Hip-Hop Chairman Steele Chasing the Benjamins
December 22, 2009
(ChattahBox)—RNC Chairman Michael Steele, is perhaps the most ridiculous politician in modern history. With his constant foibles and verbal gaffes, Steele is usually attracting attention for all the wrong reasons. This week we heard the Republican chairman bizarrely compare the reform of our broken health care system, to Democrats flipping their middle fingers to Americans. And today, we learn from the Washington Times that three former RNC chairmen really don’t care for the hip-hop Steele. They contributed to a neat little hit piece blasting Steele’s moonlighting, as a paid “inspirational” speaker at $10,000 to 20,000 a pop, plus first-class travel and lodging expenses. When a Republican is flayed by the right-wing Washington Times, it doesn’t bode well for future job security.
According to the right-wing paper:
“Mr. Steele, elected in January to the $223,500-a-year RNC post, is working with at least four outside agencies in Washington, New York, Boston and Nashville, Tenn., that book the speaking engagements. He charges between $8,000 and $20,000 for an address, plus first-class travel and lodging expenses.”
Steele recently spoke at Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Ark. and received between $10,000 and $15,000 and he’s scheduled to give a speech at DePaul University in Chicago, for a fee of $12,500.
Many politicians do quite well financially on the speaking circuit, after leaving office. But it’s unusual for a current party chairman to charge fees for speeches, while in office. The best line of the piece comes from Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr., the RNC chairman under President Reagan and CEO of the American Gaming Association. “Holy mackerel, I never heard of a chairman of either party ever taking money for speeches,” said Fahrenkopf.
“The job of a national chairman is to give speeches. That’s what the national party pays him for. We didn’t have a rule book back then, but being national chairman was and is a full-time job,”‘ Fahrenkopf said.
Jim Nicholson, RNC chairman from 1997 to 2000 weighed in, condemning Steele for lining his pockets. The job as chairman “demands so much of your time that you can work 24/7 and not get everything done, so taking time out to speak for the benefit of one’s own bank account is not appropriate,” said Nicholson.
Rich Bond, another former Republican national chairman, while acknowledging that Steele’s lucrative moonlighting may not violate committee rules, believes that demanding fees for political speeches, while serving as a party chairman just looks bad. “It just doesn’t look right using RNC resources and trading on the title of chairman to make outside money,” said Bond.
RNC spokeswoman Gail Gitcho dismissed the criticisms against Steele’s paid speaking appearances, claiming many party officials earn outside income. “Michael Steele has been giving inspirational speeches based on his personal story long before he was elected RNC chairman and will long after,” said Gitcho.
However, DNC national press secretary Hari Sevugan is not aware of any Democratic national chairman receiving speaking fees, while in office.