Back in 2010, RNC Chair Michael Steele was heavily criticized and eventually lost his position because donors were angry about what they believed was luxurious spending on private jets, floral arrangements, chauffeur services, and member meetings in expensive tropical locales. Donors were used to frugality from the RNC under the George W. Bush administration, when “Karl Rove would bitch if there were flowers on the tables” and staff holiday parties were catered by Chick-fil-A.
Despite Joe Biden’s economy and three straight cycles of election losses, the RNC’s big-spending days are back with a vengeance.
Perhaps because of these losses both RNC donors and committee members are intensely interested in the committee’s finances, particularly the spending. Late last week, RedState was provided a report dated October 7, 2022 that examined RNC’s 2021-22 spending. It calculated more than $500,000 in private jet expenses, $64,000 at clothing retailers, and $321,000 in floral arrangements.
To determine how that compared with the rest of Ronna McDaniel’s tenure, RedState examined RNC expenditures from 2017 through 2022. In addition to a review of Federal Elections Commission (FEC) data, RedState spoke with current vendors, state party officials familiar with the workings, former staffers (some from McDaniel’s tenure, and some who worked for prior chairs), and several current RNC members to verify numbers and dates. Most were only willing to discuss the matters on background, and all were promised anonymity to avoid potential retaliation.
It is difficult to accurately categorize all of the expenditures because a significant number of transactions seem to be misclassified. For example, nearly $5,000 spent in 2022 at Lululemon, a luxury athletic apparel brand, was classified as “office expense,” as were two expenditures totaling $9,300 at Madison Square Garden in 2017.
Our review found that the amounts spent during the 2021-22 election cycle seem to have been par for the course and possibly even lower than previous portions of McDaniel’s tenure. 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
- $80,000 in alcohol-related expenditures