The head of the Republican Party said Saturday the flap over White House Chief of Staff John Sununu's travel may damage the GOP but predicted the controversy will blow over.

"We don't see it as that big an issue out in the country. I don't see a need to dwell on it," said Clayton Yeutter, chairman of the Republican National Committee."There's always some damage done in these situations and one hopes that it's not lasting damage," he said.

His comments came as The Washington Post reported it would have been difficult for Sununu and his family to afford ski trips and frequent flights to their New Hampshire home without access to military aircraft.

Sununu makes $125,100 year as chief of staff. His wife Nancy works for the Republican Governors' Association as a fund-raiser. As of 1991, she earns $57,000, the Post said. The couple has eight children, including two in college at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford.

President Bush last week tightened the White House travel policy after disclosures that Sununu combined official trips with personal and professional business.

Non-official passengers under both the new and old policy must reimburse the government the comparable coach airfare plus $1 when they travel on government aircraft.

The White House counsel's review of Sununu's travel expenses found he had not acted improperly in accepting free lodging, lift tickets and meals on different ski weekends with his wife and family.

The Sununus' financial disclosure forms show they earn more than $15,000 a year in rent from their Vermont condominium.

They own a house in Salem, N.H., against which they took a loan to buy a $420,000 house in suburban Virginia when Sununu became chief of staff, their banker said Saturday.

"John came to me and wanted to borrow the money to buy the house in Virginia," said Kelly Dahood, president of Salem Cooperative Bank. "He made a normal application. We had a good track record with the Sununus. We had 20 years and they never missed a payment."