The Hip Hop HNIC is flying high in private jets, and livin’ large on the RNC’s expense account! Mikkie is the Republican version of “Dollar Bill” Jefferson – and it wouldn’t terribly surprise me if some of those “outrageous fees” paid private consultants isn’t making it’s way into Uncle Mikkie’s freezer.
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.
For some major GOP donors, both decisions were symbolic of the kind of wasteful spending habits they claim has become endemic to his tenure at the RNC. When Ken Mehlman served as the committee chairman during the critical 2006 midterm elections, the holiday party was held in a headquarters conference room and Chic-fil-A was the caterer.
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.”
Louis M. Pope, who chairs the RNC’s Budget Committee, defends Steele’s expenses, arguing that a bump in costs is unavoidable for a party that lacks control of any of the levers of government. “Michael Steele does travel more, but he’s in far more demand. He’s a huge part of the fundraising apparatus,” said Pope. “Nobody is living it up at the RNC. There are a number of upscale events, but those are all profitable.”
But disclosure reports document the exodus of prominent donors who have decided to shift their giving to other party committees. In 2005, the RNC raised $46 million from donors who gave more than $250 and $55 million from small donors. In 2009, Steele’s RNC brought in just $24 million — nearly half as much — from big donors and $58 million from small donors.
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.