April 7th, 2010
03:28 PM ET
12 years ago

Political allies rally around Steele


 Three Republican state party chairmen Wednesday dismissed criticism of RNC Chairman Michael Steele. (PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images)

Washington (CNN) -– A trio of Republican state party chairmen Wednesday dismissed criticism of Michael Steele and sought to highlight the Republican National Committee chairman’s political spadework ahead of the 2010 midterm elections.

A handful of embarrassing incidents at the RNC and a major staff shake-up have given critics an opening to question Steele’s leadership and exposed a schism in the GOP about whether he should remain at the helm of the committee heading into November.

“We are on the offensive,” California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring declared in a telephone interview with CNN. “That is what is lost on the discussion here. The victories in New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts helped to create this environment of where we are right now, and the RNC was absolutely critical to making that happen.”

Over the past year, Republicans won the governorships in New Jersey and Virginia as well as picking up the late Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy’s seat. Political analysts expect the GOP to win additional seats in the House and Senate in November.

Nehring, Delaware Republican Party Chairman Tom Ross and Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady all spoke to CNN in a conference call set-up by the RNC. The three state party chairmen also are participating in a private conference call this afternoon with all 167 RNC members and Steele.

“We are winning elections, raising money, and what we really need to do as a group is focus on that,” Ross said.

However, for the past week that focus has been blurred by charges that Steele is misusing party funds on such things as private jets to travel around the country.

On Tuesday, New Hampshire RNC member Sean Mahoney accused Steele of spending donors’ money with "reckless disregard" and resigned his position on the committee. And prominent GOP strategist Alex Castellanos said that Steele should step down for the good of the party.

In addition, Steele came under fire from social conservatives last week after reports surfaced that the RNC had picked up a nearly $2,000 tab at a bondage-themed West Hollywood nightclub for a group of young donors. A few days later, Democrats distributed an RNC fundraising solicitation that had a misprinted number sending callers to a phone sex line. Steele’s chief of staff, Ken McKay, resigned earlier this week, and a one-time Steele political consultant cut ties to the RNC.

“Mistakes were made, no doubt, but that happens in any $100 million enterprise,” Brady said. “He did the right thing and took action … and will continue to do so.”

The RNC fired the staffer who authorized the $2000 expenditure at the nightclub.

Steele’s fate rest in the hands of the 167 RNC members, and his three allies predicted he will survive. “I think the chairman has broad-based support,” said Brady, adding that this support extends to “some of those who were troubled by [the nightclub] expenditure.”

The three party chairmen all noted that they were not worried about accusations of Steele’s excessive spending. Nehring said he views this early spending as needed to help Republicans win in November. And the chairmen said that they view Steele and the RNC as an equal partner.

“Phone calls are promptly returned,” Nehring said. “E-mails are promptly returned.”

Filed under: Michael Steele • RNC
soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. Tulsa

    Nothing the Democrats would love more than to have Steele at the helm of the RNC... as that ship sinks.

    Remember folks, the RNC has stated (in a fundraising powerpoint presentation) that to get donations from poor and low income individuals fundraisers should play to their fear.... for the wealthy, play to their ego.

    Great Americans there at the RNC.

    April 7, 2010 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  2. Dutch

    “We are on the offensive,” California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring

    I wonder does Mr. Nehring frequent Voulet often since he's a CaliFORNICATOR. Michael Steele needs to explain all of his lavish expenditures, ie: private jets, limos, expensive RNC meetings in Hawaii. I thought this was the party of fiscal conservatism. What a joke!

    April 7, 2010 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  3. horse

    steele is a riot. he is also my hero.


    April 7, 2010 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  4. lulu

    They didn't actually say "political spadework" did they?
    No WONDER he's playing the race card!

    April 7, 2010 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  5. Larry

    Are you still around Steele?

    I thought I told youto get lost!

    April 7, 2010 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  6. John D

    Steele must go. He is part of the big wasteful spenders that are the problem with this country. I wrote to him 2 months ago after the Hawaii trip and put him on notice that I would no longer send money to the RNC until he steps down.

    I urge everyone else to do the same. This is the wrong man for the job.

    April 7, 2010 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  7. Peter

    That Hopey changey thing is working just fine for US DEMS and the Nation! The Dow almost hit 11,000 last Friday WOW! Vote all Republicans out...NOW!...ok got too excited just be sure to do it in Nov....hehehe!!!

    April 7, 2010 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  8. Bobert

    That picture makes him look like Stretch Armstrong.

    April 7, 2010 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  9. T'SAH from Virginia

    "...The victories in New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts helped to create this environment of where we are right now..."

    Please DON'T count VA because Deeds ran a CRAPPY campaign. And you should note that – and others who voted for McDonnell are now wondering why they did it- that McDonnell, along with his sidekicks Cuccinnelli and Cantor, are showing their true FAR-RIGHT color.

    McDonnell is now setting April as "Confederate Month". So I am gathering that the CONFEDERATE FLAG will hang proudly on all of the Federal Buildings during this month to show how PROUD this state is to be a Confederate State!!!

    I am a Native-New Yorker and I don't know what the hell I was thinking when I moved here to VA!!!!

    April 7, 2010 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  10. Dutch

    Notice in the picture that the stars on the elephant are upside down people. There's a reason for that and you should open your 3rd eye for what it stands for.

    April 7, 2010 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  11. Lynda/Minnesota

    The manner in which Steele has handled millions of dollars in donations to the RNC is a good example of republican fiscal responsibility: spend as if there is no accountability and deny, deny, deny when the accounting comes due.

    Any wonder, then, that the GOP was able to turn a nice and secure Clinton surplus into a bankrupt economy in less than 6 years?

    It's in their genes.

    April 7, 2010 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  12. EBC

    Once again these political allies of Steele prove just how clueless the RNC is. They are going down like the TITANIC with Michael Steele at the wheel. Republicans are so removed from reality you have to wonder if this is the party of the "blind leading the blind".

    April 7, 2010 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  13. Farren Coplan

    Steele has to make sure some way that no liberals are hired into the RNC staff. The liberals would find ways to bring down the RNC if possible.

    April 7, 2010 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  14. Charlie in Maine

    I know they won't listen to me, and I've seen that they don't listen to average Americans. Now it seems as though they won't even listen to each other.

    Lucky to be an American
    Proud to be a Democrat

    April 7, 2010 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  15. James

    So Steele didn't know that he was chosen as a poster boy to attack BO? Welcome to the purification of the republican party, Steele.

    April 7, 2010 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  16. Dis Gusted

    Where have all those "Christian Conservatives" gone???? What a farce!

    April 7, 2010 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  17. sifto77

    hey, libs–what happened to the charges of racism? or is Steele "not black enough" for you?

    April 7, 2010 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  18. MIOU

    sex is a true religion for the republican party i don't care.

    April 7, 2010 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  19. Nancy

    Steel needs to go after the wasting of the GOP donations by some of the GOP. Why would anyone want to donate another dollar to the GOP if they are going to blow it in a nightclub?????

    April 7, 2010 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  20. JA/TN

    RNC, sinking ship and antiquated rehetoric

    April 7, 2010 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  21. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Steele will be muzzled is what they are really saying but that won't help. The Republicans have a whole list of wannabes that need to be muzzled; Bachmann, Guiliani, Palin, McCain and a few others. Everyone in the Republican party has a big "ME" tatooed on their chest while they are biting and clawing one another to get to the top. They have become a totally disfunctional family.

    April 7, 2010 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  22. Anonymous

    As a Black American who is proud of his country, and has fought to preserve it's way of life, I have no problem with Michael Steele supporting the Republican Party. What I do have a problem with is his lack of shame and bankrupt self-esteem. This man has been pilloried by members, especially the hiearchy before becoming it's chariman. They have mocked and criticized his very existence, and Steele takes it on the chin solely so he can remain his party's chairman, a party that does not want or appreciate him. Even though he has helped the Republican Party stage a quasi-comeback, he is still brandished as an incompetent moron by members of his own party. Black America fought too hard and too many died so we can walk with our heads high and live in pride. Steele obviously has not gotten the message, neither does he appreciate the sacrifices his forefathers made so he could aspire to something more than a puppet.

    April 7, 2010 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  23. Chris

    Steele is a smart guy. I wouldn't write him off yet. We will see how the party does in November, then we can judge whether he was good or not.

    April 7, 2010 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  24. Vic of New York

    Political allies? Hardly. Republicans wanted a token black, and that's exactly what they got: a "token" black.

    April 7, 2010 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  25. LacrosseMom(the real one)

    Funny, I don't see the usual cast of GOPers posting IN support of Steele! Hmmmm?

    April 7, 2010 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
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