Liquor an Office Supply? RNC Meets ‘Mad Men’

mad-men-drinkingRepublican institutions seem to be making a habit of making unusual expenditures with donated money. First, it was Sarah Palin’s ridiculous wardrobe budget. Then, it was the visits to bondage clubs. Now, Lindsay Beyerstein reports, it’s booze. Lots and lots of booze.

At the Republican National Committee, the term “office supplies” seems to have taken on a whole new meaning. If you take its recent filings with the Federal Election Commission at face value, the RNC, it seems, requires thousands of dollars worth of pricey clothing and more than a splash of booze to run its office.

Listed on the report in the category of “office supplies” are purchases from a New England winery and a Capitol Hill liquor store, as well as more than $3,800 from a Florida clothing store. The category of “meals” also seems to extend to the sartorial, with a $450 purchase from a high-end Manhattan boutique — one that has no restaurant or take-out shop on the premises — falling into that category, as listed on the RNC’s reports to the FEC. That purchase, as well as one for more than $500 from the Florida clothing store, are attributed to RNC Deputy Finance Director Debbie LeHardy, who, according to the report, was reimbursed for them.

[…]

The RNC told the FEC that it spent $982 of its donors’ money on “office supplies” from the Boyden Valley Winery last December. “We do not sell office supplies; we are a legal winery operating since 1991 in Cambridge, Vermont,” co-owner Linda Boyden told AlterNet.

Between December and February, the RNC bought over $700 worth of so-called “office supplies” from Congressional Liquors, a booze and sandwich shop on Washington, D.C.’s Capitol Hill.

[…]

Liquor is not what a reasonable person would understand an office supply,” according to Meredith McGehee, policy director at the Campaign Legal Center. She noted that there are some exceptions: For example, booze for an office Christmas party might legitimately be counted as an office supply.

When employees are given company credit cards, there’s going to be a certain amount of questionable activity.  But you’d think someone in the accounting department would have caught a line item from Congressional Liquors and, at the very least, realized it wasn’t an “office supplies” purchase.

Then again, as anyone who has watched old television shows — or new television shows about the old days, such as AMC’s “Mad Men” — knows, it was once pretty common for executives to stock their offices with booze.   Maybe the RNC is rocking it old school and trying to bring back this lamentably bygone tradition.  If so, I commend them.

(And, yes, yes, the Democratic National Committee is spending plenty of money on booze, parties, and the like, too.   This is more amusing than scandalous.)

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. I hate to say it, but all these stories about booze and bondage clubs makes me more interested in being a Republican than I’ve been in over a decade.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Certainly, it works against the fuddy duddy image.

  3. Anon says:

    I actually don’t see what this is all about. As a left-leaning independent, why should I care what the RNC spends its money on? I find it amusing, but not at all scandalous.

    If I were a Republican, I might find it scandalous if I thought the expenditures were not in line with my values, but since I’m not, I don’t care.

  4. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    James, why do you not do an independent investigation on who bought the alcoholic beverages consumed by Edward M. Kennedy? I think you are a closet lefty Joyner. Maybe not so closet. How come no questions about Hussein Obama smoking and who is buying the tobacco? School kids can’t buy regular coke at school yet the leader of once free world smokes. You spend your time nit picking about a bit of drinking by the RNC. Who pays for Pelosi’s booze on the plane we supply. Hypocrite. I mean you Joyner.

  5. Michael Reynolds says:

    Just a side question: does this mean booze might be a legitimate office expense for tax purposes? Wonders the man with the home office.

  6. Mike from SA says:

    Just one more in an ongoing series of screwups by the hapless and unfocused RNC management. The Dems don’t need Rham Emanuel as long as Steele is running the RNC into the ground! No leadership! no ethics! no morals! No wonder Sarah Palin is the best spokesperson we have. See todays WSJ column by Kim Strassel about Michael Steele and his Playboy lifestyle. Then lets try to fight Queen Pelosi on her excesses?

  7. JKB says:

    Well, they don’t call them parties for nothing. And what’s a party without booze, and these days, bondage. Sadly, the spankings seem to all be administered under harsh light and the disapproving tut-tut of those who weren’t caught…yet.

  8. When employees are given company credit cards, there’s going to be a certain amount of questionable activity.

    Only if you are a lousy manager, have so much money it doesn’t matter, or are spending other people’s money and don’t care. What is it about anything politicans touch that seemingly requires it to become corrupted?

    My employees have company issued credit cards. Every charge has to be reconciled and approved by one of the owners in an expense report with documentation. Why those controls are lacking in the RNC, DNC, or thousands of government agencies is beyond me. Well, actually it isn’t, I guess.

  9. 11B40 says:

    Greetings:

    My first boss in the printing industry asserted that he had an MBA from the John Wayne School of Business. To him, a good pistol and a bottle of nice bourbon were office supplies. “We are men,” he often said, “and we do things in a manly way.”

  10. James Joyner says:

    My employees have company issued credit cards. Every charge has to be reconciled and approved by one of the owners in an expense report with documentation.

    That’s the problem. I don’t find it shocking that the RNC, with what one imagines is a large number of employees, has some questionable credit card charges. What’s inexcusable is what would seem obviously wrong expenditures getting through the screening process during reconciliation.

  11. GS says:

    The only office job I ever had lasted all of two weeks. It was easily the most mind-numbing and depressing experience of my life. Some booze might have kept me working there for another month or two.

  12. UlyssesUnbound says:

    I second Michael Reynold’s question. I think tax reform of this sort could be a credible platform for any candidate.

  13. just me says:

    Well I will be honest-while I don’t think booze is exactly an office supply, I can certain see it as a legitimate purchase for certain events/activities. Many a business deal is discussed and made over cocktails or other beverages. I can even see it being a legitimate business expense (although the IRS may have a different opinion as to tax deductibility-but I still don’t see a problem with the purchase), so this one doesn’t really bother me unless the context changes the position.

    I just don’t see this as a big deal as compared to bondage clubs or similar sex oriented clubs.

  14. just me says:

    Oh and I absolutely agree that the accounting department at the RNC seems rather lax. It sounds like anything submitted got approved without a second look.

  15. Can an IRS Audit of the RNC be far behind?

  16. JKB says:

    Why those controls are lacking in the RNC, DNC, or thousands of government agencies is beyond me.

    Well, I assume the RNC and DNC are infected with this particular failing due to their presence in DC. When the Fed took the cash away from the little ladies who guarded it with their life and passed out credit cards college educated managers were to approve, they opened the barn door. Even if you try to introduce decent purchase approval/accountability some senior manager will interfere or I even had a budget director undermine me. It was all part of a new and improved billion dolllar budget/financial system that was near useless for realtime controls and information but apparently helped the Department produce the end of year reports in the time required by Congress.

  17. anjin-san says:

    Look, we all know Steele admires Frank Sinatra and the Pack Rats. He is just living the life. Yes small town soccer moms, the GOP reflects your values!

  18. Richard Bottoms says:

    And, yes, yes, the Democratic National Committee is spending plenty of money on booze, parties, and the like, too.

    Since the DNC is apparently having some success using the booze or whatever else they have spent the money on to continue kicking GOP butt in fundraising, I’d echo Lincoln, we need more of whatever they’re currently pouring. Not less.