The Republican National Committee and its chairman, Michael Steele, were engulfed in controversy again on Monday after new financial reports showed that the party used tens of thousands of donor dollars for luxe hotels, private jets and other questionable expenditures.
The disclosures, some of which stem from Steele’s travels to California in January and a subsequent RNC retreat in Hawaii, reignited criticism from fellow Republicans who are troubled by the chairman’s financial stewardship of party’s main committee since he took over more than a year ago.
Although it is not unusual for either party to spend money in tony settings to cater to wealthy donors, the RNC’s latest filings captured widespread attention for one expenditure at a risque nightclub: $1,946.25 for “meals” at Voyeur in West Hollywood, which features topless dancers wearing horse bridles and other bondage gear while mimicking sex acts.
The committee fired an unidentified staff member as a result of the disbursement and emphasised that Steele had not visited the club and was not aware of the expenditure.
The reimbursement went to Erik Brown, a Southern California GOP donor who has spent time with Steele in the past and whose marketing firm has earned more than $160,000 from the RNC and other Republican committees, according to campaign disclosure records.
The RNC’s expenses, first highlighted by the Daily Caller, set off another round of infighting over Steele, whose combative style and frequent pratfalls have earned him friends and enemies.
The chairman angered many party insiders by releasing a book this year without notifying Republican leaders; he stumbled into another controversy this month after the leak of an RNC fundraising document featuring crude caricatures of President Barack Obama and other Democratic leaders.
The February report to the Federal Election Commission lists $17,000 for private jet service; more than $35,000 for upscale hotels; and more than $43,000 in expenses, not including airfare, for the committee’s winter meeting in Hawaii.
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