In the race for Republican National Committee chairman, candidates clash over spending

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Harmeet Dhillon, left, and current RNC President Ronna McDaniel. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Brian Cahn/ZUMA Press Wire, Laurence Kesterson/UKTN)

Central to the battle over who will control the Republican National Committee in the 2024 election is a dispute over who is drawing money from the party and whether the spending is appropriate in a party committee that a veteran Republican adviser timidly called a “mush fund.” ”

Republican Party Chair Ronna McDaniel, who is vying for a rare fourth term as party leader, and California Republican Committee member Harmeet Dhillon, her challenger, have both been paid by the party while overseeing spending – and both have criticized each other’s dealing with party money.

McDaniel, Mitt Romney’s niece and long-time trusted confidant of former President Donald Trump, has received a higher salary from the party for the past six years and had the party accommodate her in a luxury Washington waterfront apartment to the tune of more than $400,000, according to a review of campaign finance data.

“It is 100% normal and routine for the committee to pay the reasonable monthly rent for the chairman of the RNC,” former RNC chairman Reince Priebus said in response to Yahoo News questions sent to McDaniel’s team. “This is a subject that is not even discussed in the budget committee.”

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Donald Trump with Harmeet Dhillon

President Donald Trump listens as attorney Harmeet Dhillon addresses his social media summit at the White House, July 11, 2019. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Dhillon, a veteran conservative telephone operator who gained favor with Trump as one of his lead attorneys in efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, billed the commission for a total of $1.3 million in legal work.

“It is unique to say the least. I never recall anyone making that kind of money, or coming close to being a member of the committee,” an RNC committee member who supported McDaniel said of Dhillon’s legal fees. “If you are going to live in a glass house, it is better not to throw stones.”

After Yahoo News sent questions to Dhillon late Monday night, the RNC committee woman responded in an email Tuesday morning to the other RNC members.

“I am disappointed to learn that my company’s legal work on behalf of the RNC is being used by those opposed to my candidacy as a way to discredit or discredit me,” Dhillon wrote in the email that Yahoo News received. Dhillon argued that her firm’s fees were only less than 3% of the $50 million the party paid to outside consultants.

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The battle between the two comes to a head on Friday, when the 168 members of the RNC meet to elect their next chairman. (MyPillow executive and conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell is also in on the run, but has received no discernible support despite his fervent denunciation of 2020 election lies.)

Ronna McDaniel

McDaniel at a “Get Out to Vote” rally in Tampa, Florida, Oct. 18, 2022. (Chris O’Meara/UKTN)

It has been one of the dirtiest inter-party battles in more than a decade as the GOP decides who will lead them into the 2024 election. Dhillon’s allies have accused McDaniel of virulent racism for attacks on her Sikh faith. McDaniel’s supporters have accused Dhillon of betraying McDaniel after she helped the Conservative star win prune commissions on the committee.

The party president has tremendous power to determine who gets to take the stage of the primary debate — something that helped Trump immensely in 2016 when he used primary debates to tear his opponents to shreds — and ultimately sets the rules governing how the Republican party Party chooses its candidate for the presidency.

The Republican Party chairman is also responsible for raising huge amounts of money and then distributing it to campaigns, advisers, agents and a host of other elements of the national political apparatus – something Dhillon and her supporters have clung to in the past. battle to win McDaniel’s seat.

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Attorney Harmeet Dhillon

Dhillon speaks at America Fest, a right-wing event hosted by Turning Point USA, in Phoenix, Dec. 20, 2022. (Jim Urquhart/Reuters)

Dhillon’s supporters have accused the party, led by McDaniel, of spending lavishly on expenses for McDaniel and committee staff during her six years as leader of the party.

But the irony of the heated public debate is that McDaniel and Dhillon approved each other’s spending as members of the committee and never before tried to block spending. McDaniel, as party chairman, approved the hiring of Dhillon’s law firm and paid $1.3 million to the company. And Dhillon, as a member of the party’s executive committee, reviewed the party’s budget annually — including spending on McDaniels’ posh D.C. apartment — and never raised an issue with it, according to Yahoo News interviews with nearly a dozen Republicans close to the battle.

Party spending has long been a problem for the GOP. In 2011, RNC members ousted former chairman Michael Steele after a series of spending problems came to light, including news that the RNC reimbursed a staffer for an expensive night at a Hollywood BDSM-style strip club.

Following Steele’s spending troubles, RNC members drafted new rules and guidelines for how consultants are paid by the commission. Now, more than a decade later, members are expected to extend those ethical rules to members themselves, potentially curbing something like Dhillon’s legal work.

But that vote won’t come until the next party meeting in the spring, long after the presidency battle has been decided this week.

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