at the Las Vegas Raiders NFL game was a donor event. An RNC staffer and a male national committee member told RedState that it was not a donor event, that it was a senior staff retreat. If the RNC would provide the receipts at least to their members, the controversy could be settled.

A main criticism of the piece, which mainly contains publicly-available financial documents, is that I am a client of McDaniel’s opponent for RNC Chair, Harmeet Dhillon. That relationship, and the fact that I’d publicly endorsed Dhillon in the race, was noted in the piece. However, the numbers are the numbers. And, Dhillon’s firm has represented nearly every conservative media outlet at some point in time.

McCall finishes his email by stating that McDaniel has wisely invested in growing the donor base, seemingly saying that the expenditures were justified by the amounts raised. The next portion of this story, which is being researched at this time, is about those fundraising expenses — which include much more than donor mementos.

(NOTE: McDaniel’s opponent in the upcoming election for RNC chair, Harmeet Dhillon, represents RedState Managing Editor Jennifer Van Laar in litigation related to former Rep. Katie Hill, and Van Laar has endorsed Dhillon in the RNC chair race.)

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