Richard Steele?

June 14, 2010

A Letter to the Editor by Juan Agulto claims that Richard Steele, the chairman of a national party is coming to the CNMI to promote one of the candidates. Maybe he meant Michael Steele who is pictured here. Michael Steele is the chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Agulto's letter claims that if this chairman comes to the CNMI and endorses the Republican candidate then "he is the one" who should be in Washington, DC.

Agulto said, "I think it is obvious the CNMI will have immense political real estate and power in Washington should the CNMI have a delegate supported by a national party to help us with the many political problems we are now having with Washington and the federal government."

Maybe Richard Steele, whoever he is, would be a boost to a candidate, but it's unlikely that Michael Steele would. Even people within own his own party don't like the guy. The Guardian reported:
A lot of senior people in the Republican party don't like Michael Steele, who became the party's national committee chairman in 2009. And not because he's African American, either. They don't like him because he gives the impression of being an idiot in interviews...Some in the Republican party have been trying to force Steele out on the grounds of his poor performance.
This guy is pretty controversial and for good reason. He makes headlines for his often quoted misstatements, and for his lavish spending like a February 2010 trip where the Republican National Committee dropped thousands on such things as visiting a strip club:
A February RNC trip to California, for example, included a $9,099 stop at the Beverly Hills Hotel, $6,596 dropped at the nearby Four Seasons, and $1,620.71 spent [update: the amount is actually $1,946.25] at Voyeur West Hollywood, a bondage-themed nightclub featuring topless women dancers imitating lesbian sex.

RNC trips to other cities produced bills from a long list of chic and costly hotels such as the Venetian and the M Resort in Las Vegas, and the W (for a total of $19,443) in Washington. A midwinter trip to Hawaii cost the RNC $43,828, not including airfare.
What is the relationship between Michael Steele, the Republican National Committee and the CNMI Republican Party? The RNC gave over $20,000 to the Republican Party of the CNMI in October and November 2009. The move was questioned by mainland Republicans and others. TPM Muckraker reported:
Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele made a curious donation from the national party coffers in the last two months, the Hotline reports: $20,000 to the Republican Party in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, which has no electoral votes, no vote in Congress, and too small a population to even imagine statehood -- but where the party committee members did help him win the chairmanship a year ago.

Under the RNC's rules, territories are on the same footing as states in determining the party chairman, and each state/territory gets the same number of committee members. The CNMI's committee members had the same say in determining the party chairman as did states like Texas or California. The CNMI's votes had initially gone to former Michigan GOP chairman Saul Anuzis, which gave them a strong position as swing votes in the final ballot between Steele and former South Carolina GOP chairman Katon Dawson. Steele won that race by a vote of 91-77 -- a margin greater than the CNMI votes.

"Insiders said the islands sought a financial commitment from the eventual chair; Dawson refused, and the island votes went to Steele. Steele advisors have denied a deal was cut," the Hotline reports. "RNC spokesperson Gail Gitcho told Hotline OnCall the money was sent to the Northern Mariana Islands 'to help them win elections.'"

Regardless of whether there was a deal, just how useful is it to the party's national fortunes to spend money in a remote U.S. territory with less than 100,000 people? How important is a Northern Mariana election, beyond the people who live there?
Seems that the story overestimated the CNMI's population quite a bit, but regardless, it doesn't look like the mainlanders saw the usefulness of contributing to the CNMI Republican Party.

What really struck me was the similarity between this scenario and the infamous Palacios-Mendiola vote switch scheme where the two CNMI legislators switched their votes to ensure that Fitial was elected Speaker of the House after Jack Abramoff and his lobbying team promised them Washington influence and money for infrastructure projects for their islands. They attempted to boost the CNMI's agenda by having influential members of Congress visit the CNMI. Of course, like most underhanded schemes, it backfired.

This Michael Steele (or Richard Steele, if you prefer) deal sounds all too familiar. Is this another votes for money and influence scheme that will negatively impact the CNMI and its people?


Anonymous said...

Nancy Pelosi has a new office that is costing 18k a month!

Anonymous said...

"They don't like him because he gives the impression of being an idiot in interviews...Some in the Republican party have been trying to force Steele out on the grounds of his poor performance."
No wonder why they likes each other here in the CNMI. They're all same feather!

Anonymous said...

Richard Steele is the famous international boxing referee who has refereed some of Manny Pacquiao's big fights.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know who were the officers of the CNMI Republican Party in October and November,2009?

The Saipan Blogger said...

The Chairman of the Republican and Democratic parties in 2009 were first cousins. Only on Saipan!