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Benghazi Committee chair finds himself in the hot seat (again)

Things couldn't possibly get worse for the Republicans' Benghazi Committee, right? Wrong.
House Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C. reacts to a question during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., March 3, 2015. (Photo by Susan Walsh/AP)
House Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C. reacts to a question during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., March 3, 2015.
The Republicans' Benghazi Committee has unraveled to an extraordinary degree in recent weeks, as the entire effort is reduced to a taxpayer-financed election scheme. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the beleaguered chairman of the controversial panel, told Politico the other day, “I would say in some ways these have been among the worst weeks of my life."
At least the controversies surrounding the committee couldn't get much worse, right? Wrong.
The Washington Post's Dana Milbank today flagged an overlooked angle that deserves to be added to the broader indictment against the Benghazi witch hunt.

As that mess was being cleaned up, Gowdy was dealing with another, courtesy of my Washington Post colleague Mike DeBonis. Gowdy has spoken piously about keeping his investigation above politics and about refusing to raise money from it. But DeBonis reported that Gowdy’s campaign had returned three donations after the Post inquired about the money’s ties to a political action committee that ran an incendiary ad during last week’s Democratic presidential debate. Three $2,000 contributions had been made to Gowdy by groups affiliated with the treasurer of Stop Hillary PAC. Stop Hillary PAC had spent $10,000 on robocalls last month to boost Gowdy in his district, and its treasurer had been involved with Gowdy’s former leadership PAC. [...] Could such a skilled prosecutor and his experienced staff really be so hapless? Or are the mistakes more purposeful?

The Stop Hillary PAC, which exists to "ensure Hillary Clinton never becomes president of the United States," made headlines last week for running a rather disgusting attack ad during last week's debate, prominently featuring Ambassador Chris Stevens' grave, against his family's wishes.
The Post reported, however, on the alliance between Gowdy's political operation and the political action committee: the congressman's leadership PAC and the Stop Hillary PAC shared a top official, an anti-Clinton operative named Dan Backer; the Stop Hillary PAC spent $10,000 on robocalls a month ago in support of Gowdy; and Gowdy received campaign contributions from groups the Stop Hillary PAC's treasurer helped run.
Gowdy, realizing that this doesn't look good, quickly returned the contributions, but the damage -- or more accurately, the additional damage -- was already done.
TPM ran a related item yesterday, showing an image of its email inbox "when you search the StopHillaryPac email and Gowdy's name." The takeaway isn't subtle: the Stop Hillary PAC and Gowdy appear to be close allies.
It's against this backdrop that the Senate Democratic leadership sent a letter to the Republican National Committee yesterday, asking the RNC pick up the tab for the party's Benghazi Committee, since it's unfair to ask taxpayers to pay for "a political inquisition."
The top four Senate Dems added, “Due to the political nature of the committee, we believe it is inappropriate that a reported 4.7 million taxpayer dollars were used to finance its operations and that the RNC subsequently orchestrated numerous fundraising opportunities in its wake."
The RNC responded fairly quickly, declining the Democratic request.