Saturday, June 23, 2012

Michael Steele Speaks

This afternoon I had a substantive and positive conversation with former Lieutenant Governor and RNC Chairman Michael Steele.
The conversation came about in a roundabout way. After I posted my most recent blog piece about his future plans, two Steele supporters started complaining about what I wrote, leaving or attempting to leave aggressive and sometimes antagonistic comments on my blog. One of them even sent me an email telling me I was “demanded” to contact Steele so he could set the record straight.

Anyway, I had no idea if either of these individuals was acting on Steele’s behalf. And, while I will always respond to appeals to my reason, I’m not inclined to take orders from badgering strangers.

Later, one of these critics inadvertently forwarded to me an email in which, farther down in the email chain, Steele made some less than favorable comments about me.

As someone once told me, the first rule of political emailing is, “Never send an email you wouldn’t mind seeing on the front page of The New York Times.” Well, the second rule of political emailing has to be, “Make sure you know everything that’s in an email before you forward it to someone else.”

Anyway, after I saw his comments I reached out to Steele, with whom I served in the Ehrlich Administration. Following a candid email exchange, we set up some time to talk directly as opposed to communicating through go-betweens.

During the conversation, Steele explained his reasons for supporting Audrey Scott in the National Committeewoman’s race, and defended the convention activities of his aide Belinda Cook.

But mainly we talked about the future of his state campaign account.

He dismisses as “completely not true” that he was planning to close his state campaign account, calling it “wishful thinking” on the part of the individual who told me that.

In fact, Steele says he plans to hold a fundraiser in the fall to replenish it. He explains that, since 2008, he has paid out a total of about $100,000 to GOP legislative candidates in Maryland. Those payments consisted of $2,000 payments to incumbent delegates and senators, and $1,000 to candidates (he said this number is occasionally bumped up to $2,000 for strong candidates running in opportunity races).

In addition to these payments to candidates, Steele said he’s used the account to pay out about $40,000 to cover various legal expenses. All of this contradicts what I was told from the other (usually credible) source, who stated that much if not all of the account was being used for legal expenses.

Steele downplayed the continuation of the account as being tied to a 2014 bid for governor, expressing a desire to continue supporting legislative candidates. But, the inference is clear: Even as Steele begins his new consulting partnership with Lanny Davis, he’s keeping his toe in the water as far as Maryland politics is concerned.

So, it appears I was given bad information as to Steele’s plans. I have communicated my unhappiness to the person who told me that. And, I hope this blog entry sets the record straight.

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