Friday, March 5, 2010

Will a Controversial RNC Presentation Bring Down Michael Steele?

Summary: An internal RNC document - mocking donors and encouraging politics of fear - finds its way on to the internet and embarrases party leaders.

On Wednesday, Politico broke one of the most interesting stories about the RNC of the entire 2010 election cycle. An internal document - a PowerPoint presentation by the RNC finance staff - mocked their donors and explained how to play to their shortcomings for fundraising purposes.

There were some other interesting things in the presentation. For example, it mentions how the RNC plans to fight the FEC over soft money, refers to a fundraiser with the firm formerly known as Blackwater, and complains about all the “regulations” the RNC must abide by - even listing the Defense Department, the Patent Office, and Postal Service of regulating them.

The USPS regulations they refer to probably have to do with the “census” fundraising mailers they’ve been doing.

But the most shocking things were how they characterized the Democrats and their own contributors.

The presentation lists two kinds of contributors: the “reactionary” small donors and “ego-driven” large donors.

The small donors, according to the slideshow, do “visceral giving” based on “fear” and “extreme negative feelings” about the Obama Administration. The large donors do “calculated giving” based on “peer-to-peer pressure”, “networking opportunities” and “access [to politicians].”

Of course, large donors are becoming skeptical of the RNC and the committee’s fundraisers have begun to rely more on small donors. Thus, the document says “What can you sell when you do not have the White House, the House or the Senate…? Save the Country from trending toward socialism!”

Finally, one slide includes images of how RNC fundraisers should depict Democrats.

RNC Chairman Michael Steele, and his press staff, have been distancing him from the presentation. Steele even went on Fox News recently to defend himself and his party.

To say a few words in defense of the RNC finance staff, none of what they’re saying is technically untrue. These are well-grounded ways - on both sides of the spectrum - of effectively raising money. Furthermore, the parts of the presentation that have been getting so much attention are a relatively small part of the presentation.

Most of the presentation is pretty boring, and is of little interest to the common person (although it’s loaded with strategic details such as fundraising goals that will be quite useful for the DNC to know).

But this much is true: the RNC finance staff must have been pretty stupid to put such a cynical slant on the game in a document that could be found and posted online, especially one that admits that they’re willing to drive a radical anti-Obama message for the sake of raising money.

This is not the first time we’ve mentioned that the RNC is having problems - including fundraising difficulties - during the 2010 cycle. In fact, despite all the predicted success for the GOP this year, these internal issues are weighing down on their optimism.

I would go a step further than simply acknowledging some problems in the RNC. I would say that the committee has been completely falling apart lately. Furthermore, it all seems to have started when Michael Steele took over as chairman.

This latest scandal is just one more disaster on top of an already dismal position for the Republican National Committee. Steele has not been popular with committee members for some time now, and - depending on their internal rules, which I’ll admit I am unfamiliar with - they may impeach him or at least demand a resignation in due time.

I now have to imagine that he won’t complete his term at the RNC. So here’s the question: just how much longer can Steele last?

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