Steele’s side pursuits drive away big donors

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The disparity comes as leading party figures are increasingly going public with their unhappiness over the RNC under Mr. Steele’s direction.

“I am not here to beat up on an RNC chairman,” former Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson told The Times, “because I know how big and important the job is and what opportunities can be created.”

“But that is just the point - under those circumstances, I do not see how a chairman can do book tours and give speeches for fees that go to him and not the RNC, which needs more money badly,” said Mr. Nicholson, who was President George W. Bush’s secretary of veterans affairs.

“You cannot serve two masters in that job,” Mr. Nicholson said. “I think when elected, you agree to give the RNC and its mission 100 percent of your efforts.”

Hari Sevugan, Democratic National Committee spokesman, said that “to the best of our knowledge, no Democratic national chairman has written a book or promoted his book while serving as national chairman.”

Critics say Mr. Steele’s new book, which retails for $18, is an example of using his office and title for personal gain. On the front of the dust jacket is his RNC title and a large color picture of the author.

Mr. Steele suffered another blow this week when a key ally, Florida Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer, was forced to resign after criticism from conservatives and from RNC officials who also have criticized Mr. Steele.

A number of major contributors - some of whom declined to state their complaints on the record - said Mr. Steele has not made personal calls to them as all other chairmen have. Some said they were astounded that he told a television interviewer this week that he didn’t think the Republicans would recapture the House this year and wasn’t sure they were “ready” to retake the majority. He hurriedly backtracked on his comments after his remarks sparked a political firestorm.

Many said the party chairman’s most important task is making fundraising calls and solidifying personal relations as a way to fill the party’s campaign war chest.

“No one has called asking me for money, and I don’t know of any major donor who has been called,” Mrs. Toretti said. “The only attempt Michael made to get money was a trip he made to see Dick Scaife, and he didn’t get any money from him for the RNC.”

Mr. Scaife is a wealthy Pennsylvania Republican and longtime major contributor to GOP and conservative causes.

Some wealthy Republicans complain that major events hosted by Mr. Steele lump $1,000 donors with $25,000 donors and $50,000 donors, when contributors tend to want to be grouped with those who gave similar amounts. At least one of Mr. Steele’s events for major donors had to be canceled for lack of interest.

Mr. Steele’s paid speeches also continue to upset his critics.

Al Hoffman, twice elected RNC finance chairman, said, “I don’t think it appropriate for an RNC chairman to be making speeches and money on the side. I never thought an RNC chairman should do anything in the way of fiscal pursuits that could become a distraction.”

RNC ethics rules appear to forbid anyone working for the national committee from taking outside income or using a committee position for personal gain.

About the Author
Ralph Z. Hallow

Ralph Z. Hallow

Chief political writer Ralph Z. Hallow served on the Chicago Tribune, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Washington Times editorial boards, was Ford Foundation Fellow in Urban Journalism at Northwestern University, resident at Columbia University Editorial-Page Editors Seminar and has filed from Berlin, Bonn, London, Paris, Geneva, Vienna, Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Belgrade, Bucharest, Panama and Guatemala.

 

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