Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele has had no trouble attracting media coverage, but holding onto the party’s biggest donors has been more difficult.
Since Steele became chairman in January 2009, a growing number of prominent GOP donors has stopped contributing to the RNC, choosing instead to direct their money to outlets such as the party’s Senatorial Committee.
“There are a whole lot of troubling things going on, and it’s something that gets talked about with some frequency,” said a major Republican donor who spoke on condition of anonymity. “These are people who are longtime, loyal donors — serious, successful people — and to be in the front page of newspapers because someone put a chit in for going to a sex club, it’s just dumb.”
According to filings with the Federal Election Commission, at least eight of the RNC’s top individual donors have declined to contribute in the past 14 months, a list that includes Home Depot co-founder Bernard Marcus and real-estate mogul Harlan Crow. Each of the individuals had a record of contributing thousands to the RNC in past years but since 2009 have chosen to direct their money to the NRSC, National Republican Congressional Committee or individual campaign committees.
Marcus, who did not respond to attempts to contact him, donated $25,000 to the RNC in 2008, but nothing since. In that span he gave $70,000 to the NRSC and $12,500 to the NRCC. Crow gave $27,000 to the RNC in 2008 but nothing after, though he has given almost $90,000 combined to the other two committees. Other donors including telecom tycoon Kenny Troutt and fast food magnate Jason LeVecke followed similar patterns.
Since Steele took over the RNC he has been buffeted by charges of excessive spending, punctuated this week by a Daily Caller story that revealed RNC staffers charged a $2,000 trip to a bondage-themed nightclub in West Hollywood to donors. While a junior staffer in charge of that excursion has been fired, the resulting media firestorm has managed to once again incite Steele’s numerous critics.
While most donors contacted declined to speak on the record, Mark DeMoss, chief executive of an Atlanta-based PR company, has been vocal about his displeasure with Steele following the unearthing earlier this month of an RNC fund-raising document which mocked President Obama, House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
“After the ridiculous presentation by the finance chairman down in Boca Grande, I’d written Michael Steele that I would not contribute to the party or to any of the committees, and would only give now directly to candidates,” DeMoss told The Daily Caller on Tuesday.
While the nightclub charge has drawn the most attention, donors seem more concerned about the RNC’s lavish spending on luxury hotels, limousines and other travel-related expenses.