We know that after they write their big checks in support of the party, Republicans love to party at a raunchy strip club in Hollywood called Voyeur.
But if I was going to play voyeur, it would be as a fly on that proverbial wall, well within the offices of Republican National Committee headquarters this week to watch events as they unfolded into scandal when it became known that the RNC used donor funds to cover nearly $2,000 in “meals” at an establishment mostly known for lesbian bondage.
To be sure, RNC staffers dutifully churned out press release after statement, expressing shock and dismay that such a thing could ever have happened, while simultaneously offering boilerplate assurances that Chairman Michael Steele certainly knew nothing of this aberration — and, of course, hadn’t actually been in attendance at the festivities regardless.
That’s the damage-control meant for all of us unwashed masses. But what was really done and said within the confines of the RNC suites — other than the aforementioned 24/7 manufacture of public outrage — as the embarrassment mounted?
I can only guess that it started with an incessant loud ringing of phones, with Republican donors, large and small, raising holy hell. Some would be social conservatives, the faithful of the Christian Right, calling in to protest the morality. But I expect, indeed hope, many more simply were rank-and-file supporters incredulous that their hard-earned money was funding such absurdity.
This week’s debacle may be the most, well, colorful — but by no means first— instance of big-spending on the part of the RNC under Steele.
Recent reports indicate that the RNC, which is the main Washington apparatus of the Republican Party, has less than $10 million in hand despite having raised $96 million last year.
That the GOP won elections last year in New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts should be no excuse for the meager balance. If the party spent that much to win a handful of off-year elections, what’s that portend for the 2010 midterms in which it will want to win dozens of races?
If I were peeping in on the Michael Steele organization, I’d also want to satiate a growing curiosity about just how many other times in the past that these same shenanigans might have gone on undiscovered.
It goes without saying that the RNC summarily fired the staffer who put the offending event together, but its official PR on the matter raises more questions than it answers.
The dismissed staffer, identified as Allison Meyer, reportedly was let go because she “was aware that this activity was not eligible for reimbursement and had been previously counseled on this very subject.”
She was previously counseled? That suggests she had been talked to earlier when she put through similar reimbursements before. How many times was that? What other sorts of fundraisers of questionable taste had Meyer or other RNC staffers attempted? Gotten away with?
And then there is the firing itself. Just how did it go down?
Was Steele, or anyone else at the RNC, genuinely angry with Meyer and her Hollywood escapades? Or, instead, was she let go more with anger and disappointment at the fact that she had become sloppy and just gotten caught?
Or, alternately still, was it all just a kabuki dance in which Meyer was “fired” just for damage control, with a wink, a nudge and a promise that the party will find her a campaign job down the line after everything cools off?
Were I a Republican donor, I’d be more interested in watching those at the top of the party who spend my money than in the peep shows they want to invite me to.
The publisher of On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered government and Washington for more than a decade. Capitol Idea is his regular column from Washington.