Steele, Kaine: Both Parties Living High on the Hog?
For the fourth day in a row, Democrats are gleefully hammering away at the Republican National Committee's payment of $1,946 for "meals" at a West Hollywood strip club, which led to the firing of a committee staffer and continues to focus unwanted attention on National Chairman Michael Steele's management of the RNC.
The latest jab, in the form of an MSNBC YouTube clip being circulated by the Democratic National Committee, highlights criticism of Steele by Tony Perkins, a leading social conservative. Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, is advising members to stop donating to the RNC until the national party gets its financial act together.
"We're simply telling folks, 'Look, don't give your money there,'" said Perkins, whose appearance on the liberal network was interspersed with file footage of Steele and a private jet coming in for a landing.
Perkins pointed to "what appears to be excessive spending (by the RNC) at a time of economic hardship for most of the country." It is a criticism that has trailed Steele for months, as The Baltimore Sun reported back in January.
Back then, the issue was Steele's decision to convene the RNC's winter meeting at a Hawaiian beach resort. Now it's his spending for private jets and limos, and the infamous night for young donors at a lesbian-themed club (which Steele did not attend).
After suffering perhaps the worst publicity of Steele's 14-month tenure as chairman, RNC officials responded, belatedly, this week by pointing out that Democrats haven't been exactly pinching pennies under their national chairman, Tim Kaine.
“The DNC spent at least $2,204,000 for luxury hotels and caterers,” Doug Heye, the RNC's top spokesman, wrote in an e-mail.
Thursday afternoon, a new posting by the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, a DC watchdog on money in politics, attempts to sort out the facts. It concludes that the national committees of both major parties "sometimes spend lavishly on travel, catering, resorts and hotel accommodations."
On its informative Open Secrets website, it invites any interested parties to dig into the fine print and do their own investigating. The same information can also be accessed (in the form of searchable PDF files) from the original source, the Federal Election Commission.
As presented by the Center for Responsive Politics, Democrats indulged their taste for the good life at the Mandarin Oriental in Washington, the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco and the Beverly Hills Hilton, three of the tonier hostelries in America.
Steele got whacked this week for spending RNC money at the Beverly Hills Hotel. A room there will set you back a minimum of $390 (taxes not included) for the night of April 15 (chosen at random but coincidentally the day your taxes are due). The same night at the Beverly Hills Hilton, the DNC's hotel choice, goes for $345, though you can get a non-refundable rate of $231.
The No. 2 vendor in the country on the RNC's spending list was the Gaylord National Resort in Maryland. The RNC dropped $172,494 at the hotel, located on Steele's Prince George's home turf and personally chosen by the chairman for a special RNC meeting last year. No doubt the county's Democratic establishment would have nothing but praise for Steele's decision to stimulate the local economy and bring many national media and political figures to the Potomac River resort for the first time.
Also on the RNC spending list: the Four Seasons Resort in Jackson Hole, WY (in the heart of Cheney country and a favorite of deep-pocketed financiers), right behind National Harbor at $148,128. No. 6 on the RNC spending list was $206,541 for Moby Dick Airways, which arranges private charter flights.
The top recipient of spending by either national committee was $298,989 by the DNC to Avalon Caterers, which buys a lot of boiled shrimp. The caterer's satisfied clients, according to Avalon's website, include such blue-collar favorites as ExxonMobil Corp., Air Bus Industrie of North America and mega defense contractor SAIC, as well as The Washington Post and CBS.