FEC report details lavish Republican spending
By Dan Eggen and Philip Rucker
The Republican National Committee spent tens of thousands of dollars last month on luxury jets, posh hotels and other high-flying expenses, according to new Federal Election Commission filings, including nearly $2,000 for "meals" at Voyeur West Hollywood, a lesbian-themed nightclub that features topless dancers in bondage outfits.
The RNC spent more than $17,000 on private jet travel in Febuary as well as nearly $13,000 for limousines, according to the documents. The GOP's main political committee also ran up tabs at numerous posh hotels, including the Beverly Hills Hotel ($9,000); the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons ($6,600) and the W Hotel in Washington ($15,000), and spent more than $43,000 on its controversial midwinter meeting in Hawaii, not including airfare.
The disclosures create another spending controversy for the RNC and its chairman, Michael Steele, who was come under steady fire from Democrats and some fellow Republicans for his financial stewardship of the organization.
The RNC said in a statement Monday morning that it was investigating the Voyeur West Hollywood expenditure, which it said was "a reimbursement made to a non-committee staffer." The committee also said it was requesting that the money be returned and emphasized that Steele was not at the event.
"The chairman was never at the location in question, he had no knowledge of the expenditure, nor does he find the use of committee funds at such a location at all acceptable," the RNC statement said.
The committee had more than $22 million on hand when Steele arrived last year, but is down to under $10 million now despite raising $96 million during that time, records show. A previous dustup over Steele's spending habits prompted party leaders to approve new restrictions requiring more oversight and competitive bidding for contracts over $100,000.
The Daily Caller Web site, which first noted the new FEC filings, also reported that Steele had initially suggested that the RNC should purchase a private jet for his travels after he first took over the job.
Steele's spending habits have prompted angry complaints from wealthy GOP donors and party officials, who fear the chairman is making poor financial decisions and undercutting the GOP's attempt to cast itself as the party of fiscal responsibility.
"Nothing surprises me," said one former RNC aide, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity. "It definitely speaks to the desire for first-class accommodations over there."
The Feb. 4 expenditure of $1,946.25 at Voyeur West Hollywood is listed as "meals" on the RNC disclosure form. Visitors to the chic nightspot have included Hollywood celebrities such as Lindsey Lohan and Leonardo DiCaprio; press reports indicate the club is open to the public three nights a week and otherwise hosts private parties.