Politics

Steele was flying home from Hawaii during RNC-funded after party at bondage-themed L.A. nightclub

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele was flying home from Honolulu the night young Republican donors and at least one RNC staffer – who has now been fired – were partying at Voyeur West Hollywood, a bondage-themed nightclub featuring topless women dancers imitating lesbian sex.

Steele hosted the RNC’s winter retreat in Honolulu, telling local television station KHON, “This is not a vacation” while sporting a Hawaiian shirt and lei. “When the expense was incurred … Steele was … returning from the RNC Winter Meeting,” RNC spokesman Doug Heye said.

The RNC now says it is firing a staffer for an “improper request” related to the $1,946.25 expense at Voyeur.

Some GOP donors are calling for Steele to resign in the wake of the revelations about the RNC’s expenses, which include the nightclub, lavish hotels, private planes and limousines.

“This incident does not help the RNC leadership dispel the charge that they are nothing but duplicitous high rollers and big spenders at a time when we should have the president and his collectivist friends on the ropes we find our leadership on the defensive,” former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, who Steele beat in his campaign for RNC chair, told the Politico.

The California blog Red County reported the RNC-paid bar tab at the risqué Hollywood nightclub was part of a night of cultivating young Republican donors. According to the report, the night began with about 50 young donors at the Beverly Hills Club (where documents show the RNC spent $9,099) and ended at Voyeur.

California Republican political consultant Erik Brown originally incurred the Voyeur expense and was reimbursed by the RNC, documents show.

According to his Twitter account, Brown was close to Steele – the two recently watched a Redskins vs. Eagles football game together in Washington. “Enjoying the football game with RNC Chairman Michael Steele. (Eagles vs Redskins at FedEx Field),” Brown wrote Oct. 26. Brown has since apparently deleted his Twitter account.

“It is unfortunate that a loyal GOP donor who has recruited other donors became involved in this incident while merely trying to help what turned out to be the improper request of a staffer who is no longer with the committee,” Heye said.

Some California politicians who had paid Brown for consulting services in the past said they only had a tangential business relationship with him. “I buy letterhead and envelopes from the guy. I pay him for printing signs and stuff like that,” Assemblyman Chuck Devore told ABC News. A spokesman for the Steve Poizner for Governor campaign, Jarrod Agen, also distanced himself and his candidate from Brown in a Daily Caller interview.

A plethora of Republicans have purchased Brown’s services including former presidental candidates Mitt Romney and John McCain, according to FEC filings.

Besides the bondage-themed nightclub expense, Steele is under fire for expensive chartered planes, hotels and limousines.

Steele’s penchant for private travel is well known, but according to two knowledgeable sources, Steele once also raised the possibility of using party money to buy a private jet.

While Steele has not purchased a plane, he continues to charter them. According to FEC filings, the RNC spent $17,514 on private aircraft in the month of February alone (as well as $12,691 on limousines during the same period). Democratic National Committee chairman Tim Kaine has used a private plane twice in his tenure, a spokesman said; both times donors lent Kaine the use of their planes because of “flight cancellations” and were reimbursed by the DNC.

Heye said RNC criticism over the revelations about the Voyeur nightclub expense were appropriate. “We think it was proper that the committee was called to the carpet on this expenditure because it was not proper and that’s why the chairman made sure immediately that it was made clear that it was unacceptable,” Heye said in an interview with Megyn Kelly on Fox News.