The House Republicans' campaign arm may be a victim of fraud by a former employee, and it has asked law enforcement officials to investigate "irregularities in our financial audit process."

The National Republican Congressional Committee, which recruits candidates and raises money for House elections, said in a statement Friday that it learned of the irregularities earlier this week.

"Since these irregularities may include fraud, we have notified the appropriate law enforcement authorities," said Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, chairman of the committee.

"We are aggressively and thoroughly investigating the matter and, while we determine the details, we have terminated our relationship with a former employee who was engaged as an outside vendor," Cole said.

The NRCC provided no further details, but GOP staffers said the FBI and the Federal Election Commission have been contacted.

The NRCC already faced a difficult year. At least 28 House Republicans plan to retire rather than seek another term this fall, when many feel Democrats will run strongly because of voter unhappiness with President Bush. Only a half-dozen House Democrats have said they will not seek re-election, and the party hopes to expand its majority in both chambers of Congress.

Also, the Democratic counterpart to the NRCC has raised considerably more money than the Republicans, a reversal of traditional trends.