SAN DIEGO | The RNC handed its national chairman, Michael S. Steele, a defeat on Friday, voting to put off until January a vote on the formation of an ethics committee that he wanted to create.
Members objected because they said they didn’t understand the purpose or jurisdictional limits of the proposed committee.
Some members speculated that it was designed to shield Mr. Steele from future actions he might take.
“My concern is with members appointed by the chairman, as he wanted to do, you potentially don’t have the transparency he promised when running for chairman,” said North Dakota chairman Gary Emineth.
But some RNC members said Mr. Steele deserved credit for understanding the concerns of members raised during floor debate in the Downtown Grand Hyatt ballroom.
“We all agree that the RNC has and should adhere to the highest ethical standards,” Indiana RNC member James Bopp Jr. said after the vote.
Mr Bopp, a leader of the conservative caucus within the RNC, noted that so-called “ethics” committees have proven to be subject to abuse and misuse unless substantial safeguards are put in place.
He noted former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin had to defend herself against a slew of ethics complaints that ultimately proved to have no merit.
“The RNC put off consideration of establishing an ethics committee until the next meeting in order for the committee to develop guidelines for the scope of their activity,” he said. “The chairman agreed to this decision, because he came to agree with the need for a clear mission statement for this committee.”