Michael Steele Isn't Exactly Endearing Himself To Donors

05/31/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Days after publishing the story on puzzling Republican National Committee expenses that included a now infamous line item about a trip to a bondage-themed Los Angeles nightclub, The Daily Caller continues to hammer Michael Steele's oversight of the organization with a critical account of how big GOP donors are opting to give their money to downstream organizations like the NRSC and the NRCC.

Since Steele became chairman in January 2009, a growing number of prominent GOP donors has stopped contributing to the RNC, choosing instead to direct their money to outlets such as the party's Senatorial Committee.

"There are a whole lot of troubling things going on, and it's something that gets talked about with some frequency," said a major Republican donor who spoke on condition of anonymity. "These are people who are longtime, loyal donors -- serious, successful people -- and to be in the front page of newspapers because someone put a chit in for going to a sex club, it's just dumb."

According to filings with the Federal Election Commission, at least eight of the RNC's top individual donors have declined to contribute in the past 14 months, a list that includes Home Depot co-founder Bernard Marcus and real-estate mogul Harlan Crow. Each of the individuals had a record of contributing thousands to the RNC in past years but since 2009 have chosen to direct their money to the NRSC, National Republican Congressional Committee or individual campaign committees.

Reporters Gautham Nagesh and Aleksandra Kulczuga obtain a goodly number of disgruntled donors, most of whom declined to speak on the record. This particular on-the-record quote from a donor, however, stuck out:

"After the ridiculous presentation by the finance chairman down in Boca Grande, I'd written Michael Steele that I would not contribute to the party or to any of the committees, and would only give now directly to candidates," [Mark] DeMoss told The Daily Caller on Tuesday.

The "ridiculous presentation" being referred to here is the one given by RNC Finance Director Rob Bickhart back in March. That presentation became well-known for the way it essentially operationalized crazy-fearmongering as a means of stoking donor support. What didn't get as much play was the way in which big donors were treated with mocking condescension. Politico's Ben Smith took note of this:

The strategy was detailed in a confidential party fundraising presentation, obtained by POLITICO, which also outlines how "ego-driven" wealthy donors can be tapped with offers of access and "tchochkes."

The presentation was delivered by RNC Finance Director Rob Bickhart to top donors and fundraisers at a party retreat in Boca Grande, Florida on February 18, a source at the gathering said.

In neat PowerPoint pages, it lifts the curtain on the often-cynical terms of political marketing, displaying an air of disdain for the party's donors that is usually confined to the barroom conversations of political operatives.

If I recall correctly, none of this was apparently the fault of Michael Steele either!

Steele said he just became aware of the presentation yesterday, and that the RNC is looking into it through an internal process. When asked by Megyn Kelly how to defend it, Steele responded: "Well you don't defend it. It was unfortunate."

Kelly asked Steele about "essentially ripping on its own donors in this" by referring to large donors as ego-driven and small donors as driven by fear. She asked Steele for his response.

"I'm trying to figure out what the intent behind - I mean, the words on paper don't sound appealing. And certainly we love our donors and we thank them for the support that they've given us over the past year, and continue to give us," said Steele. "I don't know what the context, or how that was presented to this particular committee of individuals. I was told, that's typically what people think about our donors -- or think about donors generally. But that is not the case for our donors. Our donors are compassionate, concerned activists out there who support a party that they believe in. And we want that to continue."

Because why would the chairman of the RNC necessarily be aware of what is going on the very organization he is in charge of, right?

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