Proving that intramural battles are often the nastiest, Rep. Don Sundquist (R-Tenn.) has asked Rep. Guy Vander Jagt (R-Mich.), the man he wants to unseat as head of the House GOP campaign apparatus, a series of pointed questions about financial practices of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).
In a four-page letter, Sundquist asked Vander Jagt to give answers to the 16 queries -- some of which imply conflicts of interest and kickbacks -- to all House Republicans, who will choose between the two lawmakers early next month.
Vander Jagt, who has been NRCC chairman for 15 years, has "no intention to answer, point by point, every question raised here," committee spokesman John Roberts said.
Citing published reports that the committee owed $2.5 million after this month's elections despite raising $28.5 million, Sundquist requested details of the NRCC's recent fund-raising, its spending on behalf of candidates and its payroll since 1980.
He also asked whether the committee has "an official policy with regard to potential conflicts of interest" and whether it prohibits employees or consultants "from receiving commissions, royalties, dividends, consulting fees, expensive gifts, the use of vacation homes or other rewards, benefits or compensation" from those under contract to supply services.
Roberts called those implications "red herrings. . . . The thrust of the letter is probably a desperate attempt to shift the focus away from any involvement that Representative Sundquist may have had with the White House," he said.
The challenge by Sundquist, who has close ties to President Bush, is viewed by many as a White House expression of displeasure with the NRCC. Committee co-chairman Edward J. Rollins angered adminstration officials by urging GOP candidates to distance themselves from Bush and his policies. Sundquist's backers deny any collusion with the White House.