The Washington Times - April 2, 2010, 05:04PM

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The Republican National Committee is on the defensive following the discovery that the party reimbursed a staffer’s  expenditures  at a bondage-themed nightclub. The Democrats had a field day with the conservative values party funding a wild night, but more damaging is the report of personal profit at the highest levels of the RNC. With only seven months to the day until the midterm elections, the Republicans need quickly change course and clean house.

When the nightclub story broke in the Daily Caller, the RNC seemed more concerned with proving that Chairman Michael Steele was not at the club, than with the bigger problem of donors saying, “What the heck are those people in Washington doing with my money?” RNC Communications Director Doug Heye tells me that “Chairman Steele has taken the reins firmly to ensure concrete changes are put in place so these unfortunate things don’t happen again.”

When the party leaders realized the bigger problem on their hands, Steele and RNC Co-Chairman Jan Larimer sent a defensive memo to donors promising that the party is “dedicated to the efficient use of RNC funds.” It’s a nice sentiment if it weren’t for the fact that one of these self-proclaimed defenders of the RNC funds seems to have also gotten her hand caught in the cookie jar

In filings with the FEC, the RNC paid $13,000 over the past six months to its own Co-Chairman Jan Larimer’s daughter Amy for “speechwriting.” The money went to Amy Larimer’s Wyoming-based firm, Big Creek Communications. Plumline, which broke the story, reported that a “RNC source disputes that there’s anything untoward. The source says the person doing the speechwriting for the RNC is not Amy Larimer, but her partner, Joe Milczewski.” 

Sources tell me that Amy Larimer’s “partner” Joe Milczewski  is actually her boyfriend. Just check out her Facebook page to see Amy’s profile picture of herself with Milczewski at a dinner. The RNC’s silence in response to this report is unacceptable. 

Jan Larimer must respond to the nepotism charges and donors deserve to know what speeches were written with $13,000 of their money. Jan Larimer made herself the voice of fiscal responsibility for the party’s funds, so how can she have any credibility when her own daughter is on the RNC payroll?

Mr. Heye has been doing yeoman’s work in crisis communications for the party, but it’s too late to change the public perception that the party is wasting campaign donations. The Democrats will make hay - pun intended - out of the bondage clubs, but the real audience for the public relations effort is the RNC donors.

Under the leadership of Steele and Larimer, the RNC has bounced from one public relations debacle to another. As a result, morale is down when we are on the brink of a vital midterm election. Mr. Heye, however, defends Steele’s popularity with the GOP base, saying, “Anyone who’s seen Chairman Steele at events around the country would know that he reflects what our base thinks when it comes to the Obama agenda and what Democrats are doing in Congress.”

He also denied that the RNC is having trouble fundraising. “Chairman Steele has been instrumental in outraising the DNC in past two months and seven of 12 months in 2009. And he’s done so without the benefit of controlling the White House or either chambers of Congress.” Mr. Heye points out that the RNC is “far ahead” of where the DNC was financially at this point in 2006.

Meanwhile, key Republicans have been whispering to donors that they should give directly to candidates in hard money. Donations to the RNC are vital to the GOP’s winning back the House in the midterms. Unlike candidates, the RNC uses its money for grassroots organizing, get-out-the vote efforts and TV ads (all of which were key to victories in 2009 in Virginia and New Jersey.)

Jan Larimer with daughter Amy Larimer

Michael Steele and Jan Larimer should put the good of the party before their own careers and consider stepping aside for someone with a track record of leadership and party discipline. The GOP is on the precipice of taking back the House; it’s too important a time to have party leaders distracted by scandals. 

The Republican National Committee should then hold an emergency meeting to elect a new chairman who can hit the ground running. The RNC needs a leader who already has a proven track record of management and who knows the donors, the candidates and the elected officials. The new RNC chairman should quickly pivot and get the party moving forward in fundraising and lead candidates in key battleground districts. 

I’d suggest asking former RNC Chairman  Ed Gillespie to come back for a six-month period. Gillespie is a proven leader, well-liked, respected and connected. But mostly, Gillespie can get the job done without wasting time in a transition. Another good option would be former RNC Chairman Mike Duncan who led the party before Steele. Duncan is low key (i.e. not controversial) and a very effective fundraiser. 

Bottom line: the GOP shot itself in the foot. While they have the second amendment right to do so, it is wasting the momentum built by the Tea Partiers, conservative media and very low opinion polls of President Obama.

Get a strong leader at the RNC’s helm for the next seven months and direct the public anger over Obama’s out-of-control spending, government takeover of the health care system, double-digit unemployment and ongoing economic recession. Then, Republicans can promise that come November 2, they will take control of the one body of government that can initiate tax cuts and cuts in spending - the House of Representatives.

Follow Emily Miller on Twitter @EmilyMillerDC