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. Richie

    Yeah right. The repugs are so corrupt they don't even know what corruption is anymore.

    April 5, 2010 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  2. ronalde

    To the repugs please keep steele,because of palin and steele the dems won't lose as many seats as people think, let them keep of the good work.

    April 5, 2010 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  3. Aaron P

    As an African-American I can honestly say that Michael Steele is dead wrong. He isn't African-American. Want to prove it? Ask other African-Americans. He's all yours. We don't want him!

    April 5, 2010 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  4. Jim

    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.

    Yes, please stop donating to the national Republican fund-raising structure. That will insure that your presidential "candidates" will get no money.

    April 5, 2010 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  5. CT

    AHHHH... looks whos playing the race card ...

    April 5, 2010 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  6. Fed Up

    I would suggest that if Mr. Steele wants to discuss leaders who are African-American leader and their trial and tribulations. Steele hasn't even come close to facing the obstacles the Republicans put in Barack Obama's path. Yet I don't hear Obama making excuses about his heritage.

    If everyone weren't looking at his expense reports so cloesly now, I suggest that Steele should go out and buy a nice expesnive cheese to go with his whine.

    April 5, 2010 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  7. Liz the First

    And as it is with their respective parties, Steele is doing as bad a job as Obama is doing a good one. Steele has the post solely because the almost all-white GOP wanted to give a false impression of being open to caring about minorities. yeah, right! Steele is selling out people of color by supporting the party that cares nothing for anyone unless they're rich, white, and powerful. the concerns of the little guy, no matter his race, is not even on their radar. i wonder how long it's going to take for all the poor and middle-class people who support these would-be overlords to realize this and turn against them. it is sickening to hear these victims of rethuglican brainwashing badmouthing Obama, who truly cares about them and is doing everything he can to make this a great country again for all of us, not just for the multimillionaires.

    April 5, 2010 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  8. Kanayo

    Am i reading this correctly....? Is Michael Steele playing the race card..?

    April 5, 2010 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  9. Dan Coleman

    I am a republican and I had thought you would be a fine leader for the RNC, but it has been one controversy after another. It is apparent you are not fitted for the job. Stop making excuses; that's all we hear from Obama and his minions. The truth is that neither Obama nor you is equipped for the responsibilities you took on. Step down, both of you for the good of the country.

    April 5, 2010 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  10. Phillip Bunn

    I do not believe that this is the passion, or the consumate ideology, that Martin Luther King, and Medger Evers, and countless other Civil Right's Workers gave their lives for. Michael Steele is accountable, as is any other politician, black or white. Lest they not forget it!!!!

    April 5, 2010 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  11. Alex

    Oooo! Is he going to get in soo much trouble for his "smaller margin of error" comment. Especially because he admitted that it applies to Obama as well. The last thing the Repubs want is someone on the inside finally admitting that an African-American president is more of a threat to Repubs (not all of them, but A LOT of them) than a Democratic president.

    April 5, 2010 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  12. Sniffit

    May look that way to you Mushmouth, but that's just the myopia caused by wearing your tinfoil hat while standing too close to the microwave. You're being criticized because you're an imbecile, not because you're black.

    April 5, 2010 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  13. Common sense Americans

    Mr. Steele just doesn't seem to get it , stop your sucking up to white people , the more you do it , the more they will treat you like a slave in a Willie Lynche's story ......get real with yourself Steele , these people could careless about you , when you leave the room , don't imagine what their saying because you know they are already saying it about you !

    April 5, 2010 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  14. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    WHOA!!!

    Mikey! You're NOT suppossed to say that outloud, no matter how true!
    Now 'you done did it'! They are going to CRAWL out of the woodwork in their pursuit of your resignation now!

    You should've taken a page from your President and just out-thought, out-worked, and just basically out-done them across the board. If ever a man was held to an impossibly higher standard it was Pres. Obama. His foes ARE STILL scratching around looking for something, ANYTHING, to hang on him. He won't give them the satisfaction. He has instead set the bar impossibly high for the next President.

    You should've done the same Mikey, but instead you kept dropping your pants and opening your mouth thereby leaving yourself WIDE OPEN for the what is coming to pass.

    So long, and farewell Mikey.

    April 5, 2010 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  15. Pat

    I aggree with Secretary Gibbs comment.

    April 5, 2010 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  16. Common sense Americans

    Then you turn around a justify yourslves to them , what a shame ! You really need to read the Koran and learn who you are !

    April 5, 2010 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  17. John

    Michael, you have talent, just not the kind that the right wing wants or needs. You are in your position ONLY because you are black. Forget the notoriey and come home where you belong, as a blue dog democrat.....enough time wasted about who you are pretending to be.

    April 5, 2010 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  18. Randy, San Francisco

    What did Steele expect when he joined the GOP? How can he not have seen the lack of diversity in the GOP? The GOP does not have a big tent.

    April 5, 2010 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  19. Annie

    I didn't see the interview, but, where does he say it is because he is African American. His quotes say it is because he is not a Washington insider. Please CNN, offer the quote that actually states it is because he is African American, or quit trying to make every comment an African American says to be about race.

    April 5, 2010 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  20. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Bottom line Mikey is you never had what it takes.

    As oppossed to letting them pit you against Obama, you should've been on the phone to the brother asking for his advice.

    They've used and abused you only because YOU LET THEM!

    Dummy.

    April 5, 2010 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  21. haren

    I totally agree with him.

    April 5, 2010 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  22. Kenneth

    Wow ... Mr Steele is finally accepting that he is merely a powerless figure head. The "good ol boy" network tried to counter the "Obama effect" and now they are simply trying to cut their losses. Just as President Obama cannot do right in the eyes of many members of the GOP neither can he. It is a pitiful issue to have to be addressed in 2010 but racism has not gone anywhere ... its just hidden better. Wake up America ... WE can do better than this!

    April 5, 2010 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  23. Barbara

    Using the race card as an excuse for indescretions is intolerable. We need a new leader!

    April 5, 2010 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  24. brad

    Sad cop out. One thing about Obama (and I happily voted for him) he never used race as an issue unless the other side or media brought it up. Otherwise he move on from that matter. It's the GOP silly.

    April 5, 2010 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  25. RAG

    Could he be saying ... no, well it sounds like he ... couldn't be, but it sure could be construed tht the leader of the GOP just said that there is RACISM IN AMERICAN POLITICS!!!! I can't wait for the right-wing bloviators to handle this one!

    April 5, 2010 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
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