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GOP Senatorial Committee Faces Large Debt

February 16, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The National Republican Senatorial Committee, blasted by party members for paying employee bonuses despite a huge debt after November’s elections, is trying to assure contributors it is taking a hard look at future spending, an official says.

The committee emerged from the 1986 campaigns with a larger debt than any other national-level party committee, owing $5.4 million, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

That compared with $1.1 million in red ink for its counterpart, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

The GOP’s debt heightened the sting of losing control of the Senate to the Democrats, who ousted seven GOP senators despite spending just $13.5 million to the GOP committee’s $85 million.

The NRSC’s new director, Jann Olsten, said that while it’ not unusual for the party committees to come out of the election in debt, the size of this year’s NRSC debt ″is of some concern.″

The committee is revamping its financial setup under its new chairman Sen. Rudy Boschwitz of Minnesota, Olsten said, adding that a letter was being sent to contributors ″to assure them that we’re taking a good hard look at how the money is being spent.″

″Certainly there have been a number of people who have expressed concern over the bonuses when we lost the election,″ Olsten said.

In the re-structuring, Olsten said, finance director Rodney Smith, who has returned to his own consulting business, will be replaced by two people. Mike Burch will handle the mail operation that has brought in about two-thirds of the committee’s receipts, and Rick Nelson will head a major donor program to increase the outreach to wealthy people who give large contributions.

The committee came under criticism after news reports that Smith got a post-election paycheck of $90,000, and the committee paid nearly $200,000 in bonuses to other employees. Republican National Committee officials said the controversy was hurting all GOP fund-raising efforts.

Olsten said the committee’s new leadership is ″reassessing the way we raise and spend our money.″

″Rudy has made it pretty clear that he’s a businessman and he’s given out bonuses only to people who have succeeded, and he was troubled″ by last year’s NRSC’s bonus situation, Olsten said.

He noted, however, that Smith deserves credit for orchestrating the NRSC’s record $85 million fund-raising effort during the 1985-86 cycle. The committee raised more than any other national party committee, and contributed to the Republican Party’s 5-to-1 edge over the Democrats in spending on the 1986 elections.

The NRSC also contributed the most to the GOP’s overall $8.4 million debt at year’s end. That was more than double the $4 million debt of the three Democratic Party committees, FEC records show.

In all, spending for the 1986 elections by the six national party committtees - the two senatorial committees, two congressional committees and the Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee - totaled $253 million, the records show. That compares with $217 million in 1982, the last non-presidential election year.

The three Republican committees spent $209.5 million on their candidates, compared with $43.5 million spent by the Democrats.

The National Democratic Congressional Committee nearly doubled its performance from 1982, spending $12.6 million on its 1986 candidates.

On the other hand, the National Republican Congressional Committee was on a downtrend and spent $41 million on the most recent elections, compared with $57 million spent in 1982, the records show.

The Republican National Committee was the only one of the six committees to end the year in the black, after spending just over $83 million, the FEC said.

The Democratic National Committee spent $17 million, and ended up with $2.1 million in obligations.

The GOP committees had a total of nearly $2 million in cash on hand, compared with just over $293,000 for the Democratic committees.