A Republican fundraising pro who was fired from the RNC after putting purchases at a high-end jewelry boutique on the party’s tab, could potentially wind up in more hot water.
Debbie LeHardy was terminated Friday as the RNC’s deputy finance director. Last month, reporters for Alternet and other outlets, combing through the RNC’s FEC filings in the wake of the recent scandal over a night out at a bondage-themed night-club, found that LeHardy was reimbursed for a $450 purchase from Henri Bendel, a Manhattan jewelry and accessories boutique that touts itself as a “girls’ playground for trendsetting young women from around the world.” Though the store has no restaurant, the expenditure was listed on the FEC report as a meal.
LeHardy also was reimbursed for $282 worth of purchases at a Florida fly-fishing store. Again, the expenditure was reported as a meal though the store sells no food. And she was reimbursed for $513 for purchases at a Florida luxury clothing store. The FEC was told that this was for “office supplies,” though the store doesn’t sell such items. She also received reimbursement for $2800 in “tips” between December 2009 and February 2010.
The Washington Times reported late last month that an internal RNC report found that some finance department employees forged the signature of the finance director Rob Bickhart in order to receive reimbursements for clothing, wine, and entertainment expenses, some of which were labeled as office supplies. Bickhart, too, was fired Friday.
Larry Noble, a former FEC general counsel now at Skadden Arps told TPMmuckraker that willfully misreporting an expenditure to the FEC could potentially be treated as a criminal matter, especially if it involved theft or embezzlement. “If they were forged signatures, they’re stealing from the committees,” he said.
But Noble cautioned that the lack of safeguards that the RNC appears to have had in place could well have the effect of reducing LeHardy’s direct liability. And he said that given the relatively small sums at issue, the Justice Department might well decline to get involved.
LeHardy, a veteran GOP fundraiser who runs Debbie LeHardy and Company, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.