Politics & Policy

Steele Was Wary About Greater Debt

Three months before the midterm elections, Michael Steele was wary about incurring more debt, minutes from the GOP budget committee’s August 4th meeting show.

That day, the committee met in Kansas City to plan the last lap of the 2010 campaign. The issue at hand — at least in the portion of the minutes leaked to RNC Watch — was whether to extend the party’s line of credit from $5 million to $10 million. Priscilla Rakestraw, the committeewoman from Delaware, motioned to recommend that the party’s executive committee add another $5 million in credit to fund get-out-the-vote efforts.

“Just a quick question,” Steele interrupted, “How are we going to pay that back?”

“Borrowing 10 million for anything is a rope around your neck,” an unidentified male voice added.

“You’d rather have had that rope around your neck having won 118 seats,” Rakestraw retorted.

“Let’s be very clear what we are doing here,” Steele continued. “This is not the Chairman of the RNC being strung out in the press because now we have $10 million of debt that we didn’t have before. . . . I am going to need to hear those voices out there, of everybody in this room. Because this is the crux of why we are here. I am 1,000 percent behind it. I said before, we presented a conservative budget, revised budget, because I am trying to protect the institution that has been pummelled in the press, unnecessarily, unfairly at the hands of some of our own.”

“Which is disgraceful,” an unidentified female voice interjected.

“Which is disgraceful,” Steele concurred. Later, the chairman concluded, “I am 100 percent [behind it]. But please, y’all, don’t string us out on this.”

Picking up on Steele’s comments, Rakestraw suggested that the party run a bare-bones operation to compensate. The Delaware GOP charged meeting attendees $5 for lunch, Rakestraw said. “And we can do that here,” Steele offered. “And it’s something Jan and I have talked about in trying to make sure that, you know, you don’t get the tchotchkes in the rooms like you used to get. You don’t get all the stuff — all the stuff that we could do when it was free-flowing cash and we didn’t have McCain-Feingold, okay?”

The minutes show Steele wanted to ensure the members’ loyalty. “I think it’s a necessary [move],” he told the committee. “But I just want you to know I’m going to go out and fight — you know, I am on the phone tomorrow raising money for this, to pay for this, all of it, every day.”

Eventually, the committee voted to extend the line of credit. In an interview with RNC Watch, Rakestraw confirms the minutes’ authenticity. “I did not do this lightly,” she says. “We needed get-out-the-vote money. . . . There was an obvious recognition that something had to be done. And that would include the chairman.”

Right before the vote, however, committee chairman Louis Pope, the committeeman from Maryland, made a comment that proved prescient: “Remember, we will still be sitting at this budget table in January, and there is a significant chance that we will still have, and ultimately will need to use the whole 10 million, but there is a good chance we will be looking at a big hole that we have to climb out of.”


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