April 5th, 2010
10:37 AM ET
4 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. Uncle Tom

    The only reason you still have a job Michael is because it's an election year and the republicans don't want to disenfranchise voters by giving the first african american leader the boot.

    April 5, 2010 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  2. Save America, impeach the treasonous republicans

    Did Steele just play the race card? For the group American Crossroads, they should be named Southern Dirt roads.

    April 5, 2010 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  3. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Michael Steele needs to realize his problems are created within the GOP, President Obama has nothing to do with them. Steele would serve himself well within the GOP if he'd stop focusing on President Obama and forcus on his own job which he has poorly done. There is no gain for him to attempt to beat down President Obama while he's being beaten down by his own party. Steele's an idiot.

    April 5, 2010 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  4. max anderson

    Poor Michael Steel, now that he has been shown for the bad manager he is he now blames it on racism. What did he expect from a bunch of right wing old white guys, Respect!

    They used him for one reason, to attract minorities, now that he is failing in that area they are chomping at the bit to dump him. It is an unholy alliance anyway.

    April 5, 2010 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  5. Terry From West Texas

    You can't expect an important Republican to ride around in a car like an ordinary American. He needs limos and private jets. I mean, after all, what do we think our contributions are FOR?

    April 5, 2010 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  6. DJ in TX

    Wow. Now all of a sudden Mr. Steele plays the "race" card. And he says President Obama is held to a different standard. Isn't that totally contradictory to statements he's made in the past? Isn't he one of the people steadfastly defending the criticism of President Obama as all "legitamate"?

    As much as it pains me, I do "somewhat agree" with his assessment of President Obama, but I don't think the backlash he's going through right now has anything to do with race. Forget about the nightclub, that was only $2K, but the overall spending...........................Isn't this the party of less spending??? Hmmm.....................

    April 5, 2010 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  7. mathew

    a mind is a terrible thing to waste....

    April 5, 2010 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  8. robM

    Now STeele want to empathize with the black man. He is a brother when it is convenient.

    April 5, 2010 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  9. andrewstl

    he is a gift that keeps on giving.

    what a mess he is.

    keep it up mike i love the laughs

    April 5, 2010 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  10. Samuel

    Sounds like Steele is engaging in a bit of hypcrisy here by playing the race card. But then again, hypocrisy is something all Repbulicans are good at. How else do you explain the party of "family values" spending money at strip clubs?

    April 5, 2010 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  11. stone cold

    no you realise you were used by the GOP what a jerk. pulling race card wont help you fool

    April 5, 2010 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  12. gee

    Now he is beginning to realize that there are one set of rules for some folks and one for others welcome to reality Mr Steel I knew one day you would realize.

    April 5, 2010 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  13. Mary

    When Michael Steele is out, and a person focusing on what's good for American instead of himself is in, we will contribute once again. Until then we won't. His off the cuff approach is not working – and his arrogance is tiring.

    April 5, 2010 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  14. Jessy

    It's funny how both political parties complain about the each other's spending habits when both have equally terrible spending habits like five-star hotel rooms, lavish diners, expensive limousines that are as long as Long Island.

    The GOP complains about the Democratic President's excessive government spending on healthcare, stimulus and such, yet some members of the GOP love to spend taxpayer dollars on War and expensive luxuries like personal jets.

    Of course, the Democrats are not excluded. They too have the same nasty habit. The only difference is they don't usually start wars at the drop of a hat.

    April 5, 2010 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  15. EBC

    Steele's is truly delusional. This GROWN MAN must be smoking something if he thinks he margin of error is slim. What a moron.

    April 5, 2010 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  16. sbp

    I thought Republicans considered playing the race card for sympathy to be beneath them. They've always led the way in playing the race card to stir up fear of "others" – very progressive on that count.

    April 5, 2010 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  17. Independent

    NOW you speak the truth. The "old boy network" has no room for someone of color other than to use them and toss them to the side....THAT'S THE OLD BOY NETWORK!!!

    April 5, 2010 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  18. LiberalsLoveSteele

    This guy is the gift that absolutely refuses to stop giving.

    April 5, 2010 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  19. Anonymous

    Here we go again with the racial crap. I am so sick of Blacks using that excuse everytime they get negative remarks, etc. Get over yourselves and do the right thing!

    April 5, 2010 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  20. jason bell

    Now you know the truth?

    April 5, 2010 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  21. Paul in Boston

    This will be interesting. Conservatives don't like it when a black person mentions race-based inequality.

    April 5, 2010 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  22. Kenneth

    Sorry Steele, of all the black guys in the world you are the LAST one who gets to play the race card!

    April 5, 2010 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  23. Dano

    Mr. Steele you should know that the good-old-boy method is the only way the GOP works. You are a stranger in a strange land.

    April 5, 2010 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  24. dave

    He takes a page from Clarence Thomas - I am sure his party's members love it when he identifies himself with Barak Obama. Just man up Mr. Steele - stop the characatuers, the bad cartoons, the name calling and try to make some intelligent arguments for a change

    April 5, 2010 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  25. Sgt. USMC

    Steele you've been one of the harshes Obama critics and now believe that the President's margin for error is narrower because he is black and now you compare yourself to him. Oh please. Your margin of error got smaller because you couldn't keep your trap shut. The rule to remember is, when you point the finger at someone four are pointing back at you. You repubs walk around like your crap doesn't stink. Well it does.

    April 5, 2010 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
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