Republicans spent nearly $2,000 at racy nightclub


WASHINGTONThe Republican National Committee is looking into the expenditure of nearly $2,000 in party funds at a racy nightclub in West Hollywood, an episode that has added to questions about the management practices of Chairman Michael Steele.

A party spokesman said Monday that the RNC reimbursed Erik Brown, president of a southern California firm that has provided direct-mail services to political campaigns, for a Jan. 31 outing at Voyeur West Hollywood. A Los Angeles Times
review described Voyeur as a “risque” club where “provocative scenes
play out above and beyond patrons’ reach,” including themes of bondage.

The expenditure is listed in an RNC monthly campaign finance report and was first reported by The Daily Caller Web site.

RNC spokesman Doug Heye said he has
gotten “a commitment” from Brown to repay the money. Beyond that, the
committee is examining how Brown came to be reimbursed.

Heye insisted that Steele bore no responsibility and had not been aware that party money went toward the event.

Heye gave details of Steele’s itinerary to show he was not at the club. On the night of the outing, Steele was on a United Airlines flight from Hawaii to Los Angeles, returning from the party’s winter meeting, Heye said. The flight left Honolulu at 10:45 p.m., according to a United spokesman.

Steele “immediately determined that we need to find
out exactly the why and the how so it doesn’t happen again,” Heye said.
“His reaction was one of anger.”

A call left for Brown at his company, Dynamic Marketing of Orange, Calif.,
was not returned. He is not employed by the RNC, though he once proudly
mentioned by way of a tweet that he was at a football game in Washington with Steele.

The firm did some direct mailing work for California Republican Steve Poizner’s gubernatorial campaign.

Records show Poizner’s campaign paid the firm more than $10,000 last year for campaign literature and mailings.

Since taking over the RNC, Steele has faced
criticism from some Republican donors over what they see as excessive
spending. In the same monthly report that disclosed the nightclub
visit, the RNC is shown to have spent nearly $11,000 on limousine services, and thousands more in lodging at high-end hotels in Las Vegas, Beverly Hills and New York. About $400 spent at a liquor store on Capitol Hill
was classified in the report as “office supplies.” A person answering
the phone at Congressional Liquors said the store sells no office

Heye, in an interview, said that hotel expenses cover fundraising events that were “entirely proper.”

“Anytime anything is done at a nice hotel, the RNC
has to answer questions about it,” he said. “When the Democrats do it
they don’t have to answer questions about it.”

A group called Concerned Women for America said it
was “dismayed” that the RNC had provided reimbursement for the money
spent at the nightclub.

“Why would a staffer believe that this is acceptable, and has this kind of thing been approved in the past?” said Penny Nance, chief executive officer of Concerned Women for America.


(c) 2010, Tribune Co.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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