Sticking it to Steele: RNC director slams chairman

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WASHINGTON (AP) – A senior Republican National Committee strategist quit Tuesday, leaving behind a scathing resignation letter that blasts Chairman Michael Steele for spending as much as 70 percent of donations on fundraising and credits other GOP groups for the party’s gains.

RNC political director Gentry Collins delivered to RNC members and Steele a five-page outline of where he views the party as it heads into 2012’s presidential election: broke and badly in need of repair.

Despite results on Nov. 2 that gave Republicans control of the House and gains elsewhere, Collins’ farewell on RNC letterhead is a clear summary of the challenges Steele would face should he seek to remain in charge beyond January, as well as a playbook for defeating him if Steele runs for another term.

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“In the previous two nonpresidential cycles, the RNC carried over $4.8 million and $3.1 million respectively in cash reserve balances into the presidential cycles,” Collins wrote in the memo first reported by Politico. “In stark contrast, we enter the 2012 presidential cycle with 100 percent of the RNC’s $15 million in lines of credit tapped out, and unpaid bills likely to add millions to that debt.”

The RNC has raised more than $79 million this year and has spent all of it — and then some. Steele started the job with a $23 million surplus.

The committee responded with a statement noting that it raised, when adjusted for inflation, $24 million more than the RNC raised during the 1994 cycle when Republicans control of Congress. The RNC also claimed it made 45 million voter contacts and worked with 200,000 volunteers.

Collins noted the committee spent too much on fundraising and should in the future “only spend to win elections.” He also credited Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour’s Republican Governors Association for helping build GOP infrastructure in states where Republicans gained House seats as a side effect.

Voters on Nov. 2 punished Democrats from New Hampshire to California, giving Republicans at least 60 new seats in the House. Republicans picked up 10 governorships; the party also gained control of 19 state legislative chambers and now hold their highest level of state legislative seats since 1928.

But Collins said the GOP could have won more had Steele been more efficient with fundraising. Collins estimated that as much as 70 cents of every dollar raised went to pay for the costs of fundraising — far higher than historical averages of about 50 percent.

During the last two years, donors have complained Steele was using chartered jets, had mistakenly reimbursed a former aide for a donors’ night at a lesbian-themed nightclub in California, and embarked on a 48-state bus tour. Those dollars, they said, should have been sent to state committees.

The RGA, for example, spent $18 million to turn out voters in 18 states. Of that, $13.2 million went directly to state parties — more than the RNC transferred to all 50 states.

Collins’ exit comes as Steele weighs whether to seek another term as chairman of a resurgent party heading toward a presidential contest. The 168 members of the RNC must decide in January whether to keep Steele.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.