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. Holding Up A Mirror

    He's right.

    Until we as a country reject lynch-mob, herd-like mentality, it will continue for executives that different than the majority.

    April 5, 2010 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  2. Tiffany

    This guy did not just admit that he is actually being cruxified by the republican party because he is black. So now he is admitting that there is an racial undertone within the republican party which has been denied for so long. He has got to be the biggest uncle tom ever!

    April 5, 2010 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  3. nikki marin

    Oh now when it suits him, he remembered that he was not only black but had something in common with President Obama. Talk about trying to play the race card...wow!

    April 5, 2010 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  4. cjinmd

    I can't believe he's trying to play the race card on this one!!!

    April 5, 2010 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  5. ccm

    Not a Washington insider? He used to be a Representative in Congress, he chairs the RNC and never misses a chance to slam the President weather he is right or wrong, mostly wrong. No wonder why he sucks at getting donations. The reality is you have to be somewhat of an insider to know how to get things done and get donations. No one donatates to strangers.

    April 5, 2010 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  6. duane iverson

    Let's have level playing field on excessive spending on both parties involved, both parties are guilty of this spending habits. We need every political party accountable for spending. We have all need to watch our spending habits, so does Washington. Washington needs to show us that they are watching their spending is to set a example for us too.
    Thanks
    Duane

    April 5, 2010 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  7. Norm

    Oh here we go again. Cry me a river. These people are the ones keeping racism alive and kicking in our country. They can never do any wrong because they are working with a "handicap".
    This ancient excuse is really getting lame. So if you're black and incompetant it's ok?

    April 5, 2010 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  8. jules sand-perkins

    What a cop-out!
    Steele's errors haven't come close to being within a reasonable margin.
    It is true that African-Americans can't get by with some lacks that white people can in highly competitive fields: when opera singers like Grace Bumbry and Martina Arroyo began to be widely accepted as stars after the civil rights era, they had to actually speak foreign languages, not just sing in them, while a fine white singer might have had an easier time in that aspect of the business.
    Steele's "errors" are almost as gross as a mezzo-soprano's showing up at an audition for the role of Carmen and saying, "what do you mean, in French? I didn't know that the French had their own language."

    April 5, 2010 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  9. katiec

    The republicans are spending donar money as they spent our taxpayer money. Totally irresponsibly. They are completely out of tune with middle class America.
    A party with a goal of destroy our president, support big business, party first and win at any cost, sacrificing our country and us for personal gains, power is a party that has lost it's way.

    April 5, 2010 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  10. Carmelle

    I don't know anyone who wants to be like Obama more than Michael Steele. It's very sad to see how he tries to compare himself to the POTUS.

    YOU WISH!!!!

    April 5, 2010 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  11. Larke Marie

    Why should any of this surprise anyone? He is no different than any other politician, you can move out of the hood but you can't leave the hood behind.

    April 5, 2010 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  12. mytabloids

    Puh-leeze! Nice try, Mikey, but this isn't about race. Your attempt to make it about race is about as disingenuous as you can get, and it mocks people who really are being judged by the color of their skin - rather than by the content of their character.....

    April 5, 2010 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  13. George Guadiane - Austerlitz, NY

    The RACE CARD??? You must be kidding!

    More like the REPUBLICAN Card... The party of family values, of doing the "Right" thing because it's the right thing... The party of "Moral Superiority," Moral Righteousness, caught with their pants down and scrambling to try and find cover.

    This is not about race, it is ALL ABOUT the difference between image and reality... In Reality, Republicans are just humans with a higher sense of THEMSELVES, with a higher opinion of themselves, all without any ACTUAL superiority of any kind... The agenda and morals of the party are self serving (at best) and anti little guy (in reality).

    DEAL WITH IT

    April 5, 2010 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  14. ross berg- Buffalo NY

    The Dems are holding their breath and praying that somehow Steele survives this latest series of screw-ups as he has certainly been the gift that keeps on giving for them.

    Between Steele and Palin the Dems might just do better in Nov. than all the pundits think???

    April 5, 2010 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  15. Gary

    Mike Steele took the GOP leadership job and part of the deal is that he's the man who has to take the heat if something goes wrong. Black or white, he's in the spotlight and has to set things straight... or else he's unemployed like a lot of other middle aged folks...

    April 5, 2010 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  16. Et tu Michael?

    Michael, Michael, Michael - stop with the self pity. We expect that from Democrats, but you?

    April 5, 2010 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  17. Kevin B

    Lets stand back and watch the GOP tear itself apart. It is a case of the proverbial chickens coming home to roost.

    No party can be so obviously against the true interest of the american middle class and not reveal it's true colors sooner or later.

    April 5, 2010 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  18. Doc Ray

    Many Repubs (and Dems) may think it is Steele's goose that is cooked. But it's the Republican Party that is in trouble. The demographics are changing fast. The nearly all white Repubs can't hold on to power (even if they grab in the short run). The fact that they are giving Steele so much trouble (whether he is right in saying that he has a slimmer margin because of his race) bodes trouble for the Republican party's ability to cultivate leaders among people of color and not crucify them once they become leaders. Their old lynching habits don't die easily.

    April 5, 2010 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  19. Sam

    I guess in politics and court-of-law, the rule of thumb seems to be, when all else fails, use the race card, and somehow point, it is all because of my race and try to get away with it.

    April 5, 2010 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  20. JC an American Republican

    Dream on Steele, don't even compair with President Obama. The fact of the matter is you lack common sense.

    April 5, 2010 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  21. horse

    steele is a fool.

    GOP=grand old punchline.

    April 5, 2010 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  22. CBass

    Mr. Steele, after helping others to tear down your fellow African-American, Barack Obama, it's a little disengenuous to play the race card now.

    April 5, 2010 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  23. Pat in IL

    So which is it.....the race card or the Washington outsider card???
    To use any generalized excuse like that to try to deflect blame is inexcusable. People who are not African American and people who are Washington insiders are all supposed to be lawful and accountable, too.

    April 5, 2010 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  24. www.usdebtclock.org

    Steele playing the victim card show he has no shame whatsoever. I thought conservatives were against people playing the victim card? With Steele at the helm, hypocrisy knows no bounds.

    April 5, 2010 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  25. christi

    Your "slimmer margin" is because you are an idiot and nothing else.

    April 5, 2010 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
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