Allied senators have been known to have occasional skirmishes, but the dispute between Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Rick Scott is striking, in part because of its intensity, and in part because it’s spilling out into the public.
As the far-right Floridian kicked off a rare challenge to McConnell yesterday, The Hill reported that GOP senators “let their fury and frustration out at one another” in a meeting that turned “nasty and personal.”
Some of this seems predictable given the circumstances — Republicans assumed they’d retake the Senate majority, and their failure has generated an abundance of ill will — but the intraparty arguments are going beyond mere finger-pointing. Politico reported this morning that two senators have called for an audit of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
During a tense, three-hour-long meeting of the Senate GOP Conference, Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said there should be an independent review of how the party’s campaign arm spent its resources before falling short of its goal of winning the majority. ... According to two people familiar with the discussion, Blackburn told Scott during the meeting that there needed to be an accounting of how money was spent, and that it was important for senators to have a greater understanding of how and why key decisions involving financial resources were made. To move forward, Blackburn said, the party needed to determine what mistakes were made.
Chris Hartline, an NRSC spokesperson, told Politico such a review would be unnecessary, and it remains to be seen whether the calls for such scrutiny will grow louder. It’s possible that little will come of this.
But these concerns are not altogether new. As we discussed over the summer, Scott used NRSC resources to promote himself and his unpopular governing blueprint, fueling derisive chatter on Capitol Hill that “NRSC” stood for the “National Rick Scott Committee.” It was against this backdrop that The Washington Post reported a few months ago that some campaign advisers in the party were demanding an audit of the committee’s finances.
Matters came to a head shortly before Labor Day, when The New York Times reported that the National Republican Senatorial Committee has temporarily scaled back its investments in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Arizona — battleground states where Democrats ended up faring well, winning two of the three — which the newspaper characterized as “a likely sign of financial troubles headed into the peak of the 2022 midterm election season.”
A national Republican consultant working on Senate races told the Post at the time, in reference to the National Republican Senatorial Committee: “If they were a corporation, the CEO would be fired and investigated. The way this money has been burned, there needs to be an audit or investigation because we’re not gonna take the Senate now and this money has been squandered. It’s a rip-off.”
This came on the heels of a separate report in The Washington Post in April, which noted that the Floridian had faced private rebukes from his Republican colleagues, who had accused him of running the NRSC “in a way that benefits his own future over the candidates he was hired to get elected.”
In the weeks leading up to Election Day, many of these questions were put aside. There were plenty of investments in key contests; candidates generally weren’t complaining about lacking resources; and the party remained broadly optimistic. Had Republicans scored major victories and taken control of the chamber last week, these earlier concerns about Scott’s management of the campaign committee likely would’ve evaporated. Victories have a way of making questions disappear.
But in the wake of failure, talk of an NRSC audit appears to be back with a vengeance.
In late August, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee delivered a book — “Auditing for Dummies” — to NRSC headquarters. A few months later, the joke suddenly seems a bit sharper.