This has got to be, without question, the most bizarre paragraph of political news I have read in a long, long time:
The investigation also found that the RNC has allowed employees to forge Finance Director Rob Bickhart‘s initials on expense-reimbursement request approvals, according to an RNC member who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. The RNC’s top elected and appointed management have united in defense of the committee’s practices.
I find it really hard to believe that anyone among the “RNC’s top elected and appointed management” could have come close to defending the practice of employees forging the Finance Director’s initials on expense-reimbursement request approvals.
Perhaps Ralph Z. Hallow, who wrote this for The Washington Times, just happened to string together two unrelated statements? (Lending some credence to this possibility is the fact that the next, and last, sentence in the paragraph is “RNC Chairman Michael S. Steele can withhold or increase RNC contributions to a state party.” So non sequiturs may well be the hallmark of his writing style.)
Still, just the fact of such forgery is pretty bizarre. And did Hallow really mean to say that the RNC has allowed employees to do this? That does connote that the RNC was aware this was happening and allowed it to continue.
Mr. Hallow continues:
The report says several RNC Finance Department employees have been forging Mr. Bickhart’s signature for reimbursement for the purchase of clothing, wine and entertainment expenses, including some that were labeled as office supplies.
One such expense was the nearly $2,000 that a Finance Department employee named Allison Myers — since fired — received for money spent by a friend and non-employee at an Los Angeles nightclub that featured a sexual-bondage theme. Many small and large RNC donors alike were not amused.
Did he really mean to suggest that the approval for the infamous $2,000 sexual-bondage nightclub reimbursement was forged?
As you can tell, I’m not exactly inclined to embrace some of the outrageous things Ralph Z. Hallow is suggesting in his story. That’s mostly because his story just throws out these amazing accusations in a casual, off-hand manner. He doesn’t offer any details in validation of the accusations. More tellingly, he does not play them up in the story, and he is practically required to do so if they are, in fact, true.
So until someone else corroborates what Ralph Z. Hallow is implying, I’m not going to believe any of these insinuations:
On second thoughts, my best guess, after reading Hallow’s story, is that he is just grossly misusing the word “forged” to make his story sound much more sensational than it really is. But that’s just a wild guess, based on much reading between the lines. Hallow, being the wily journalist that he is, does nothing to make anything clear.
But here’s what the facts may actually be. Finance Director Rob Bickhart “shows up at RNC headquarters about three times a week but exercises little or no financial control”. So, although Bickhart is supposed to sign off on reimbursement approvals, he’s not really there to do it. Perhaps someone else informally approves reimbursement approvals, verbally or over the phone or by email, and then either the employee submitting the reimbursement request, or someone else, is allowed to scribble Bickhart’s initials on the paperwork by way of recording the approval. This may be an institutionalized practice that the RNC is aware of.
It looks real bad, and it’s sloppy as hell, and it’s certainly not from the best-practices handbook. But to describe this scenario as forgery — and to say that the RNC turned a blind eye to forgery, and defended the practice of forgery — is dishonest and absurd.