Bipartisanship over exotic clubs? - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Bipartisanship over exotic clubs?

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Posted: Wednesday, March 31, 2010 9:39 am | Updated: 3:44 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Martin Schram: While it is understandable that Democrats would be unable to conceal their glee at the RNC's Voyeurgate gaffe, one of the curious things about the way Washington works is that it is very easy to find Republicans who are every bit as overjoyed to see that Steele's team has put its foot in it yet again.

Investigators are probing what could be the first eruption of bipartisanship here in Hate-City-on-the-Potomac:

After a year of just saying no, Chairman Michael Steele's Republican National Committee turns out to be a champion of at least a grand old party form of stimulus spending, after all. The only downside may be that the RNC's approval was not exactly given with unbridled enthusiasm. Because bridles (as in horse bridles) turned out to be one of the few things that were worn by the young women performers (along with leashes and other bits of bondage unmentionables) as they mimicked sex acts with each other at the West Hollywood club known as Voyeur on the night that Grand Old Partygoers spent $1,946.25 there.

The money was listed as having been reimbursed for spending on "meals" at the club. The expense item was duly approved by the RNC bean counters and then properly filed with the Federal Election Commission. There it was first reported by the Daily Caller, founded by conservative pundit Tucker Carlson, which reported that the expenditure and reimbursement were required to have been approved by the RNC's finance director Rob Bickhart and chief administrative officer Boyd Rutherford. The Voyeur club expenditure was made by a Republican consultant and donor, Erik Brown, of Orange County, Calif.

Republican readers and donors can take heart from the fact that the RNC's spokesman, Doug Heye, declared of the spending of two grand at the exotic club where bridled women feign faux intimacies: "It was not a sanctioned RNC activity. It was improper because of the venue."

The February FEC filings listed other, sanctioned RNC activities that were conducted at proper venues: RNC spending of $17,500 on private jet flights, $15,000 on limousines and hotel charges including $15,000 at the W Hotel in Washington, $9,000 at the Beverly Hills Hotel, and $7,000 at the Four Seasons in Philadelphia.

So it is that in their own way, Chairman Steele's doctrinaire disciples at the RNC is doing its shovel-ready (see also: whip-ready) best to help jump-start our stagnant economy. Albeit, we are talking here about private political funds, which is quite different from the stimulus money that comes from the U.S. Treasury, which a number of Republican governors have refused to spend in their own states.

Over at the Democratic National Committee's headquarters, the reaction was about as charitable as you might expect -- which is to say: Not at all. Spokesman Brad Woodhouse said, according to The New York Times, "If limos, chartered aircraft and sex clubs are where they think their donors' money should be spent, who are we to judge?"

Lest Democrats get nosebleeds while standing atop their high minded non-judgments, we recall that back when President Nixon's henchmen broke into the Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate building, they later claimed to be looking for evidence that Democrats planned to have young women on boats to entertain prospective contributors during the 1972 Miami Beach convention. We cannot remember if anyone ever found actual evidence of such offshore happenings; but we do recall that nobody ever thought it strained the bounds of credulity.

Fast-forwarding to the present era: In February, Democrats' spending filings reportedly showed the party paid some $11,000 for car and limo services and $32,000 for a weeklong staff retreat at the budged-priced Capital Skyline Hotel.

While it is understandable that Democrats would be unable to conceal their glee at the RNC's Voyeurgate gaffe, one of the curious things about the way Washington works is that it is very easy to find Republicans who are every bit as overjoyed to see that Steele's team has put its foot in it yet again. Steele has rankled the rank and file of the Grand Old Party time and again since becoming party chairman last year. Some don't like his grand spending. Others don't like his gaffe-prone ways. Many fumed at both -- plus his recent assertions made in his controversial book that he never bothered to clear with party leaders.

"I am in this chair," Steele said of his GOP critics just weeks ago. "If they want it, take it from me. Until then, shut up, step back and get in the game and help us win."

Steele's words still sound like a man destined to be a short-timer in his present job.

Martin Schram writes political analysis for Scripps Howard News Service. E-mail him at martin.schram@gmail.com.

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