Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 6, 2010

STEELE'S SPENDING SPREE.... There's apparently some division among Republican leaders about whether (and how much) to be optimistic about the midterm cycle, but whether expectations are high or low, the party will need flush campaign coffers to execute an effective election-year strategy.

In the case of the Republican National Committee, that may prove to be a problem.

A 2009 spending spree has left the Republican National Committee (RNC) with its worst election-year cash flow this decade.

The largest GOP party committee has $8.7 million in the bank heading into an election year with 37 governors' races, a dozen major Senate contests, dozens more in the House and an all-important redistricting cycle on the horizon.

Said one RNC official: "It is very troubling, and the thing is, most people don't understand this. But it is really troubling."

As a rule, the RNC and DNC spend the year before an election retiring their debts and filling their coffers. In 2009, however, the RNC's finances got worse -- Steele started with $22.8 million in cash, and about a year later, has $8.7 million. The difference was the RNC's investments in the off-year elections, most notably New Jersey's and Virginia's gubernatorial races.

The investments paid some dividends -- Republicans lost all five of 2009's congressional special elections, though they won both gubernatorial campaigns -- but the RNC nevertheless spent more than $90 million in an off-year and doesn't start 2010 on the right financial footing.

The DNC, meanwhile, has $13 million in the bank, with no debt. Since the DNC was in worse shape when Steele took the reins at the RNC, and ended the year in better shape, Republican frustration is understandable. Many party insiders questioned whether Steele would be a trustworthy steward of the RNC's checkbook, and those fears now seem justified.

The RNC may, of course, get its finances back on track. If the economy improves, and the grassroots believe a takeover of at least one chamber is a possibility, Steele's coffers may yet fill up in time.

But if Republican candidates struggle because Steele ran out of money far too early, expect him to be run out of town on a rail before the year's end.

Steve Benen 1:25 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (17)

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Another triumph for fiscal conservatism.

Posted by: somethingblue on January 6, 2010 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

Sheeh! Pimpin' yo ride is expensive. If you gonna be da man, you gots to be rollin' on platinum 20 inch rims, fool!

Posted by: Banana-Eating Jungle Monkey on January 6, 2010 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

I suggest that the RNC suggest that Steele contribute a bit of his earnings from the speeches that he received cash for. I'd say 50/50 would be fair.

But then again, they steele haven't found what they're lookin' for.

And about them rails....would those be steele ones or iron ones?

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on January 6, 2010 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

Didn't they take Steele's keys away early on, anyhow?

I'm not sure how much they can blame him. His spending isn't really outside the Republican norm, but contributions are down, hard.

Posted by: Crissa on January 6, 2010 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

"The RNC may, of course, get its financed back on track. If the economy improves, and the grassroots believe a takeover of at least one chamber is a possibility, Steele's coffers may yet fill up in time."

If the economy improves, a Republican takeover of at least one chamber acually becomes less of a possibility, so they seem to be in a right pickle.

Posted by: jamfan on January 6, 2010 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

Where are the right-wing conspiracists?? Seems to me that Steele is a double agent working for the Democrats. Why else would he try to bankrupt the RNC and consistently utter the foolishness that makes the GOP look so ridiculous?
Get on it Drudge!

Posted by: Gridlock on January 6, 2010 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't it reassuring that the republicans are as careless with their own finances as they are with the countrys finances.

Posted by: Jilli on January 6, 2010 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

I suspect Steele will be fired on election eve. You would think Republicans would have learned their lesson w/ token minorities after Alberto morally bankrupted the Justice Department.

This can not sit well with the R's who have issues with minorities, it only confirms their worst fears I would guess.

Posted by: ScottW on January 6, 2010 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder how much is due to the various Tea Party groups siphoning off funds that could/would have been directed to the RNC

Posted by: CharlesR on January 6, 2010 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

The comparison pains me, but... didn't Howard Dean also take some hits for spending the DNC's cash reserves? Admittedly, Dean was working on the 50-state strategy and Steele is building his gaffe-o-tron, but I wouldn't say it's entirely unprecedented for a national committee to head into the midterms with very little cash on hand.

Posted by: Zach on January 6, 2010 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

They don't need money to win in today's USA.

Hate and purity are their currencies.

Posted by: John Thullen on January 6, 2010 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

If the economy improves, and the grassroots believe a takeover of at least one chamber is a possibility, Steele's coffers may yet fill up in time. -- Steve Benen

Not a bloody likely scenario. As Jamfan, @14:01, points out, if the economy improves, the Repub's lot goes down the tubes further, 'cause the Dems will get credit for it. But it's not all that likely that it will improve or improve enough for the true grassroots to have enough cash on hand to spare on political causes (teabaggers are more likely to go to the Repubs with their hands out, not contributing. When they contribute is to their own little tea factions). The big time donors, who've not been as badly hit by the economy's downfall are hedging their bets, and contributing to *both* parties (if not in equal proportions), which, necessarily, trims the amount they contribute to the Repubs (and, anyway, it's more efficient to buy a particular politician than it is to buy a share in a party).

So, whichever way you slice it, it'll take RNC a good while to get back to the fat cat status.

Posted by: exlibra on January 6, 2010 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

@John Thullen: For the rabid RW base, that's true, but the more hatred they espouse, and the more purity tests enforced, the more GOP candidates will turn off moderates. And let's face it, even the progressives who might otherwise stay home are far more likely to be energized by a crazy RW opponent than by a moderate Republican (Not that many of those exist anymore, anyway).

Posted by: Kris on January 6, 2010 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

Here we go again, but I love it just the same....
Money short? Written as if it is missing? Even after they took away his purse keeping privilidges?
Blame it on the Niggra...!Laugh,clapp...what else can you do? It's so stupid,it's funny....

Posted by: Sharon on January 6, 2010 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

As stated previously, Steele's purse strings were cut early in his chairmanship, and he is currently too involved in pushing his own book to work on filling the RNC's coffers.

Also, I read on Politico's web site that the republicans in Congress are being tight-fisted in sharing the money they have with other candidates who want to run in the future. They've finally decided to embrace fiscal conservatism. LOL. It's more like self-preservation. One of my senators, Suxby Shameless, has contributed very little to help other candidates, and the republicans in GA approve of his selfishness even though he won't be up for re-election until 2014.

Posted by: majii on January 6, 2010 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

"less money, mo' problems"

Posted by: dj spellchecka on January 6, 2010 at 7:30 PM | PERMALINK

Is Steele really a double agent or something?

Posted by: bob h on January 7, 2010 at 6:59 AM | PERMALINK



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