There are more Cooks in the RNC’s kitchen

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.
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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.”