Steele slapped down by RNC establishment?

posted at 3:34 pm on May 6, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

The Washington Times reports that Michael Steele has been forced to backtrack on his ambitious reorganization of the RNC.  Steele had tried cleaning house to remake the RNC into a leaner, younger, and less traditional unit, but the GOP establishment had pushed back hard.  They forced Steele to reinstate a series of checks and balances on power within the RNC, including the return of one of the key people Steele booted in the transition:

Capitulating to critics on the Republican National Committee, embattled Republican Party Chairman Michael S. Steele has signed a secret pact agreeing to controls and restraints on how he spends hundreds of millions of dollars in party funds and contracts, The Washington Times has learned.

The “good governance” agreement revives checks and balances Mr. Steele resisted implementing for RNC contracts, fees for legal work and other expenditures that were not renewed after the 2008 presidential nominating contest.

The agreement, proposed by several current and former RNC officials, goes further, making 33-year RNC veteran Jay Banning, who was fired by Mr. Steele along with his deputy last month, an on-call adviser to the RNC treasurer. Mr. Banning was seen as a trusted liaison to RNC members critical of Mr. Steele’s tenure and financial management.

“I regard them – the Steele administration – bound by it,” former Republican National Committee General Counsel David Norcross told The Times on Tuesday.

The battle comes at a curious time.  Steele got off to a rough start, engaging in a series of dramatic fumbles in his first few days as RNC chair by allowing a Nazi comparison to pass on the DL Hughley show and engaging in a brief and superfluous snit with Rush Limbaugh.  After getting the clear message to focus on his RNC tasks, though, Steele managed to generate very respectable fundraising figures, outpacing his opponent at the DNC, Governor Tim Kaine, by a wide margin.

Given that Steele quickly righted the ship and performed well at his main task — getting cash into the coffers — why rock the boat now?  Ralph Hallow’s report makes it sound as though RNC members became concerned over Steele’s dismantling of key oversight processes.  They made a point of forcing Steele to accept Banning, a definite walkback for the new RNC chair.  There seems to be a significant level of mistrust over the handling of the money Steele’s raising, or at least enough caution to keep him from jettisoning their ability to control the funds.  Hallow says that this is unprecedented in the RNC’s history, but to be fair, these controls got imposed in 2004 in response to concerns at the time, too.

This is a step back for Steele, but perhaps a healthy one, and early enough in the cycle to heal.  It shows that Steele’s opponents still don’t have the support to remove him, but have enough influence to matter.  If Steele keeps outpacing the DNC in fundraising and revamps its communications and activist infrastructure in time to gain significant seats in the midterms, all of this will be nothing more than a footnote to Steele’s career.


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Checks and balances are good. And having more than one set of eyes watching the books is never a bad thing. It should make contributors more confident.

petunia on May 6, 2009 at 3:40 PM

Checks and Balances area good thing.

Consider Obama.

pseudonominus on May 6, 2009 at 3:40 PM

I am not sure what to think about all this.

Some time back RedState was exercised about Steele firing a large portion of the internet staff that were needed to advance the cause on the net. Apparently some dude who took the job with the RNC left, went back to Seattle without another job and all of this was because of conflicts with Steele.

The RNC had recently been in trouble with some financial dealings and perhaps this was a response to that. Steele is still having to defend himself against a kerfuffle that arouse because of his sister being paid for services rendered during his campaign a while back. Steele is clear, but maybe this was a reaction to that whole situation.

The part I do not like is him caving to the Establishment. The Base is not going to like him caving. We cannot make moves forward if the same old duds and dunderheads are around.

freeus on May 6, 2009 at 3:42 PM

” If Steele keeps outpacing the DNC in fundraising and revamps its communications and activist infrastructure in time to gain significant seats in the midterms, all of this will be nothing more than a footnote to Steele’s career.”

Yea…………

…………. but what kind of mustard does he like?

Seven Percent Solution on May 6, 2009 at 3:44 PM

Steele managed to generate very respectable fundraising figures, outpacing his opponent at the DNC, Governor Tim Kaine, by a wide margin.

Is it Steele? I think there is a causational problem here.

lorien1973 on May 6, 2009 at 3:45 PM

Seven Percent Solution on May 6, 2009 at 3:44 PM

No no. It’s “are his boobs fake?”

lorien1973 on May 6, 2009 at 3:45 PM

I like Steele, but those early missteps were very, very alarming. It’s great if he’s a good fundraiser, but something tells me that this is not going to be enough to take back Congress or even to merely retake significant Congressional ground.

His recent statements about how moderates shouldn’t expect to remake the GOP were better.

Kensington on May 6, 2009 at 3:45 PM

It was stupid of Steele to say in an early Chairman interview that the GOP has nothing to offer minorities.

I really appreciated hearing Steele’s frontal attack on Specter upon the defection news conference.

My impression of Steele is that he is a politician who goes with the popularity polls rather than conservative principles.

Thanks for the info on Jay Banning. But given his prominence in the RNC gone RINO progressive era, this all seems to amount to resignation with more progressive purchase power and candidate selection; thwart the conservative drive.

No?

maverick muse on May 6, 2009 at 3:47 PM

what does steele like on his hamburger? god damn it, where is andrea mitchell????

Ghoul aid on May 6, 2009 at 3:48 PM

They should be Joe Biden to watch the money, he’s got plenty of experience with TARP and Spendulous!

kirkill on May 6, 2009 at 3:48 PM

Money in the coffers is great, but finding worthy candidates and running effective campaigns is something that has yet to be seen.

Nethicus on May 6, 2009 at 3:49 PM

My opinion of Steele changed the moment I found out that he holds hands with his wife.

LibTired on May 6, 2009 at 3:50 PM

I’m also unsure how to take this.

We want a powerful leader, who can call the shots and do what needs to be done. Some accountability and oversight is necessary, as we saw the economic shenanigans in the party a few years ago.

Steele is getting a dressing-down of sorts by having to rehire Banning; but, some of us wondered if a NY loss would have him out of the job.

Steele keeps the post, loses a bit of power. Let’s see what develops. I’ve liked his performance much better the past couple of months. I think he also handled the issue over the Catholic leader refusing to attend the pro-life dinner with grace under pressure. IMO.

cs89 on May 6, 2009 at 3:52 PM

Looks like the deck of the tanker is painted green. Who says they don’t compromise.

seven on May 6, 2009 at 3:52 PM

I wish there were more specifics. Simply not enough info here to evaluate. It really depends what Steele wanted to spend the $$ on. The only thing we heard was that he spent $20K to redecorate his office. What I’d like to hear is that Steele wanted to spend a chunk of money sending out an exhaustive questionnaire/survey to the GOP Base in an attempt to get his finger on their pulse. And the RNC members said, “no! We don’t care what the Base thinks”. Or something like that. Who knows? There’s something here that we’re not being told. Something purposely omitted, I’ll wager. DD

Darvin Dowdy on May 6, 2009 at 3:52 PM

I am not sure what to think about all this.

Some time back RedState was exercised about Steele firing a large portion of the internet staff that were needed to advance the cause on the net. Apparently some dude who took the job with the RNC left, went back to Seattle without another job and all of this was because of conflicts with Steele.

The part I do not like is him caving to the Establishment. The Base is not going to like him caving. We cannot make moves forward if the same old duds and dunderheads are around.

freeus on May 6, 2009 at 3:42 PM

I remember that IT loss you cite. That helped to play right into the “Republicans are IT illiterate” MSM mantra.

This timing coincides with Tom Ridge’s formal announcement that he’s going to run against Tancredo who did all of the real campaign trench work, and who would NOT be so blithe with the Homeland Security abuses occurring and being addressed by conservative bipartisan effort including AZ-R Flake.

maverick muse on May 6, 2009 at 3:54 PM

So far except for some missteps at the beginning, I think he is doing a good job.
I can’t even tell you who the last rnc chair was.
I’m not exactly who these people are who are pushing for more oversite. They could be Mccainites
He should be given some slack

kangjie on May 6, 2009 at 3:55 PM

Checks and balances are good. And having more than one set of eyes watching the books is never a bad thing. It should make contributors more confident.

petunia on May 6, 2009 at 3:40 PM

Absolutely. Now if we could only apply them to the federal government. . .

rbj on May 6, 2009 at 3:55 PM

Selecting Steele was a misguided stunt. You should have stayed true to your heritage and chosen the whites-only country club guy.

benny shakar on May 6, 2009 at 4:01 PM

Well, Palin gave him her endorsement at the Evansville RTL dinner. Wonder if that has anything to do with it; keep him in line and show Palin who’s boss.

hrh40 on May 6, 2009 at 4:01 PM

It’s all about results in 2010. If the good guys don’t do well, Steele is out.

He has plenty of time to work magic, lets see if he has any magic to work.

saiga on May 6, 2009 at 4:02 PM

Looks like the deck of the tanker is painted green. Who says they don’t compromise.

seven on May 6, 2009 at 3:52 PM

Wrong thread. But still funny.

mike_NC9 on May 6, 2009 at 4:06 PM

Whatever else this may involve, it’s certainly a distraction.

starfleet_dude on May 6, 2009 at 4:06 PM

It’s tough to know whose demise to cheer.

baldilocks on May 6, 2009 at 4:07 PM

Palin is history. She is a fine Republican with talent, but too green in the statesmanship arena. She will have a tough time re-inventing herself as a serious national candidate possessing the appropriate washington political Demeanor.

Too bad because I like her.

saiga on May 6, 2009 at 4:08 PM

You should have stayed true to your heritage and chosen the whites-only country club guy.

benny shakar on May 6, 2009 at 4:01 PM

As I read this, I keep thinking of a name- A. Lincoln. Where have I heard that name before? Didn’t he have something to do with the GOP at one point?

cs89 on May 6, 2009 at 4:09 PM

It was stupid of Steele to say in an early Chairman interview that the GOP has nothing to offer minorities.

maverick muse on May 6, 2009 at 3:47 PM

What do you mean by ‘offer’?

baldilocks on May 6, 2009 at 4:09 PM

It was stupid of Steele to say in an early Chairman interview that the GOP has nothing to offer minorities.

maverick muse on May 6, 2009 at 3:47 PM

What do you mean by ‘offer’?

baldilocks on May 6, 2009 at 4:09 PM

Bingo.

warbaby on May 6, 2009 at 4:13 PM

Please – if Steele is the best the GOP can muster as party chair, their party isn’t going to get invited to the next party in 2010. I’m sick of seeing this guy learn on the job.

redfoxbluestate on May 6, 2009 at 4:28 PM

The establishment needs to back off and let Steele do what he sees fit. I have no doubt he can do a much better job of reaching out to all voters, and taking the Republican message to all citizens.

There’s no reason for the GOP to not compete in every corner of the country, and among all ethnicities. None whatsoever.

therightwinger on May 6, 2009 at 4:29 PM

*Oh, besides being smeared as racists on a constant basis.

therightwinger on May 6, 2009 at 4:29 PM

There’s gotta be a vast, racist, redneck, bible clinging, gun-toting, right-wing extremist conspiracy behind this move.

…but personally, I think Steele is doing a pretty good job of late. He is certainly raising money and the profile of the GOP moreso than previous leaders…I mean, how many can name the last 3 leaders of the GOP. I know I can’t. (…and Rush and Saracuda don’t count…)

ornery_independent on May 6, 2009 at 4:39 PM

I’m sick of seeing this guy learn on the job.

redfoxbluestate on May 6, 2009 at 4:28 PM

Ya, Precedent Hussein is nauseating that way…

ornery_independent on May 6, 2009 at 4:41 PM

Steele has the Reagan optimistism and ability to actually speak well that been missing from the GOP as of late.

He’s a welcoming figure, IMO….

The people on our side trying to pull him down need to get a life and quit living in the past.

therightwinger on May 6, 2009 at 4:51 PM

Well, I hope the RNC gets its act together and starts sending out some clear messages.

According to an Instapundit link, health care reform is secretly being worked on in DC, and will be sprung this summer (while people are away), through the reconciliation process. Come back after Labor Day, and find you’ll be getting ultimately in a few years, a single-payer, rationed system.

And Redstate reports Arlen may flip and support Card-Check.

Wethal on May 6, 2009 at 4:58 PM

And Redstate reports Arlen may flip and support Card-Check.

Wethal on May 6, 2009 at 4:58 PM

Why would Arlen flip now? Seems to me he’s in a more powerful position by opposing it, unless they give him his seniority back.

ornery_independent on May 6, 2009 at 5:19 PM

What will Steele have to say about the RNC and abortion.

Alan Keyes (headline above) is going to protest Obama’s Notre Dame stroke for abortion. “If this be trespass, then forgive us our trespasses and join us in trespassing until the South Bend jail is filled to overflowing with witnesses to truth; filled beyond capacity; filled until we break the most onerous shackles of all- the ones that bind the heart and mind to evil and our nation to the path of its destruction.”

maverick muse on May 6, 2009 at 5:47 PM

Of course they are raising lots of money. How else can the repubs fund their primary candidates against conservative candidates who dare to be active in the party. Conservatives are their for the contributions and votes only.

TomJW on May 6, 2009 at 5:56 PM

Sigh. Given the current state of the democrap lite party republican party, I think it is prudent to prepare for 40 years of socialist democrap rule.

Zorro on May 6, 2009 at 6:05 PM

It was stupid of Steele to say in an early Chairman interview that the GOP has nothing to offer minorities.

maverick muse on May 6, 2009 at 3:47 PM

What do you mean by ‘offer’?

baldilocks on May 6, 2009 at 4:09 PM

Good question, but more aptly what did Steele mean?

He was talking about the Big Tent and that minorities were not interested in being Republican because the GOP has nothing to offer them, as if the GOP is offering things to whites but not any other people, which is not the case. He was not discussing welfare or entitlement programs, but the Big Tent and having something to offer Americans in order to be relevant.

The GOP has the Constitution to offer everyone, especially minorities. The GOP has leadership and participatory positions for minorities, and has consistently provided minorities opportunities to public service, unlike the KKK DNC.

The GOP was founded to fight slavery and polygamy: EQUAL RIGHTS, all men created equal, equality before the law. THAT trivia is a legacy of monumental significance, but not if overlooked and ignored during interviews with the MSM.

You know the man whose Dream speech that MLK,Jr. quoted (without giving credit) was a Republican black leader (judge?) in public service PRIOR to the Civil Rights movement/legislation. Colin Powell was offered the Cabinet position in order for the Bush presidency to encompass the American population at large, including progressive/military/black heritage. Condi Rice served GWBush well, also. And Steele Chairs the RNC. The list is not to itemize but to appreciate all of the huge efforts to become prepared to serve America so honorably and with distinction, efforts made by minorities and opportunities provided via the GOP.

People need not infer that the opportunity “offered” to serve America within our Constitutional Government is NOTHING.

We want active party members. We offer minorities the same responsibility and success as offered to everyone else. EQUALITY. OPPORTUNITY TO EXCEL. CONSTITUTIONAL PROTECTION.

maverick muse on May 6, 2009 at 6:06 PM

Steele has the Reagan optimistism and ability to actually speak well that been missing from the GOP as of late.

He’s a welcoming figure, IMO….

therightwinger on May 6, 2009 at 4:51 PM

I do agree.

After reading his first big splash interview in a magazine upon becoming Chairman, I read more of his biography, and was very impressed.

He is a good communicator, and I think he really does want to improve the GOP according to the will of the members. He is probably the best “moderate” voice the RNC has now. And he can really deliver when he’s fired up.

maverick muse on May 6, 2009 at 6:12 PM

The sad thing about Steele is that he sees the GOP as another “Old” orginzation that needs new blood and ideas. Hey Mike, when did the US Constitution change? We don’t need no stinking new ideas! Just preach the bill of rights and MEAN it and the GOP will return when the kids have had enough cake and ice cream.

inspectorudy on May 6, 2009 at 6:14 PM

Well, Palin gave him her endorsement at the Evansville RTL dinner. Wonder if that has anything to do with it; keep him in line and show Palin who’s boss.

hrh40 on May 6, 2009 at 4:01 PM

for my money, Palin is the boss. I’ve donated more to her in 2009 than I have the RNC ( $0.00 ) and the RNC will gte no more until I’m certain she’s running in 2012.

Onager on May 6, 2009 at 6:37 PM

Checks and balances are good. Everybody will fall in line. For goodness sakes now, can we stop with the listening tour. It’s so Hillary.

Angry Dumbo on May 6, 2009 at 7:05 PM

Man the GOP sucks.

True_King on May 6, 2009 at 7:14 PM

I can’t recall where I read this in the last few days, but Steele is doing a lot of Republican outreach to cities, minorities, and youth. He apparently was recently behind a grassroots effort in a Chicago neighborhood that habitually votes Democrat, yet the rally had the people fired up on the Republican message.

His instincts might well be correct here.

onlineanalyst on May 6, 2009 at 10:22 PM

I can’t recall where I read this in the last few days, but Steele is doing a lot of Republican outreach to cities, minorities, and youth. He apparently was recently behind a grassroots effort in a Chicago neighborhood that habitually votes Democrat, yet the rally had the people fired up on the Republican message.

His instincts might well be correct here.

onlineanalyst on May 6, 2009 at 10:22 PM

To add to my point, I have received fundraising appeals from Steele specifically earmarked for reaching out to the young. I think that he is more engaged in the idea of using technology and other such methods to appeal to the way the young connect with each other and with ideas.

onlineanalyst on May 6, 2009 at 10:31 PM