RNC chair Michael Steele defended his [intlink id=”735758″ type=”post”]spending practices[/intlink] Monday morning, saying he has no plan to resign, and at one point suggesting that criticism of his tenure may be rooted in racism.
“I tend to come at it a little bit stronger, a little bit more streetwise if you will,” Steele explained to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America, in his first interview since [intlink id=”713040″ type=”post”]the Daily Caller broke the news[/intlink] last week that the RNC paid almost $2,000 at a risqué, bondage themed night club. “That’s rubbed some feathers the wrong way. At the end of the day, I’m judged by if I win elections and raise the money. That’s a standard I’m very comfortable with and meeting in November.”
Asked if “as an African-American” he has “a slimmer margin for error than another chairman would,” Steele replied: “The honest answer is yes.” Steele went on to explain that, like Barack Obama, he has had to contend with racism as someone who is “not ole boy network.”
Steele’s comments on race occured in the second part of the interview at the 1:01 minute mark.
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After Stephanopoulos showed Steele a recent poll of Republican insiders that states 71 percent find him to be a liability, Steele said “they’ve been saying that since the day I got the job.” The chairman said he will not resign in the wake of the scandal and said the RNC is “taking steps” to fix the internal problems that allow financial irregularities to occur.
“The reality of it is, when I first heard about the behavior going on, I was very angry and we dealt with it,” Steele explained. “We got to the bottom of it. The employee was summarily dismissed for going against our internal policies and finance. We have been putting great controls in place for the last few months, as a matter of fact, on some of our finances.”
Despite FEC filings showing the RNC spent money on high-end hotels and airfare, Steele said he’s not the one the committee is spending the money on. “Those numbers that they talked about, you know, I’m not staying in fancy hotels — and Four Seasons — and flying around in corporate jets.”
But when Stephanopoulos pressed him, Steele rejected the notion that the RNC has spent more money than taken in. “No, I had more money left over at the end of the— I had a budget, I inherited a budget that had zero dollars left at the end of 2009.”
FEC filings show that Steele began his tenure in January 2009 with $22.8 million, and has since raised $96.2 million. During the same period, however, the RNC has spent $109.6 million, for a deficit of $13.4 million. A March 20 FEC filing shows the RNC has $9.5 million cash on hand.
Steele defended the RNC’s finances, pointing to money spent on Republican wins in New Jersey, Virginia, Massachusetts and 37 other races other state legislature and mayor races around the country. “We have managed the money in a way that has allowed us to compete in some races that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to compete in”
Steele also claimed he raised more money than the Democrats did in 12 months and that the RNC carried over same amount of money the DNC did from last year to this year.
Despite dismissing those “unnamed Republicans” who don’t like him and who speak to the press anonymously, Steele said, “I hear my donors. I hear my base out there. I hear the leadership.”
“And we’re taking steps to make sure that we’re even more — how should I say it — fiscally conservative in our spending and certainly making sure that the dollars are there when its time to run our campaigns,” he said.
UPDATE: White House spokesman Robert Gibbs weighed in on Steele’s race claim today during a gaggle with reporters. “That is a fairly silly comment to make. I think Michael Steele’s problem isn’t the race card, it’s the credit card.”