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Having helped 'Fire Pelosi!' might the same fate now await GOP Chairman Michael Steele?

December 9, 2010 |  7:14 am

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele on his successful cross country Fire Pelosi bus tour October 10-28-10

(UPDATE: Dec. 13 5 p.m.: Michael Steele announces he has decided to seek reelection as RNC chair.)

Coming off a historic midterm election House turnaround, having just forced a weakened incumbent Democratic president to accept the "compromise" of extending all of the tax cuts from his much-denounced GOP predecessor and with optimism mounting over retaking the White House in only 698 days, things should be looking pretty rosy over there at Republican National Committee headquarters.

Not.

Yet more bad money news just out. In quiet amended filings with the Federal Election Commission, the RNC has disclosed that it has yet another $4 million in previously....

...undisclosed debts. This on top of last summer's revelation of $7 million in unknown debts. And the latest documents amended that $7 million to $8.8 million, with the estimated total of at least $20 million.

An accompanying document said the new deficits "were discovered during a self-initiated internal review process." But the dribbling out of debits violates a basic rule of politics: If you have bad news, get it all out at one time.

There have been so many such unfortunate PR chapters during the last 23 months that "embattled" seems to have become Chairman Michael Steele's first name -- the expense account night at a bondage night club, his unannounced speaking fees, public disagreements with prominent party supporters, administrative oversights, laRepublicans Michael Steele and Sarah Palin at a Florida rally 10-23-10st winter's expensive winter committee meeting in Hawaii, already spending more than $600,000 on the 2012 Tampa convention, etc.

It's no easy deal being a national political chairman. When your party holds the Oval Office, the president picks the chairman, as Barack Obama chose Tim Kaine, who then becomes basically a political figurehead and go-fer for the White House's political ops guys.

When your party is out of power as Steele's has been, all the competing would-be kings and queen are running around doing their own thing and finding fault with Washington's unelected direction.

It's not a bad thing for the party of Lincoln to have an African American chairman during the presidential term of an African American Democrat, especially a GOP chairman with the self-made Horatio Alger life story of Steele.

And although his party supporters seem to be falling silent, they could cite his successful national "Fire Pelosi" bus tour this year that harnessed both the "tea party's" fervor and Sarah Palin's star power and helped to fill 69 congressional seats formerly occupied by Democratic bottoms.

Critics claim Steele merely rode a national anti-Obama wave, and what about his inattention to the egos of major donors and nagging administrative details?

Not good timing though for the latest discouraging financial news. Next month the 168-member national committee is scheduled to reelect an incumbent chairman or a brand new chairman -- or perhaps its first chairwoman.

Two women, former Bush campaign and administration official Maria Cino and former RNC co-chair Ann Wagner, have revealed their candidacies along with announced or anticipated candidates such as Saul Anuzis of Michigan, Reince Priebus of Wisconsin and Gentry Collins, a former Steele aide. Two years ago it took six ballots to settle on Steele.

Steele has not yet announced his intentions. Allies say he controls the largest block of committee members, about half the 85 needed for election. But there is a floating coalition of perhaps 50 other RNC members who collectively know only that they oppose Steele.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images; Matt Stroshane / Getty Images.

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