Okay, Spool. Get the prewritten defense rebuttal ready for cut and paste. This one's a doozy, so I didn't wanna omit any details.
Michael S. Steele, the newly elected chairman of the Republican National Committee, arranged for his 2006 Senate campaign to pay a defunct company run by his sister for services that were never performed, his finance chairman from that campaign has told federal prosecutors.None of this stuff is any secret to Marylanders. Steele's money problems were outlined briefly in his 2006 run for Senate, but never in this level of detail. And anyone who thinks this is some liberal media effort to discredit the GOP's HNIC needs to fall back. The Washington Post did a similar hit job from "an inside source" that more or less ended the Senatorial campaign of Democrat Kwesi Mfume, who would have easily toppled Steele had he made it to the general election.
Federal agents in recent days contacted Steele's sister, a spokesman for Steele said yesterday.
The claim about the payment, one of several allegations by Alan B. Fabian, is outlined in a confidential court document. Fabian offered the information last March as he was seeking leniency for himself during plea negotiations on unrelated fraud charges. It is unclear how extensively his claims have been pursued. Prosecutors gave him no credit for cooperation when he was sentenced in October.
Fabian's claims emerge as Steele begins his new role at the RNC, where he oversees the raising and spending of hundreds of millions of dollars in party money. The former Maryland lieutenant governor has faced questions about his handling of campaign money in prior elections and was twice fined for missing filing deadlines.
The recent allegations outlined four specific transactions. In addition to the payment to Steele's sister, Fabian said that the candidate used money from his state campaign improperly; that Steele paid $75,000 from the state campaign to a law firm for work that was never performed; and that he or an aide transferred more than $500,000 in campaign cash from one bank to another without authorization.
The bank transfer was made against the explicit wishes of other Maryland Republicans, who had hoped to use it to support the campaigns of state legislators, said aides to Steele and former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.
The U.S. attorney's office inadvertently sent the confidential document, a defense sentencing memorandum filed under seal, to The Washington Post after the newspaper requested the prosecution's sentencing memorandum.
In one of his allegations, Fabian points to a February 2007 payment by Steele's Senate campaign of more than $37,000 to Brown Sugar Unlimited, the company run by Steele's sister, Monica Turner. Campaign finance records list the expense as having been for "catering/web services." Turner filed papers to dissolve the company 11 months before the payment was received.
Turner, a doctor and the former wife of Mike Tyson, declined yesterday to describe any services she provided to the campaign. "Ah, it's the 'sabotage Michael Steele' story," she told a reporter before closing the door of her home in Potomac. "No, I'm not with that program. . . . I'm not going to do this."
Anderson, Steele's spokesman, said Turner "did a lot of media stuff" for the campaign. He later provided a copy of an invoice for nearly $15,000 for catering services for one event in October 2006 and for another in July 2007. The invoice was dated December 2006, a discrepancy Anderson said was a typographical error.
Federal election law permits a candidate's family members to be paid for work on a campaign. Any compensation must be for actual services and must be at a fair market rate.
In a separate allegation, Fabian described the bank withdrawal. After the 2006 election, an aide transferred the funds that had been raised for Steele's lieutenant governor campaign -- more than $600,000 -- out of what had been the campaign's bank account.
Fabian characterized the transfer as improper because the aide lacked signatory authority over the account. Anderson said it was appropriate because Steele had authorization and the aide was acting on his behalf.
Either way, the transfer strained relations between Ehrlich and Steele.
The money had been raised for Steele in concert with Ehrlich. Much of it, in fact, had been brought in by Ehrlich's team, said a senior Republican fundraiser and as well as a former Steele aide, each speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
Because Steele had decided to run for Senate rather than state office, Ehrlich wanted to turn the money in Steele's state account over to the state party for distribution to legislators, the sources said.
But Steele, who was keeping open the option for a run for governor in 2010, wanted to keep the money in his own account, the sources said. After installing a new treasurer, he had the money transferred to solidify his control, the sources said.
Over the years, money trouble has been a persistent problem for Steele. His first race for public office, a 1998 bid for the Republican nomination for state
comptroller, ended nearly $35,000 in debt, much of it to his sister. He was fined twice by state officials for missing deadlines to file campaign finance reports and was in debt and had faced foreclosure in 2001, the year before he was selected as Ehrlich's running mate. The state party threw Steele a financial lifeline, awarding him an unusual $30,000 consulting contract.
Many suspect the state Democratic party leaked an internal NAACP memo that outlined some questionable hiring practices when Mfume was at its helm. This paved the way for an easy primary victory for the state's handpicked candidate, the weak Ben Cardin, who barely squeaked past Steele to win the seat in as Blue a state as they come. It's part of the reason why I decided to no longer be affiliated with the Democratic Party. So again, there's nothing partisan about this at all.
On a separate note, what's the likelihood that this tidbit of info ended up in the Post's hands courtesy of someone in the GOP? Let's face it, Steele's appointment had a lot to do with countering the Obama Presidency. Just as there were many in the GOP that didn't want a black man at 1600 Penn Ave., it's fair to say there's likely some in the GOP that don't want a black man telling their party what to do either. Steele's election did require 6 rounds of voting after all. It's not like this was some sorta resistance-free appointment.
Then there's the question of how much of these allegations are actually true. Sure, you could say that this Fabian guy is a rat who's singing like a bird to shorten his sentence, but you could also argue that the amazing amount of detail in his allegations makes you wonder if there's some smoke/fire correlation here. I'm sure we'll find out more in coming weeks.
Either way, I suppose this should effectively shut up anyone who seems to think Steele and Obama are getting treated differently by the press due to political affiliation.
If you're black, get back.
Question: Do these allegations cast a figurative black eye over Steele's RNC Chair? Do you think black conservatives are treated differently by the media than black liberals or are Negroes just Negroes, regardless of party?
Steele's Campaign Spending Questioned [WashPost]