A follow-up to yesterday’s reports on John Ensign’s private meeting with a dozen GOP luminaries this past week in which he claimed to have done more to help the Republican Party than anyone else, citing his part in raising money a decade ago to pay off the Nevada GOP’s debt of approximately $400,000.
Here’s the thing: The party back then had a budget and actually raised more money than the budget called for. It was the Ensign campaign through then-campaign manager Mike Slanker which pressured the party in the closing weeks of the campaign to break its budget and do more mail pieces for Ensign than the party had money to do. Slanker promised that John Ensign would raise the additional money after the election.
So the party wasn’t in debt because the party over-spent its budget. The party was in debt, partially, because John Ensign pressured the party to spend more on direct mail on his behalf using the party’s credit with vendors and non-profit bulk permit.
I say partially because there’s still even more to this story.
The bulk of the reason for the party being so far in debt was the legal and other costs the party incurred on Ensign’s behalf pursuing a recount in his 1998 race against Harry Reid, which Ensign lost by just over 400 votes. Had the party told Ensign to fund his own recount and do his own campaign mailings, the party wouldn’t have had any debt that year whatsoever.
This isn’t, by the way, a matter subject to interpretation. Following the election, a complete and thorough audit of the party’s books was conducted which clearly showed the party’s debt was 100% due to mailings requested which were over and above that which had been budgeted and the Ensign recount.
Ensign tried to portray himself this week as a knight in shining armor who rode in and saved an irresponsible, spend-thrift party organization when in reality all he was doing was paying off a debt he himself charged to on party’s credit card. Under the circumstances, it was the least he could do.
And when it comes to the party, John Ensign is famous for doing the least he can do. Indeed, when was the last time John Ensign attended a party event where he didn’t show up late or leave early….or both?
All of that said, the real question to John Ensign from Nevada Republicans today should be: What have you done for us lately?
As a United States Senator, the former #4 guy on the party’s leadership team, and the immediate past chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, there is NO REASON today for the party to be broke, without a staff, without a headquarters and without a voter registration program.
If John Ensign is sincere in his sorrow for the embarrassment he’s caused the party, he should, at the very least, cut a check to the party for, say, $96,000 to begin to make up for the last decade of neglect on his part. If it will help, he could even make the contribution with eight separate $12,000 checks.