April 5th, 2010
10:37 AM ET
5 years ago

Steele says he has 'slimmer margin' for error

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele defended his leadership of the organization amid recent reports he has engaged in excessive spending.
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele defended his leadership of the organization amid recent reports he has engaged in excessive spending.

(CNN) – Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele defended his leadership of the organization amid recent reports he has engaged in excessive spending, and says he has a "slimmer margin for error" because he is African-American.

"Barack Obama has a slimmer margin," Steele said in an interview on ABC's 'Good Morning America.' "We all - a lot of folks do. I mean, it's a different role for me to play and others to play. And that's just the reality of it. It's more of because you're not somebody they know. I am not a Washington insider even though I grew up in DC. My view of politics is much more grassroots-oriented. It's not old-boy-network-oriented."

The interview was Steele's first since reports surfaced that the RNC paid for a night out at a risqué Hollywood nightclub. Steele has also come under criticism for the costs associated with his use of private jets, limousines, and five-star hotels.

News of the excessive expenditures are the latest in a series of gaffes involving Steele – the party's chairman since January of 2009 - leading some Republicans to privately and publicly question whether he is the best leader for the GOP going into a crucial round of midterm elections.

"This kind of thing has got to stop or they won't get any contributions," Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl said on Fox News Sunday. "The people that contribute to the committees, both Democrat and Republican, want to know that their money is well spent for the cause, and it needs to be that way."

Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council - an influential social conservative organization - also urged supporters last week to stop donating to the RNC and instead contribute to its own coffers or to candidates with like-minded goals.

And a group of influential Republicans launched a new independent organization last week with the goal of raising over $50 million to help their party topple Democrats in this year's midterm elections. With its ambitious fundraising goal, the new group, called American Crossroads, is likely to compete with many of the same donors the RNC is targeting.

But In his interview Monday, Steele maintained he is the right leader for the organization and touted his fundraising success since assuming the chairmanship 14 months ago.

"At the end of the day, I've raised more than the Democrats in seven out of 12 months," he said. "I carried over the same amount of money as the [Democratic National Committee] in 2010. We had a very good march and will have a very good April. The bottom line is I hear my donors, I hear the base out there, I hear the leadership. "

Federal Election Commission reports filed at the end of February showed the RNC with more than $9 million cash on hand while the DNC reported $10.7 million in the bank. But the RNC had no debt at the time while the DNC reported close to $4 million in debt.

UPDATE: White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters Monday "Michael Steele's problem isn't the race card, it's the credit card."


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soundoff (185 Responses)
  1. Jayne DePrenger

    Please! No more race remarks and excuses – "a slimmer margin for error"? Come on! If chairman Steele can't do the job, get rid of him and hire someone who can! But, no more flimsy excuses.

    April 5, 2010 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  2. bill

    Steele the hypocrite

    April 5, 2010 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  3. Sam Smith

    I love how the GOP tries to pull the Dems into their scandal, with phrases like "The people that contribute to the committees, both Democrat and Republican...". Nice innuendo, but nothing more. The RNC even tried to smear the DNC with a "scandal" like their own. What was that "scandal"? That the DNC rented a bowling alley for a party event because they couldn't find another venue! Quite some scandal, that is...

    April 5, 2010 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  4. Carmelle

    Annie, here...go watch the interview... the question said AA, and he was answering to that.

    April 5, 2010 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  5. people

    ya sure why dont you quit dude

    April 5, 2010 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  6. Tacal

    The RNC elected Steele as an African American counter to Pres. Obama. Steele and all America knew, then and now, he was the token representative for the Repubs. His primary directives are to slam the President, which is a better view black-on-black politically and hopefully cause some minority to switch parties. This was the case with Sarah Palin for women (against Hillary Clinton) and both hallow attempts fell flat for the real leaders of the Republican base. Take the heat Steele, you knew the good and bad of accepting the duties of RNC chairman, just as Pres. Obama knew running and operating as President of the US. Suck it UP!

    April 5, 2010 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  7. MikeMilitant

    I'm a big Obama supporter, and I'm not republican, nor like any republicans, but i fully understand what Michael Steele is saying, and it is true. However, it is hypocrital that republicans accuse Obama of playing the race card when black republicans always complain about race when they suffer only a mild sample of the scrutiny Obama gets every day.

    April 5, 2010 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  8. Chub

    Michael Steele is for Michael Steele and Michael Steele only. He will say and do whatever it takes for Michael Steele to get what Michael Steele wants.

    April 5, 2010 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  9. Chris

    I'm a conservative. I'm a donor to the RNC. It's time for Mr. Steele to go.

    Pulling the race card on anything is the last straw.

    No more money from me until this guy has been booted.

    April 5, 2010 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  10. Bill in Austin

    Does he want some cheese with his "whine"?

    April 5, 2010 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
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