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'Still in play': RNC members deny McDaniel reelection as chair is a lock, allege funds misspent

RNC Committeeman Solomon Yue, who led the investigation into former RNC Chairman Michael Steele's spending, alleges McDaniel has a worse "spending problem."

Published: December 14, 2022 12:35pm

Updated: December 16, 2022 1:53am

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel's reelection team has announced that she has the votes for a fourth term, but some RNC committeemen argue the election is far from a done deal.

"I believe the RNC chairman race is still in play," said Roger Villere, an RNC committeeman from Louisiana and chairman of the Republican National Conservative Caucus (RNCC). "The RNC chairman race is going to be held on January 27, 2023. There are no mail in ballots, no early voting. RNC members are just now making up their minds on the election. Endorsements are not votes, people are still learning about the candidates."

Last week, McDaniel's team circulated a letter endorsing her reelection signed by 107 RNC members. With 168 members on the national committee, the winner needs 85 votes or more.

"A number of people on the published list may not even be members on January 27," cautioned Villere. "So states are in the process of electing new chairmen between now and the RNC meeting." 

Solomon Yue, a committeeman from Oregon, told Just the News that many of McDaniel's endorsements occurred before the GOP lost the Georgia U.S. Senate runoff on Dec. 6. He noted that an updated endorsement letter for McDaniel was dated Dec. 5. A spokesperson for McDaniel's reelection campaign said her support remains strong even after the Georgia loss.

Yue, who led the investigation into former RNC Chairman Michael Steele's spending, argued that McDaniel has a "spending problem that's worse than Steele's." According to a Politico analysis published in 2010, the RNC spent more than $200,000 on private charter flights in 2009 while Steele was chair.

According to an internal report based on FEC data that is circulating among current RNC members, the committee spent $505,909 on private jet flights, $459,103 on black car/executive transfer services, $36,567 on alcohol and $321,671 on floral arrangements during the 2021-2022 election cycle. The spending in these categories has raised eyebrows among RNC committee voting members, according to Villere and Yue.

"When I led RNC Executive Committee to investigate Steele's misuse of RNC money, I didn't see Steele spend $321,671 on floral arrangements and $75,739 on entertainment," Yue said. "The RNC Executive Committee didn't authorize Steele to spend RNC money on private jet flights, limousine and bodyguard services. Did the current RNC Executive Committee authorize McDaniel to spend money on private jet, black car, alcohol, floral arrangements and entertainment? If not, McDaniel's spending is worse than Michael Steele's spending."

Villere said he would have liked to see more RNC donor money put into competitive races in this past election cycle.

"Money from RNC donors is very precious," said Villere. "It should be spent in a responsible manner. RNC donor money should have been used to elect candidates, train candidates, recruit candidates. The RNC has underperformed during the last three election cycles. Now we understand why. The leadership squandered our financial resources."

McDaniel's supporters point to her record fundraising totals. For example, in this cycle alone the RNC raised $325 million. They also note that the RNC reimbursed airfare costs for its staff and members when they were working with a U.S. president or GOP candidates who fly on government aircraft or private planes.

"Nobody is better to lead the Republican Party to victory in the next two years than Ronna McDaniel," said former RNC Finance Chairman Todd Ricketts. "Throughout our time together when I was at the RNC, we raised more money for Republicans than ever before. She has my full support to run again and lead the GOP in electing the next President of the United States and taking back the Senate."

Emma Vaughn, spokesperson for McDaniel's reelection bid, responded to the concerns raised by some RNC voting members about the handling of organization’s finances during the 2022 cycle. 

"Any good business leader knows that you need to spend money to raise money," she said. "If critics want to misrepresent and push false narratives about the RNC's spending this past cycle, they should do the math before realizing it only adds up to 0.8% of the total amount the Chairwoman raised. While some are focused on tearing down the RNC staff and members who dedicate time and money on behalf of our party and country, Chairwoman McDaniel is solely focused on uniting Republicans to win in 2024." 

Villere told Just the News that McDaniel had previously informed RNC members on stage during a meeting that her current term would be her last. He has called on her to drop out of the race for chair given GOP losses in the last three election cycles: losing the House in 2018, the presidency, Senate and House in 2020 and the Senate in 2022.

"The Chairwoman's intention was only to run again if it was the will of the members, and after hearing overwhelming support for her to run again from a majority of members, she decided to seek reelection," countered a McDaniel spokesperson in reference to her previously announced intention not to run again. 

Yue and Villere said they are going to vote for attorney Harmeet Dhillon, former vice chairwoman of the California Republican Party, who announced her bid for chair on Dec. 7.

MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell has also announced he is running for chair against McDaniel in the Jan. 27 election.

Dhillon, cochair of Women for Trump, is gaining more support, according to Yue and Villere. Morton Blackwell, committeeman for Virginia, recently announced that he is voting for Dhillon.

While Dhillon picks up more votes, anonymous emails have been sent to RNC voting members from a proton.me address attacking Dhillon, in part for owning a $3.5 million beach home in California and earning about $900,000 as an RNC vendor.

"Dhillon will say and do anything to win," read one of the emails.

McDaniel has distanced herself from the attacks in the emails.

"I want to be clear that this is not coming from me or anyone on my team," she said. "I have been honest from the beginning that I want to run a campaign solely focused on issues and how we can move forward as a Party into 2024." 

In response to the anonymous emails sent to RNC members, Dhillon wrote on social media: "Had a wonderful call today w/key figures in the conservative movement, who were very supportive of my RNC chair candidacy based on my record, despite increasingly desperate and anonymous/unsourced hit pieces being circulated by hmmm I wonder who doesn't want an RNC vendor audit?!"

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