The GOP’s Twisted Priorities

The Daily Caller has a jaw-dropping exclusive about how the RNC is spending its money:

According to two knowledgeable sources, Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele once raised the possibility of using party money to buy a private jet for his travel.

[…]

Steele’s spokesman, Doug Heye, did not deny that such discussions took place, responding that the RNC never had a “plan” to buy a plane. “I don’t know what somebody might have discussed or might not have discussed.”

While Steele has not purchased a plane, he continues to charter them. According to federal disclosure records, the RNC spent $17,514 on private aircraft in the month of February alone (as well as $12,691 on limousines during the same period). There are no readily identifiable private plane expenses for Democratic National Committee chairman Tim Kaine in the DNC’s last three months of filings.

[…]

Once on the ground, FEC filings suggest, Steele travels in style. A February RNC trip to California, for example, included a $9,099 stop at the Beverly Hills Hotel, $6,596 dropped at the nearby Four Seasons, and $1,620.71 spent [update: the amount is actually $1,946.25] at Voyeur West Hollywood, a bondage-themed nightclub featuring topless women dancers imitating lesbian sex.

RNC trips to other cities produced bills from a long list of chic and costly hotels such as the Venetian and the M Resort in Las Vegas, and the W (for a total of $19,443) in Washington. A midwinter trip to Hawaii cost the RNC $43,828, not including airfare.

[All emphasis mine]

Private planes, fancy hotels, expensive Hawaii junkets, lesbian bondage cubs…does that sound like the kind of folks you want running the country?

Health care reform may not be perfect, but I’d take the folks who gave us that over the folks who spend other people’s money to go to kinky sex clubs any day.

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Another Day, Another RNC Fail: RNC To Hold Fundraiser At Blackwater Compound

That’s the same Blackwater which has been accused of murder, illegal weapons smuggling, bribery, fraud (including using taxpayer money to buy strippers and prostitutes) and stealing weapons from the US military, among many other serious crimes.

You know that if the DNC held a fundraiser at, say, an ACORN office then heads would roll, careers would end and the right-wing media would launch a massive weeks-long national outcry.

And yet, almost nobody in the media is making a fuss over the RNC getting into bed with Blackwater.

And to think, ACORN was only accused of was giving bad tax advice.

Double standards much?

ATTENTION GOP DONORS: YOUR PARTY THINKS YOU’RE STUPID, EASILY MANIPULATED

Politico obtained an RNC fundraising presentation that shows what party leaders really think of their donors:

The Republican National Committee plans to raise money this election cycle through an aggressive campaign capitalizing on “fear” of President Barack Obama and a promise to “save the country from trending toward socialism.”

The strategy was detailed in a confidential party fundraising presentation, obtained by POLITICO, which also outlines how “ego-driven” wealthy donors can be tapped with offers of access and “tchochkes.”

The presentation was delivered by RNC Finance Director Rob Bickhart to top donors and fundraisers at a party retreat in Boca Grande, Florida on February 18, a source at the gathering said.

In neat PowerPoint pages, it lifts the curtain on the often-cynical terms of political marketing, displaying an air of disdain for the party’s donors that is usually confined to the barroom conversations of political operatives.

[…]

“What can you sell when you do not have the White House, the House, or the Senate…?” it asks.

The answer: “Save the country from trending toward Socialism!”

[…]

One page, headed “The Evil Empire,” pictures Obama as the Joker from Batman, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leaders Harry Reid are depicted as Cruella DeVille and Scooby Doo, respectively.

[…]

The most unusual section of the presentation is a set of six slides headed “RNC Marketing 101.” The presentation divides fundraising into two traditional categories, direct marketing and major donors, and lays out the details of how to approach each group.

The
small donors who are the targets of direct marketing are described under the heading “Visceral Giving.” Their motivations are listed as “fear;” “Extreme negative feelings toward existing Administration;” and “Reactionary.”

Major donors, by contrast, are treated in a column headed “Calculated Giving.” Their motivations include: “Peer to Peer Pressure”; “access”; and “Ego-Driven.”

[Emphasis mine]

So if you’re a small donor to the GOP, congrats: they think you’re petty, fearful and reactionary.

And if you’re a big donor to the GOP, congrats: they think you’re easily manipulated and egotistical.

That’s what the folks currently running the Republican Party think of their own donors.

But I think the best part of this story is how Politico obtained the presentation:

The 72-page document was provided to POLITICO by a Democrat, who said a hard copy had been left in the hotel hosting the $2,500-a-head retreat, the Gasparilla Inn & Club.

That’s right–the RNC put together this long, detailed, insulting presentation outlining their entire fundraising strategy for 2010 and someone just left it at the hotel, where it was discovered and handed over to the press.

This is what you’re paying for, Republican donors: to be insulted by people so incompetent that they leave a major campaign document sitting around in hotel.

I’d be asking for a refund if I were you.

Michael Steele Demonstrates Republican Priorities

The RNC Chair is living the high life using other people’s money:

Republican National Chairman Michael Steele is spending twice as much as his recent predecessors on private planes and paying more for limousines, catering and flowers – expenses that are infuriating the party’s major donors who say Republicans need every penny they can get for the fight to win back Congress.

Most recently, donors grumbled when Steele hired renowned chef Wolfgang Puck’s local crew to cater the RNC’s Christmas party inside the trendy Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue, and then moved its annual winter meeting from Washington to Hawaii.

[…]

A POLITICO analysis of expenses found that compared with 2005, the last comparable year preceding a midterm election, the committee’s payments for charter flights doubled; the number of sedan contractors tripled, and meal expenses jumped from $306,000 to $599,000.

“Michael Steele is an imperial chairman,” said one longtime Republican fundraiser. “He flies in private aircraft. He drives in private cars. He has private consultants that are paid ridiculous retainers. He fancies himself a presidential candidate and wants all of the trappings and gets them by using other people’s money.”

[…]

When Steele took over the chairmanship last winter, he inherited a $23 million surplus. Since then, the former Maryland lieutenant governor has raised $10 million less than the party collected in 2005 and has spent $10 million more. By the end of 2009, the committee’s surplus had shrunk to $8.4 million, according to campaign finance reports.

[Emphasis mine]

The RNC tries to justify this mess by saying that, since there isn’t a Republican in the White House, Steele has to travel a lot more to fundraise than some of his predecessors.

But, again, Steele is spending more and raising less–it certainly doesn’t look like the exorbitant travel, lodging, food and floral (really?) expenditures are profitable investments.

Personally, if I were a Republican donor, I’d be angry that my hard-earned money was going to pamper the RNC Chairman rather than win elections.  Without enough funding, the pool of potential GOP pickups will shrink–and for what? Fancy food, private jets and all of the pretty flowers Michael Steele desires.

(Not to mention the hypocrisy of complaining about Democratic spending policies when the Chair of the GOP is using other people’s money to keep himself knee-deep in Hawaiian junkets and gourmet food. At least we’re creating jobs and improving health care.)

IN-SEN: Bayh Out (UPDATED X4)

In an unexpected turn of events, Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh (D) has announced that he will not seek reelection in the fall:

Two-term Sen. Evan Bayh says ever-shriller partisanship and the frustrations of gridlock made it time for him to leave Congress. Republicans aren’t buying it, saying he and fellow Democrats sense that voters will be after their heads this fall.

The Indiana Democrat, a moderate who twice came close to being added to his party’s national ticket, said Monday he will not seek re-election this November. The announcement gives Republicans a strong chance of capturing his seat and makes it likelier that the 59 votes that give Democrats command of the 100-seat Senate will dwindle.

I can’t imagine Bayh worried about being defeated–he was elected statewide 5 times in Indiana, including 2 Senate terms, and he started 2010 with a staggering $13 million in the bank. In addition his likely Republican opponent, former Sen. Dan Coats, is–for lack of  a better word–a joke.

Not only that, but the filing deadline to run in this race is this Friday, meaning that any potential Democratic candidate has 4 days to collect 500 valid signatures from each of Indiana’s 9 Congressional districts.  Unless someone puts forth a herculean effort to get on the ballot, the Indiana Democratic Party will be the ones to select whose name will replace Bayh’s on the ballot.

I would also hope that most–if not all–of Bayh’s massive warchest is transferred to whoever eventually ends up being the Democratic candidate, considering that $13 million is a huge amount of money for a state like Indiana.

Overall, this is just a headache that the Democrats don ‘t need–it’s not a given that the Republicans will win this race, but the Dems are going to have to spend time and money fighting for a seat that, had Bayh not retired, would have easily remained in their column.

UPDATE: There has been some confusion about the filing deadline but–as you can see on one of the official signature forms–the filing deadline is noon today. Apologies for erroneously claiming that the deadline was Friday.

UPDATE II: There are rumors that a Bloomington cafe owner by the name of Tamyra d’Ippolito–obviously a political newcomer–might just have enough valid signatures to get on the ballot, making her the only Democratic candidate in the race.

Unsurprisingly, some conservatives are putting on their dirty tricks hat and are helping d’Ippolito gather the required signatures.

UPDATE III: A few hours after the filing deadline and state officials are saying that only Bayh had enough valid signatures to qualify as a Democratic candidate.

This gives the state Democratic Party the power to decide who will replace Bayh on the ballot. In all likelihood, it will probably be either Rep. Brad Ellsworth or Rep. Baron Hill.

UPDATE IV: The above-linked Politico article gives us a taste of what’s to come:

The state Democratic Central Committee, a group of 32 party leaders loyal to Bayh, must choose a candidate by June 30. Bayh’s late decision effectively prevented the prospect of a contested primary for his seat — and allows the senator to play a pivotal role in determining his successor.

Michael Steele, Anchor (UPDATED)

Republican donors are shunning the RNC.

The reason? Chairman Michael Steele:

Some wealthy contributors are shunning the Republican National Committee and donating instead to the other GOP campaign committees or directly to candidates – in many cases because of discontent with the leadership of Michael S. Steele, the party’s national chairman.

I don’t plan to give to the Republican National Committee this cycle, and no other major donor I know is planning to either,” Christine Toretti, a Pennsylvania RNC member and a longtime major donor to the RNC and other GOP campaign committees and causes, told The Washington Times.

[…]

Mr. Steele, a former Maryland lieutenant governor, has had a contentious tenure as RNC chairman after his election a year ago, with open infighting among party officials over his leadership.

The Times first reported displeasure by RNC members, including several former party chairmen, over Mr. Steele’s acceptance of pay for speeches while holding down his full-time job as national chairman, for which he receives $223,500 a year plus unlimited expenses. To the further consternation of party elders and many rank-and-file members, he has embarked on a promotional tour for his new book, “Right Now: A 12-Step Program for Defeating the Obama Agenda.”

[Emphasis mine]

Republicans are desperately trying to keep this simmering scandal from boiling over.

Considering how much they have at stake this year, this is probably the worst time for major intraparty infighting.

The GOP spin is that their party is motivated and united, ready for major victories in November. The reality, though, is that the GOP is an  underfunded, infighting, disorganized group now being set upon by they very conservative activist they spawned.

And at the center of it all, weighing the whole shebang down even further, is Chairman Michael Steele.

UPDATED: The Michael Steele fracas threatens to boil over:

House and Senate leadership aides are furious with RNC chair Michael Steele and have angrily confronted the RNC’s press shop over their inability to keep the chair on message.

In the course of a regular daily conference call between senior Congressional communicators, House and Senate aides berated RNC staffers over Steele’s comments that the GOP would not be able to take back the House, and that even if they did, the party would not be prepared to lead.

A senior Senate aide brought up Steele’s comments, arguing that he was ruining what should be several days of glowing press for the GOP in the wake of retirement announcements from Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Chris Dodd (D-CT).

“Steele is setting us far back with his comments and it needs to stop,” the aide said, according to 2 sources who were on the call.

[Emphasis mine]

Donors are angry, Congressional aides are angry…is Steele even going to be around for the GOP’s inevitable disappointing performance in November?

BREAKING: Ritter Out (UPDATED X3)

We have another shocker this evening–various outlets are reporting that Colorado Governor Bill Ritter (D) is ending his re-election campaign.

From Political Wire:

A source tells Political Wire that Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter (D) is ending his re-election campaign. A fundraiser scheduled for tonight was canceled and all campaign staff was sent home in the middle of the day.

[Emphasis mine]

And Marc Ambinder tweets:

Another stunner for Dems: CO Gov. Bill Ritter is dropping out of the race.

There has been no official confirmation, but if it’s true it will be a pretty baffling turn of events–Ritter is popular, his fundraising was going well and polling was pretty favorable.

The only motivator I can think of is that some of the polling comparing Ritter to former Rep. Scott McInnis–the probable GOP candidate–showed a very tight race, but a handful of polls taken a significant time before election day doesn’t really warrant dropping out.

Regardless, I’ll follow this as the night wears on…

UPDATE: The Fix confirms and lists some potential replacement Dem candidates:

Democrats are likely to turn to either former state House SpeakerAndrew Romanoff or Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper to replace Ritter. Romanoff is currently challenging appointed Sen. Michael Bennet in a Democratic primary and if he could be convinced to switch races would solve two problems for the party.

UPDATE II: The Hotline also confirms and discusses the likely Dem candidates:

Ritter’s departure could leave Dems scrambling for a candidate just 11 months before Election Day, but the party has strong potential candidates. 3 of the 4 other statewide elected officials are Dems, and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper (D) has long contemplated running for statewide office.

In ’06, Hickenlooper largely froze the Dem field while he thought about running, leaving Ritter — who had already entered the race — with a dry fundraising field. Hickenlooper would be an instant frontrunner on the Dem side if he chooses to run.

UPDATE III: The Denver Post is reporting that Gov. Ritter will hold a press conference explaining his decision at 11:00 AM tomorrow (1:00 PM here on the east coast).

They also mention Interior Secretary (and former Sen.) Ken Salazar and prominent Rep. Ed Perlmutter as potential Democratic candidates.