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There are more Cooks in the RNC’s kitchen

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Jonathan Strong
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      Jonathan Strong

      Jonathan Strong, 27, is a reporter for the Daily Caller covering Congress. Previously, he was a reporter for Inside EPA where he wrote about environmental regulation in great detail, and before that a staffer for Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA). Strong graduated from Wheaton College (IL) with a degree in political science in 2006. He is a huge fan of and season ticket holder to the Washington Capitals hockey team. Strong and his wife reside in Arlington.

If it wasn’t enough for Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele’s former personal assistant, her son and her sister to be leading the preparations for the party’s national convention in Tampa in 2012, fear not. There are more Cooks in the RNC’s kitchen.

Also on the payroll of the Committee on Arrangements for the Republican National Convention is Pamela Kesner, Belinda Cook’s niece.

Kesner is, according to her Facebook profile, a student at the University of Tampa, class of 2013. She received an “intern stipend” of $800 in July, but in August began receiving a salary. In September, she was paid an amount that would equate to a year’s pay of $50,852.

Erik Rohrmann, another GOP official working on the convention, is a college friend of Lee Cook, Belinda’s son. The two played lacrosse together at the Virginia Military Institute. Rohrmann was paid $10,761 in September, an amount that would equate to a year’s pay of $129,139.

Grace Cushing, also on the Arrangement Committee’s payroll, previously worked at the RNC as Belinda Cook’s assistant. The two were close friends, Republican sources say. Cushing was paid $11,024 in September, an amount that would equate to a year’s pay of $132,289.

The HouseIf you’ve lost track, Steele installed his former personal assistant Belinda Cook as the RNC’s “liaison to the convention.” She received a $25,000 signing bonus and salary of $180,000. The party is also paying rent on a 3,200 square foot waterfront mansion with private pool and dock for Cook to reside in.

Cook’s sister, Betina Barcus, has been paid over $25,000 for “hotel management consulting.”

Cook’s son, Lee, is on the payroll, as is her niece, Pamela. And Lee’s college buddy is getting paid, too. Finally, Belinda Cook’s former assistant and friend Cushing is making money.

The extended Cook cabal took home a total of $139,923 in the three month reporting period from July 1 to Sept. 30.

Critics are incensed by what may be the most remarkable case of cronyism since George W. Bush picked Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court. Of nine employees on the payroll for the convention work, six are known to have close family or friendship connections to Belinda Cook.

On Monday, Solomon Yue, a member of the RNC’s Executive Committee, demanded an investigation into the suspicious contracts.

“When Tea Party activists talk about changing Washington, they mean getting rid of these kind of ‘politics as usual’ practices,” Yue told The Daily Caller. “As a member of the RNC Executive Committee, it is our fiduciary responsibility under the Good Governance resolution to look into all those contracts in order to bring back the check and balance practice.”

A spokesman for Steele, Doug Heye, referred questions to Cook, who has not replied to phone messages left over the last several days. TheDC also made efforts to contact every other person named in this story. Only Rohrmann replied, saying he is “not permitted to give interviews.”

  • erehwon

    Here’s a picture of Belinda Cook. Wonder why no one has published photos of her, her sister, her niece or all of the other relaiives? They are all part of Steele’s Baltimore ‘homeys, girlfriends and ‘personal assistants’.

    Here’s a link. http://lh5.ggpht.com/_Kjbko-qI_7Q/SqBicAjMBBI/AAAAAAAAAWQ/MACGsxuCY4M/s640/scan0236.jpg

    Looks like she just moved in down there on Treasure Island, and is looking in the yellow pages for decorators. I wonder if there will be an extra bedroom or two for the head ‘homey’ in charge at the RNC for when he decides to go down there to take a look at the arrangements for the convention still two years away.

    Is it any wonder that RNC donors have decided to move their contributions to less venal conservative organizations? Why is there even a controversy about whether Steele leaves on his own or his thrown out on his corrupt black a$$?

    • dart53

      This is NOT a picture of Belinda Cook. The real Belinda Cook is actually white. Old friends and neighbors often wondered how her family lives so high on the hog with her husband driving a truck for Giant Food and her, rather uneducated, working as a part time/seasonal political assistant. Hmmm….

  • craigiri

    Steels behavior must be Obamas fault. If he was not a Socialist Marxist, then it would not have happened.
    :-)

  • Pingback: One more scandal for the road: Michael Steele end's RNC tenure with more incompetence - Politics & Current Affairs Forum

  • Patrick Henry

    Steele’s behaviour confirms the following:
    1) All the pigs feeding at the trough are not Democrats, most, but definitely not all.
    2) NEVER, NEVER send your precious political donations to any acronym organization like the RNC,RSCC etc. ALWAYS, ALWAYS send your money directly to the candidate of your choice.

    • SteveM

      Good advice. And never send your precious political donations to the Tea Party Parasites at FreedomWorks:

      Dick Armey salary: $500,000.00
      Matt Kibbe salary: $300,000.00

      And oh-so-Steele-like Matt Kibbe has his wife on the FreedomWorks payroll as a “Management Consultant”.

      Save your bucks donating to Heritage too. President Ed Feulner is taking home $1,000,000.00. After all, a Beltway insider can only get so fat and so happy.

      BTW, last time I looked, none of those guys actually produced anything but hot air. Pretty expensive gasbags…

      • Patrick Henry

        Good advice although I think there is a substantial difference between a purely political organization like FreedomWorks and a think tank like Heritage.
        Heritage survives on donations but they also create revenue whereas FreedomWorks probably doesn’t.

        • craigiri

          >>Heritage survives on donations but they also create revenue

          Uh, what revenues do they create? Are you talking about talking head speaker fees, selling a couple brochures or hosting a lunch?

          These guys are largely responsible for the Iraq war and other debacles….including trillions in spending.

          What they call “income” comes from right wing funding providers:
          “Between 1985 and 2003, Media Transparency reports that the following funders provided $57,497,537 (unadjusted for inflation) to the Heritage Foundation”

          It’s been vastly MORE in recent years. The only real difference between the Heritage Foundation and FW is that the Heritage Foundation had been around long enough and most people don’t get past the name (a nice one) and think they are actually a bonafide center or center-right org…when, in fact, they are furthest right of the mainstream think tanks.

          The right has established or taken over dozens…maybe hundreds of similar orgs….so that they can come at us from all angles – everything from the Chamber of Commerce to the Catholic League to the American Enterprise Institute. It’s like a big shell game. When Freedomworks dies out, Exxon and the Koch oil barons and the others will fund some new and nice-sounding “peoples” orgs. What else is new?

    • erehwon

      Good advice in general, but Haley Barbour, Jim DeMint and others have made much better use of my (and your) dollars this last election cycle. Just keep it up. Vote Steele out in January with your wallets, and complain to everyone from your precinct rep all the way to the top of your state’s Republican Party. I would hope that there are still some honest people in the RNC, but it’s hard to know who those are, or Steele would have been out on his a$$ after his first few scandals and money wasting adventures. It sure isn’t Steele or his ghetto homeboys and homegirls, though.

  • kroyall

    Ann Coulter and Sarah Palin call your office. I don’t know why certain “conservatives” have stuck up for this inept, corrupt moron.

  • Major_Skidmark

    Steele – out.

    Palin for RNC.

    • TIMMY

      Palin for Speaker ofthe house! The speaker does not haveto be an elected member

    • craigiri

      >Palin for RNC

      Just her wardrobe would be more than Steeles family! Let alone her private jets, fitted out Buses, etc.
      No way she would fly a commercial airline!

      I flipped channels past her Alaska show the other day….wow, she gulps fuel by the tens of thousands of gallons……planes, million dollar RV’s, etc.

      Oh, the other thing. She won’t work. A chairperson has to be someone who sits down behind the scenes and talks to people and makes them come together, etc.

      Someone who shrieks and who most of the party does not like….would not quite be the “right” choice.

      Give it to Pawlenty or some “normal” person.

  • 68Truthseeker

    Author on Fox News: Obama’s Grandmother Said Barack was born in Mombasa, Kenya

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFM6dJ6XRsw

    • scorpioman

      truthseeker, If you’re really interested in truth, don’t count on FOX to deliver.

      The book is fiction. FOX is all about fiction.

  • joshcomm

    Michael NEEDS to go. A good portion of donations were NOT sent to the RNC due to Steele and the direction of the GOP, but directly given to the candidates that truly represent the people. I won’t give to the RNC as long as Steele is in there, and if the GOP follows the course “politics as usual.”

    • The_anniebanannie

      “A good portion of donations were NOT sent to the RNC due to Steele and the direction of the GOP, but directly given to the candidates that truly represent the people”

      Is that a bad thing? I’m not so sure that needs to be changed.

      • Patrick Henry

        The real problem with Steele is he has been ENORMOUSLY unproductive. In addition to that, his “personal antics” have moved the spotlight off the issues to his feckless leadership.