Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 23, 2010

STEELE'S CHAMPAGNE WISHES AND CAVIAR DREAMS.... It's been a couple of weeks since RNC Chairman Michael Steele has been the subject of scorn. I hope he enjoyed the respite; it appears to be over.

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.

A longtime Republican fundraiser said, "Michael Steele is an imperial chairman. 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."

Steele's budgetary decisions have been the subject of widespread consternation for months, especially given the fact that the RNC isn't raising the kind of money it should be with competitive midterms coming up. By one account, Steele's spending spree in 2009 left the RNC with its worst election-year cash flow this decade.

It was easier for Steele to justify this spending when he pointed to successful gubernatorial campaigns in New Jersey and Virginia. It's a little more difficult to justify when expense reports point to lavish spending on private planes, limousines, catering, and flowers.

And it certainly doesn't help that Steele is simultaneously using his position to line his own pockets, most notably through his outside paid speeches and a book written in secret.

It's far too early to say with any confidence what will happen in the 2010 elections, but if Republicans fall short of their own sky-high expectations, expect Michael Steele to get all kinds of blame.

Steve Benen 11:25 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (20)

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Comments

Well you probably don't know reparations when you see them. Jes' ask Rush.

Posted by: John R on February 23, 2010 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

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.

Nonsense. Steele is merely applying the Republican philosophy of governance to his governance of RNC affairs: Loot the treasury.

Posted by: Roddy McCorley on February 23, 2010 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

If Michael Steele didn't exist, we Dems would have to invent him.

Posted by: Snarky Bastard on February 23, 2010 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

"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."

Steele is just acting like a Republican. Wasteful spending is how they roll. I'm beginning to wonder if mirrors don't reflect their images.

Posted by: Boolaboola on February 23, 2010 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

Say huh

Flowers?

Posted by: koreyel on February 23, 2010 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

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.

Nonsense. Steele is merely applying the Republican philosophy of governance to his governance of RNC affairs: Loot the treasury.
-- Roddy McCorley

Steele is just acting like a Republican. Wasteful spending is how they roll. I'm beginning to wonder if mirrors don't reflect their images.
-- Boolaboola

Damn. You folks said what I wanted to say.

Posted by: Cap'n Chucky on February 23, 2010 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

My personal favorite was the RNC meeting on Oahu.

Posted by: Jamie on February 23, 2010 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

Hopefully, Steele will "let them eat cake!" He should spend MORE on lavish lunches and hookers and expensive wines!

The more the better! Why should the Republican chairman deny himself the finer things in life?

"If you've got it flaunt it!" That's the Republican motto!

Posted by: Cugel on February 23, 2010 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

Michael Steele is a Democratic mole. Even his name is just a cool one that Democrats made up when they gave him his double-ought assignment. His real name is Aloysius Crandall.

Now it can be told. Excellent operation, "Michael".

Posted by: Mark on February 23, 2010 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

If I were as bad at Michael Steele's job as he is (and I probably would be), I'd probably be doing this too. And I'd also probably be engaging in his favorite pastime of saying the first goddamn thing that came into my head whenever I saw a microphone or a TV camera.

Steele may or may not think he can yet achieve some measure of success by some arbitrarily low threshold of "success." But he must know that he'll never get any credit for it at this point, as the entire RNC besides him now thoroughly regrets ever having hired him. (Should've stuck to your principles, boys! We'd have forgotten all about the whites-only country club thing by now.)

From his perspective, why the hell shouldn't he order himself flowers every day and use the RNC plane for his book tour?

Posted by: Matt on February 23, 2010 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

The RNC meeting in Hawaii might have been some bizarro world attempt to "take over" Obama's home state, maybe make some birth certificate jokes.

But, actually, he's probably just a narcissistic spendthrift. Rock on, crazy bald dude.

Posted by: Rathskeller on February 23, 2010 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

"It's far too early to say with any confidence what will happen in the 2010 elections, but if Republicans fall short of their own sky-high expectations, expect Michael Steele to get all kinds of blame."

I think Steele was hired so those actually pulling the strings would have a handy scapegoat. The GOP's upcoming electoral resurrection is a delusion. The people who wield power in this party expect a 2010 mid-term debacle. Unlike most of the party base these people are not stupid. Evil, maybe. But not stupid.
The way you can tell if the GOP cares about a particular issue is by noting who they put in charge.

Rich, old white man = Important business.
Black man , white woman = Not so much.

Posted by: FitterDon on February 23, 2010 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

A longtime Republican fundraiser said, "Michael Steele is an imperial chairman. 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."

And they're surprised by this, why? Steele is just acting like a standard-issue Republican these days; steal all you can get and live it up on other people's money.

Posted by: electrolite on February 23, 2010 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Spend their money, Michael!

Posted by: kc on February 23, 2010 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

FitterDon - For as much as I agree that the GOP Establishment isn't stupid and that the chances of Republican dominance in November is vastly exaggerated, I'm really not so sure they put Steele in charge to cover for that.

Frankly, I think the cluelessness of picking him is all part of the same trend we've seen since 2005, which really began halfway through 2003, as the idea of Iraq becoming a quagmire invaded their thoughts and they started panicking. For as much as people insist that Republicans always win and their Party of No strategy will pay great dividends, I'm just not seeing it.

Sure, they huff and puff and put on a big show, but for all their efforts, they don't have much gains from any of it. They don't even seem to have the natural instincts of a wounded animal. I honestly think that one or more of their grand strategists died a few years ago and nobody has been in charge ever since. Not that the GOP of the 90's was so great, as the impeachment thing was an epic blunder. But at least they had something back then.

These days, their biggest ambition is to stop Obama from steamrolling them with a liberal agenda, which he's still slowly making progress on. And that's a far cry from the days when they forced Clinton to become a moderate-conservative; completely abandoning any liberal policies he may have wanted.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on February 23, 2010 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

While the Men are out on the course, playing skins, the Boy has done found the keys to the liquor cabinet.

Atta boy, Redd Foxx!

Posted by: DAY on February 23, 2010 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

Michael Steele is an imperial chairman.

Actually, he's an "imperious" chairman---but in the spirit of kindness (something I am hideously famous for not exercising when it comes to these post-Bushylvanian feral prairie-dog types), I'll acknowledge the emperor cliche, but only to the point that the Star Wars "emperor" was dealt with by some guy named Darth throwing the bum down a really deep hole.

Given that the de facto head of the GOP (Limbaugh) and his teabagger legions (ditto-heads who can survive in the sunlight for short periods of time without their telephones and hate-radio umbilicals) effectively control the GOP message, there's little chance of their "house puppet" being thrown down a hole, under a bus, or out of a job. It's what one comes to expect from anyone who calls Rupert Murdoch "massah"....

Posted by: S. Waybright on February 23, 2010 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

I feel the need to correct some of the commenters here. Michael Steele is no puppet: you can control a puppet. He has a tendency to put his foot in his mouth, but he was still smart enough to actively campaign for his position, to pick up a secret book contract, and to maintain a high enough profile that he can make money off his position through private speeches and book sales. He's smart enough to realize how much he can get away with as the GOP's one black guy, and as much as the GOP grumbles, they know firing Steele would look worse. Frankly, it's a brilliant con, and every time a new Steele story pops up I just reach for the popcorn.

Posted by: Master Mahan on February 23, 2010 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

Steele probably knows full well what's going on. I really doubt he's stupid enough not to see the writing on the wall. His selection as RNC head was a blatant play of the race card, a black republican to try to match the black democrat who had just won the presidency.

And just like the standard GOP play of the race card, it was comically, painfully inept.

Steele must know full well that he has no chance of pulling the GOP out of the hole they have dug for themselves. That's a wreck that puts the Titanic to shame; nobody could rescue it. So he's doing the only thing left to him: grifting Palin-style. Live the high life, line those pockets, and give them back nothing substantive.

And when they whine that he isn't doing his job, he *dares* them to fire him. He knows they won't, because he's their token black republican to counter-balance Obama. And if he's wrong and they do, he'll still be able to parley that into more cash.

He knows what he's doing. If I were a crooked grifter, I would envy him for the sweet con job he's got going.

Posted by: Shade Tail on February 23, 2010 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

Cugel: .."let them eat cake."

FLASHBACK:

After someone in the audience said, "I'll bring the collard greens," Steele added, "I got the fried chicken and potato salad." - 7/14/09

Posted by: mr. irony on February 24, 2010 at 8:00 AM | PERMALINK
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