Florida Sen. Mel Martinez, general chairman of the Republican National Committee, is facing fallout from a slew of irregularities related to his Senate campaign.
In his squeaker 2004 race, Martinez accepted contributions over the legal limit and failed to properly disclose information about donations, according to an audit released last week by the Federal Election Commission.
The audit is being used by Martinez's political opponents to question his leadership and could lead to a hefty fine.
Mark Bubriski, a spokesman for the Florida State Democratic Party, called the violations "pretty big mistakes."
"It seems like time and again, something is attributed to him that shouldn't have happened, and he blames his staff," Bubriski said, adding, "It really calls into question his leadership ability. What else is going to fall through the cracks?"
But Martinez campaign spokesman Matthew Hunter predicted it won't hurt the senator's ability to raise funds for either his 2010 reelection effort or the RNC.
"It's clear by the amount of funds that the RNC raised in the first quarter and the money that his campaign raised over the first quarter, and frankly over the last two years, that it will not have a negative effect on fundraising," Hunter said.
Martinez's Senate committee raised $239,320 during the first three months of the year and finished the first quarter with $458,000 in the bank.
The RNC, meanwhile, raised $24.6 million in the quarter, compared with $15 million raised during the same time by the Democratic National Committee.
"He is a very effective representative of the Republican Party and will continue to be," Hunter said.
FEC auditors found that Martinez's Senate campaign accepted contributions exceeding limits by a total of $313,235; failed to properly report funds raised by joint committees, as well as $162,014 raised in the days before the primary and general elections; and didn't do enough to collect information on donors' occupations and employers.
Auditors noted the campaign committee has taken steps to rectify the violations. And Martinez issued a statement saying: "The campaign takes seriously the substance of the matter and made changes subsequent to that election to ensure full and timely compliance with all campaign finance laws in the future."
The violations could result in a hefty fine if the FEC decides they're worthy of enforcement. The agency has grown aggressive of late. This month, it levied penalties of $120,000 on the committee for Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.), $105,000 on the Colorado Democratic Party and $110,000 apiece on the Republican Issues Committee and Planned Parenthood's political action committee.
Martinez, who was a member of President Bush's Cabinet, was elected RNC general chairman earlier this year.
Though Martinez is the public face of the RNC, his party job mainly entails traveling the country raising money, not running its day-to-day operations. Those duties fall to chairman Mike Duncan, a lawyer schooled in the arcane world of campaign finance.