Chief of Staff Resigns from Steele's RNC; Fundraiser Also Quits as Criticism Mounts

Article excerpt

Byline: Ralph Z. Hallow, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Republican National Committee Chief of Staff Ken McKay, frustrated with inaction by his boss, has resigned and will be replaced by Mike Leavitt, a former campaign aide to embattled RNC Chairman Michael S. Steele, The Washington Times has learned.

Wealthy veteran RNC fundraiser Sam Fox, unhappy with the negative publicity the RNC has received under Mr. Steele's command, has also resigned as the top volunteer for the RNC's major donor fundraising program, The Times has learned.

The twin blows to Mr. Steele came Monday, the same day he said in an interview on ABC's Good Morning America that his race was at least in part the motivation for the virtually unrelenting criticism he has received from fellow Republicans, including some of the most respected former national party leaders.

Also Monday, Republicans on his national committee, including a staunch Steele defender, disputed his assertion that he and President Obama suffer from a double standard - a higher performance bar - because they both are black.

The frustration within the RNC over Mr. Steele's management reached a crescendo when he did not fire RNC Finance Director Rob Bickhart for having authorized a female employee - who has since been fired - to forge his signature on a reimbursement request for nearly $2,000 for entertaining donors at a sex-themed Los Angeles nightclub, several current and former party officials confided to The Times on Monday.

Other RNC members said Mr. Steele's playing the race card in a television interview Monday failed to achieve its desired intent of deflecting some of the criticism of his lax financial management and his use for personal gain of his elected post, which pays $223,500 in salary and unlimited expenses.

These RNC members said Mr. Steele's race remarks actually served to deflect the heat Republicans are applying to Mr. Obama and his policies, while polls show those policies are meeting disapproval from a majority of Americans.

No, the bar is not higher and if Michael Steele thinks that was what the brouhaha was about, he is wrong, Alaska Republican National Committee member Debbie Joslin told The Times.

Asked by host George Stephanopoulos on ABC's Good Morning America Monday whether race is the reason that he gets hit with almost daily criticism by his own party, Mr. Steele replied, The honest answer is, 'yes.' Barack Obama has a slimmer margin. A lot of folks do. It's a different role for me to play and others to play and that's just the reality of it. But you take that as part of the nature of it.

Iowa RNC member Steve Scheffler told The Times that he thinks Mr. Steele's claim is out of line.

I do not think criticism of either Obama or Steele - whether someone thinks the criticism is justified or not - is racially based, said Mr. Scheffler. A good example of that is when Obama won the Iowa caucuses in a convincing manner in spite of the fact that Iowa's African-American population is under 3 percent.

Some Republicans have called on Mr. Steele to vacate his post. On Monday, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who has been mentioned as a 2012 Republican presidential candidate, said Mr. Steele should be ousted as chairman.

As a leader, you set the tone for your organization, Mr. Santorum was quoted as saying in Politico. If somebody who worked for my organization did something like this, they would be out of a job.

Still, some say the criticism is unjustified.

I don't think race has anything has to do with it, said Maryland RNC member Louis Pope. But the criticism of him recently is not justified. I think the RNC has run quite efficiently under Michael Steele.

Three of his predecessors broke precedent in December by allowing themselves to be quoted by The Times that they thought it was wrong for Mr. …