What's more, even standard programs developed over decades failed to materialize. The RNC's 72-hour program of turning out voters "was left largely un-funded," Collins wrote, as RNC chief of staff Mike Leavitt
withheld funding from states until October 22, a week before those funds were to be implemented.
The lack of funds had a real impact, Collins argued, contributing to Republican losses in Democratic-held seats the party might otherwise have contested. Collins points to 21 House races, stretching from Washington State to Arizona to New York and North Carolina, that the party left on the table, as well as to Senate races in Washington and Colorado and governorships in Vermont, Minnesota and Connecticut.
The 2012 elections represent "huge opportunities requiring massive obligations," Collins wrote. "And this Committee can meet them. But to meet them, we must dig out from huge debts, be focused and disciplined about spending wisely, only spend to win elections, and adopt a laser-like focus on the hard work of reviving our major donor fundraising network."
Collins' public rebuke is stunning in that he has shied away from ever commenting about the internal workings of the party. While staffers, former staffers and committee members have complained, Collins refused to speak with the press except on a handful of occasions while briefing reporters at committee meetings.
In a statement, RNC spokesman Doug Heye
touted some of the RNC's fundraising accomplishments.
"For the first time in 16 years the Republican Party held neither the White House or either Chamber of Congress," Heye said. "Despite lacking that fundraising advantage, the RNC was able to raise more than $175 million, over $24 million more than the RNC raised during the entire 1994 cycle and over $36 million more than the DNC raised during the entire 2006 cycle, indexed for inflation. Our resources enabled us to expand the playing field to all 50 states and break records with 45 million voter contacts, over 200,000 volunteers, 360 Victory field offices and 358 Victory field staffers."
But the letter is a clear blow to Steele's case that the RNC deserves credit for the party's big wins. Steele has not said whether he will run for re-election, though making the case for his positive influence on this year's outcome has been clearly geared toward making that option possible.
Check out the full letter here
This post was updated at 3:45 p.m. with a response from the RNC.