Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Micheal Steele's Free Spending Ways Anger GOP Donors

As well it should.

Republican National Chairman Michael Steele is spending twice as much as his recent predecessors on private planes and paying more for limousines, catering and flowers – expenses that are infuriating the party's major donors who say Republicans need every penny they can get for the fight to win back Congress.

Most recently, donors grumbled when Steele hired renowned chef Wolfgang Puck's local crew to cater the RNC's Christmas party inside the trendy Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue, and then moved its annual winter meeting from Washington to Hawaii.

For some major GOP donors, both decisions were symbolic of the kind of wasteful spending habits they claim has become endemic to his tenure at the RNC. When Ken Mehlman served as the committee chairman during the critical 2006 midterm elections, the holiday party was held in a headquarters conference room and Chic-fil-A was the caterer.

A POLITICO analysis of expenses found that compared with 2005, the last comparable year preceding a midterm election, the committee’s payments for charter flights doubled; the number of sedan contractors tripled, and meal expenses jumped from $306,000 to $599,000.

“Michael Steele is an imperial chairman,” said one longtime Republican fundraiser. “He flies in private aircraft. He drives in private cars. He has private consultants that are paid ridiculous retainers. He fancies himself a presidential candidate and wants all of the trappings and gets them by using other people’s money.”

As you can imagine,when GOP donors see their money wasted to pump up Steele's ego, donations to the RNC have fallen off sharply.

When Steele took over last winter, he inherited a $23 million surplus.Since then, the RNC has raised $10 million less than the party did in 2005 and has spent $10 million more.

And a lot of it has gone for perks and high living by Steele and company:

Four years ago, the national committee spent $1.5 million on airfare, including $81,000 with Moby Dick Airways, a private charter firm. Those costs were somewhat inflated because of campaign finance rules. A large chunk of the airfare — about $300,000 — covered the travel of Bush administration officials, who by law had to be charged higher fares.

Last year, the RNC spent $1.8 million on airfare, which included just a handful of pre-Inauguration trips by Bush officials. Meanwhile, the roster of private charter firms working for the RNC grew from one to seven. Among them were Moby Dick, a favorite of Republican presidential candidates, which received $79,000; Altour Air, which is based in Los Angeles and received nearly $51,000; and NewJets, which got more than $27,000.

In all, the RNC’s air charter bills amounted to more than $200,000 — more than double the amount in the 2005 budget.

The RNC’s use of private car services followed a similar pattern.

In both 2005 and 2009, the committee contracted with Carey International car services. But the number of private limousine and sedan firms being used by the committee tripled in 2009. Overall, the RNC’s car service bill was $245,000 in 2005 and $281,000 in 2009.

In addition to traveling in better style, RNC officials spent more once they arrived at their destinations.

The 2005 committee spent $1.35 million on lodging, compared with $1.5 million last year. The locations also improved. There were overnights at Ritz-Carlton hotels in Chicago, Denver, Marina del Rey, Westchester and Boston. The committee dropped $8,000 for two stays at Hotel Vitale, which boasts panoramic views of the San Francisco Bay.

Let's not even mention the $1 million Steele okayed for RINO Dede Scozzafava's campaign in NY 23 while shunning Conservative candidate Doug Hoffman, even after he had endorsements from major conservative Republicans. As it was Scozzafava turned Democrat and took just enough votes away from Hoffman to allow Democrat Bill Owens to win by a whisker.

Since he's been in charge, Steele has done very little that's been positive and a whole lot that's been negative. He's used his position to enrich himself by pimping lucrative speaking tours for himself, accepting paid speaking engagements while he is working as the RNC’s chairman and shilling a book he's written, while spending RNC money like water with so little effect and accountability that a number of high level GOP donors have reportedly closed their checkbooks,taking their money to individual candidates, the Republican Governors Association and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which are all seeing their coffers swell to record levels .

This is problematic because the midterm campaigns are approaching, and the RNC could face a situation where it simply doesn't have the cash to capitalize on what should be a very good year for Republican candidates, thanks to Steele's mismanagement.

Not only that, but it sends the wrong message when a party that is supposedly for small government, less waste and fiscal responsibility can't keep its own house in order.

The last time the RNC sent me a fundraiser, I returned it with a short, eight word note - "Not a dime until you fire Michael Steele."

That still goes as far as I'm concerned.

Steele probably thinks he invulnerable because of his race. That's understandable, since he only got the gig in the first place because the GOP in the midst of Obamamania wanted to send a message that 'hey, we have black people too! Looky!'

Fire him NOW. And believe me, any black voters bringing a racial angle into this wouldn't be voting against Obama and the Democrats anyway.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that Steele is really a RINO at heart: yes, he'll sometimes talk like a conservative Republican, but he spends money on himself and other RINO's like a Democrat. If you really want to know someone's heart, find out how they handle money. Anyway, glad you're back!