- The Washington Times - Monday, July 27, 2009

SAN DIEGO | Veteran Republican fund-raiser and former ambassador Peter Terpeluk Jr. will be named the national finance chairman of the Republican National Committee, The Washington Times has learned, in a coup for embattled party Chairman Michael S. Steele.

The selection of the well-connected and well-respected Mr. Terpeluk comes as a relief to party insiders and caps a long and at times frustrating search to fill the key money post ahead of the 2010 and 2012 election cycles.

“Peter Terpeluk is experienced, enthusiastic and well respected in the political fund-raising arena — an excellent choice as finance chairman of the RNC,” said former Ambassador to Italy Mel Sembler, who earned a strong reputation in GOP circles as a prolific money-raiser when he was RNC finance chairman under President George W. Bush.

Mr. Terpeluk, named ambassador to Luxembourg by President George W. Bush in 2002, is a veteran Republican fund-raiser who can speed-dial corporate board chairmen, top Wall Street investment bankers and other wealthy donors.

Mr. Steele, who has not formally announced his pick, is expected to ask the 168-member RNC to approve the appointment later this week in San Diego, where the party is holding its annual summer meeting. The gathering is the first convened by Mr. Steele since his election as party chairman in December.

Party insiders had been worried for some months that Mr. Steele was having a difficult time persuading a heavyweight figure to take on the job.

Mr. Steele, a former Maryland lieutenant governor, announced last week the creation of a brand-new position — “members finance chairman” — to which he named California RNC member and trial attorney Shawn Steel, a feisty conservative who came up through the rough-and-tumble ranks of the conservative non-governmental organization known as the California Republican Assembly.

But the vacancy in the top finance post was beginning to worry party insiders.

“We don’t have a finance chair — I view Shawn Steel’s appointment as a temporary solution, not a good situation,” a veteran RNC officer and former state GOP chairman confided. “We are losing our major contributors, receiving only minor support.”

RNC officials contend the party’s base of small donors has held up well despite recent electoral losses, with the average donation about $42, according to RNC Communications Director Trevor Francis. The main mission now, he said, will be “bringing back high-dollar donors into the fold.”

“We’ve raised more than $31 million under Chairman Steele and outraised the Democratic National Committee in four out of the last six months,” Mr. Francis said. “But we not only want to beef up small donations but bring the high-dollar donors back into the party — not an easy task when we don’t have the White House or the Congress.”

Party insiders have been saying for months that the search for job search had been going badly, with veteran RNC members and former RNC finance officials despairing of Mr. Steele’s ability to recruit someone to take the post. Former RNC Chairman and White House aide Ed Gillespie and former New York Rep. Bill Paxon, now a high-powered lobbyist, were both rumored to be under consideration.

The sudden announcement of Shawn Steel to the newly-invented position was designed to take some of the heat off Mr. Steele as national chairman, who had a rocky start as head of the party’s national governing body but over the last month has appeared to consolidate his position.

Mr. Terpeluk was a devoted supporter of the late Buffalo congressman Jack Kemp, the former Housing and Urban Development secretary under President George H.W. Bush. The Chevy Chase resident is counsel to ashington-based strategic consulting firm ACG Analytics and is on the boards of the U.S. Constitution Center in Philadelphia and of Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn.

Mr. Terpeluk was also co-chairman of the first President Bush’s 1992 re-election campaign, a finance committee member for former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 GOP presidential nomination bid, and then a major fund-raiser for Arizona Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.

California’s Mr. Steel told The Washington Times his job in the newly-created post is to coordinate national fund-raising by state RNC members and to oversee the distribution of RNC funds to state parties in financial trouble.