Saul Anuzis steps up to battle Michael Steele for RNC chairmanship

Chris Moody Contributor

The first candidate to throw his hat in the ring for the Republican National Committee chair in November, national GOP committeeman Saul Anuzis said the RNC needs a fresh start after a tumultuous two years that involved a host of “gory details” that “donors and activists don’t want to relive.”

“We have to make a clean break with the past two years to regain the trust of our supporters,” Anuzis told The Daily Caller.

For starters, Anuzis has been critical of current RNC Chairman Michael Steele’s costly management style, which involved spending levels that some have argued were excessive. In February 2010 alone for example, the RNC dropped $17,514 for private jets and $12,691 for limousines. Despite saying in May that Steele’s expenses were “justified,” Anuzis is planning on arranging an internal task force to act as a watchdog on party spending and seeking outside groups to monitor where RNC dollars are spent.

“We’re going to put strict controls in place,” he said. “We’re not going to squander money on lavish travel, and our party’s funds aren’t going to be spent at places we wouldn’t even want our kids to know about.”

The latter reference, “places we wouldn’t even want our kids to know about,” was an obvious dig at Steele’s RNC for approving an expense for thousands of dollars at a lesbian bondage-themed nightclub in Hollywood, California last spring. (Steele announced earlier this month that he would seek a second term as RNC chair.)

Anuzis, a son of Lithuanian immigrants who did not speak English until beginning grammar school, got his start with the Republican Party 30 years ago when he was selected as a Michigan delegate to the 1980 Republican National Convention in Detroit. He was one of the youngest delegates on the floor at the time and has since climbed the ladder of Michigan state politics, running campaigns, fund raising and working on staff for a state representative. He’s also the only candidate on the ticket who was once a member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters; Anuzi joined the union while working his way through college as a truck loader.

Most recently, Anuzi served as the chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, and has spent years building his personal brand online through Twitter, Facebook and his blog. He added that the party has room to grow on the web, despite the 2009 launch of the RNC’s website, GOP.com, which cost the party millions of dollars to build.

“We’re still not as strong in the digital field as we should be,” he told TheDC. “We made progress over where we were in 2008, and we’ve caught up to the Democrats. Now we’re going to innovate and surpass them.”

To do that, Anuzis, who has made somewhat of a name for himself among Republicans for his focus on social media, said he is planning a nationwide online program to “equip and empower every grassroots activist with digital tools, based on social media and mobile platforms.” The program, called “GOP Everywhere,” will give grassroots Republican activists the ability to coordinate “wherever they are, any time of the day or night,” Anuzis said. The details are still in the works.

Two years after a six-way race for the chairmanship, the ballot for the top RNC job is filling up: Anuzis is up against Steele, former RNC aide Gentry Collins, former RNC official Maria Cino, RNC legal counsel Reince Priebus and former RNC co-chair Ann Wagner.

Anuzis will face the other candidates for the RNC chair in a debate hosted by The Daily Caller and Americans for Tax Reform on Jan. 3 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. The debate will be live-streamed at RNCDebate.org, where viewers can submit questions for the candidates.

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