Riddle Me This: How Is The Republican National Committee Like Black Lives Matters?

Like all good riddles, this one has more than one answer, though none of them are funny. Ironic, perhaps. Infuriating, surely. Nauseating, absolutely.

The first answer is that both misappropriate money donated to them by passionate supporters who foolishly trusted their leadership and staffs to use the funds to accomplish the organizations’ promised mission. Another answer is that the unethical betrayers of trust in both organizations will fall back on Rationalization #13. The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause” to try to justify and minimize their betrayal.

The GOP’s resounding flop in the recent mid-term election despite conditions that historically have guaranteed a large number of Senate and House victories to the advantage of the party not holding the White House has donors asking questions and pointing fingers. The conservative website RedState acquired a report dated October 7, 2022 that examined the RNC’s 2021-22 spending up to that time. What it shows is an unethical, incompetent, unprofessional untrustworthy non-profit organization that took millions in donations it solicited with promises of turning them into national policy and regime change and wasted millions on the whims and comfort of its managers instead.

The report calculated expenditures of more than $500,000 in private jet expenses, $64,000 at clothing retailers, and $321,000 in floral arrangements, among other details. Here is the full list—remember, this is only for the 2021-2022 cycle:

RedState examined the rest of RNC chair Ronna McDaniel’s tenure, from 2017 through 2022 (….So far, the GOP has shown no sign of getting rid of her). It reviewed Federal Elections Commission records, spoke with  vendors, interviewed state party officials,  former staffers and current RNC members, all of whom were promised anonymity to avoid potential retaliation (apparently the RNC is also like the Democratic National Committee, and operates like a criminal organization: snitches end up in ditches).

According to FEC filings, since 2017 the RNC has spent:

  • $3.1 million on private jet services
  • $1.3 million on limousine/chauffeur services
  • $17.1 million on donor mementos
  • $750,000 on floral arrangements
  • $100,000 in hair/makeup services
  • $80,000 in alcohol-related expenditures, and
  • Nearly $400,000  on event tickets and other entertainment activities, including $30,000 for a private box at a Las Vegas Raiders game, $13,000 for Broadway shows, $9,400 at Madison Square Garden, and $43,000 at Top Golf locations in Texas, Nevada, Virginia, and Maryland.

My favorite, I think, other than spending  3/4 of a million dollars on floral arrangements, is the nearly $5,000 spent in 2022 at Lululemon, the luxury athletic apparel retailer, reported as “office expense.” There is no conceivable explanation for such an expenditure by a non-profit organization other than illegal self enrichment by staff who feel entitled to do so. It’s The Saint’s Excuse, don’t you see? These greedy, unprincipled people feel that they deserve some teeny-weenie benefits and privileges from the money they raise, because the wonderful work they do is so, so important, accomplishes so, so much good, and they do such a good job and sacrifice so much.

They are crooks. It’s as simple as that, just like the Black Lives Matters leaders and executives who appropriated that organization’s foundation funds for their own use.

I have run several non-profit organizations, and worked for several more. Always, in every one, the operating philosophy was that all expenditures that did not go directly toward the mission must be minimal, and that included salaries. Nobody traveled first class, anywhere. Staff retreats were at humble, local venues. When you accept charitable funds you are shepherding resources, and must do so with great frugality and care. This is the non-profit organization’s creed whether it is an artistic organization, a fund for the needy, or a political organization. In any non-profit that has an ethical culture, that has trained its staff, and that is worthy of handling ten dollars in gifts from supporters of its goals, never mind millions, the idea of spending over a million dollars in a year—or ten years—on limousine services literally would never enter an honest and competent leaders mind. 

When the United Way was trying to claw its way back to respectability after the ’90s scandal that revealed that its long-time head William Aramony had been using organization fund for his own purposes, ethics consultant Michael Daignault, hired to install ethics alarms in a culture that had few in operating order, zeroed out all official limousine use by the United Way’s ritzy board. “Use cabs,” he told them.

Exactly.

The RNC’s leadership makes Arimony look like a cloistered monk by comparison. RedState found,

Under the current leadership, the RNC has spent more than $150,000 on what could be considered non-essential office expenses, including $25,000 on Commonwealth Joe coffee, $7,000 on cupcakes, nearly $7,000 on candles and diffusers, and $75,000 total at Pottery Barn, West Elm, Restoration Hardware, and Crate & Barrel. In addition, the committee’s FEC reports show expenditures totaling $381,000 classified as “Furniture Expense” during the same time frame.

More than $100,000 was spent at high-end clothing stores such as Rhoback, REI, Nordstrom, Vineyard Vines, Footjoy, Ralph Lauren, Carhartt, and Smathers & Branson. An RNC vendor tells RedState that the Vineyard Vines expense ($12,000) was likely for embroidered jackets RNC staffers recently received.

This story makes me furious as an ethicist and non-profit ethics consultant, and I’ve never given a cent to the RNC. It should enrage GOP donors more, and the consequences to these greedy, unprofessional hacks and the party that installed them should be severe. Country music star and RNC donor John Rich expressed his anger well to RedState, saying in part:

“The leadership of the RNC has taken advantage of millions of regular, everyday conservatives by pretending to support what patriots support, but in reality, are blowing untold troves of cash on extravagant nonsense…The RNC has betrayed its supporters, and I for one will never help them raise another red cent until the Judas elements of the organization have been purged.”

8 thoughts on “Riddle Me This: How Is The Republican National Committee Like Black Lives Matters?

  1. So the RNC is just as unethical as other organizations with their donated dollars; big freaking surprise.

    I just don’t understand this kind of abuse.

    I make positively sure that others where I’ve worked know full well that I’m paying out of my pocket for anything I use from work, right down to single copy pages, pencils and pens. Those I’ve worked have told me that it’s not necessary to pay for little perks like that but I state clearly to them that I simply won’t do that and force them to take the money and put it into petty cash or the soda pop or coffee fund. I refuse to step on that slippery slope.

  2. The food line interests me.

    Some few years ago, the owner of a local resturant ran for office and fed the volunteers cinnamon rolls. All good save that campaign finance laws being what they are it had to reported as a campaign expenditure–they were consumed–and an in kind donation–they had cash value–to zero it out.

    Value of baked goods goes in, value of baked goods goes out.

    In kind donations can be inflating those numbers.

  3. The question of whether Harmeet Dillion will unseat McDaniel as RN C chair will soon be decided. This will hopefully end the careers of both McDaniel and McConnell.

    I will never contribute to political organizations but I will contribute to candidate for this very reason

  4. Reminds me of the NRA scandal of a few years ago or so, where the leadership was also living the high life. Since then, I don’t hear much about the NRA. Quite shameful.

  5. I work in higher education and many of the items listed could theoretically be used for fund raising. Flowers, food / beverage, alcohol, and entertainment are all commonly used in fund raising events. How about coffee and cupcakes with a congressman, for a fictional example of 2 items pointed out in the article. Sometimes the guest speaker or entertainment will need travel to and from the event. Or spending $30,000 on a Raiders box (or Broadway show, or golfing at Top Golf) as part of schmoozing a potential donor for a million dollar donation. I know of one school in the state that spent mid 6 figures on a luxury travel outing for big donors as part of raising $5m-$6m from those donors.

    I’m not saying there isn’t probably graft, waste, and misuse. And they could be more transparent about how the money was used. The bigger question is do these efforts really convince donors to pay more and do they really get a return on investment.

    • My problem with lavish expenditures to secure donations is simply that the expenditures should show up on a 1099 or like form to the donor to show the net value of the donation. I don’t know if donating to the RNC is deductible, but I do know that donations directly to campaigns are not. It seems to me that without the deductibility of the donation donors should be up in arms about the misuse of the money provided.

      The RNC gave no help to the Republican running for the 6th Congressional district in MD which was in play. The Republican candidate was outspent by millionaire David Trone by a factor of 25 to 1 yet Trone won by only 11,000 votes. I volunteered some time on behalf of Neil Parrott and going into the late evening we thought he had won by 5,000 votes but by morning we learned the late count of 30,000 ballots from the progressive areas overwhelmed him by a factor of 3:1.

      Rona McDaniel is a failure.

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