- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 24, 2007

ANNAPOLIS — Former Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele will lead a major Republican fundraising group and start a public affairs consulting firm in Maryland.

Mr. Steele will be the chairman of GOPAC, the national fundraising outfit that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich elevated to national prominence in 1994, and start the Legacy Strategies public affairs firm, he told The Washington Times yesterday.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” Mr. Steele said. “It has been a whirlwind challenge. I just finished up four years as lieutenant governor, and I was excited to do it. We’ll keep plugging along.”

He begins both jobs Feb. 1 and will make a public announcement today.

Mr. Steele also said he likely will write a book about his 30-plus years in politics.

“I’ve really never shared too much of what it feels like to read words about you in the paper that aren’t true, about who has just called you an ‘Uncle Tom,’ ” Mr. Steele said. “I think it speaks to the double standard someone like myself has to live with.”

Mr. Steele, 48, was the first black elected statewide in Maryland.

The announcements follow broad speculation about the former U.S. Senate candidate’s plans.

Mr. Steele lost his race for a Senate seat in November to Democrat Benjamin L. Cardin. The race attracted national attention as Republicans and Democrats battled for every last seat to control Congress. After Mr. Steele’s loss, he was briefly considered to run the Republican National Committee.

He will run his public affairs firm with former Chief of Staff Paul D. Ellington and one or two others, and he expects the firm to grow rapidly.

Mr. Steele said he chose the firm’s name based on his belief that minorities need to build “legacy wealth” — a term that he said means “not just financial legacy, but also the kind of legacy you can’t touch.”

“I talked a lot about legacy [in the campaign] and very much want to continue that theme in the private sector,” he said. “For me, the bottom line is all about building legacy.”

After the November elections, Mr. Steele said he was committed to rebuilding the Maryland Republican Party. The GOPAC position allows him to fulfill that promise, Mr. Ellington said.

“GOPAC is kind of a name brand, focusing on the development of state and local candidates,” he said. “There will obviously be a Maryland component.”

The group was formed in the late 1970s to aid Republican candidates facing a Democrat-controlled Congress and calls itself the Republican Party’s “preeminent education and training center.”

Outgoing Chairman J.C. Watts Jr. approached Mr. Steele with the offer, based on Mr. Steele’s national recognition and his experience running the state Republican Party, Mr. Ellington said.

Mr. Steele’s new jobs are good news for state Republicans, said Audra Miller, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Republican Party.

“It’s great that Steele will continue to have that presence on the political scene, not only in Maryland, but nationally,” she said. “GOPAC has continued to be a strong presence among states and the legislatures for more than 10 years. This will only continue to build upon the great success that they’ve had.”

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