|March 29, 2010
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 such as this:
Under Mr Steele's helm, the "old" may seem inappropriate in the Grand Old Party's affectionate nickname. He said he is putting a new public relations team into place to update the party's image.
"It will be avant garde, technically," he said. "It will come to table with things that will surprise everyone - off the hook."
Does that mean cutting-edge?
"I don't do 'cutting-edge,' " he said. "That's what Democrats are doing. We're going beyond cutting-edge."
Some in the Republican party have been trying to force Steele out on the grounds of his poor performance. Now they have more ammunition in the form of published returns showing that the RNC has spent lavishly during trips around the country – including nearly $2,000 on a high-end strip club in West Hollywood.
The Daily Caller website posted the details from Federal Election Commission filings that the party is obliged to report. It noted:
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.
The dark, leather-heavy interior is reminiscent of the masked orgy scene from the movie. The reference is taken a step further with impromptu bondage and S&M "scenes" being played out on an elevated platform by scantily clad performers throughout the night – not presented as "shows," like they are in clubs such as Playhouse Hollywood. There is also a heavy net suspended above the club's lounge area where performers writhe above the heads of clubgoers. Even more provocative scenes are played out in an enclosed glass booth area adjacent to the club's dance floor area.
"It's pretty ... intense," clubgoer Lee Stone admitted on opening night as one female performer with a horse's bit in her mouth was being strapped to the wall by another just behind the booth he was sharing with friends. His friend was more intrigued by the action. "I wonder if I would get in trouble for joining them?" she joked.
A recent reviewer on the Yelp website wrote: "There are topless 'dancers' acting out S&M scenes throughout the night on one of the side stages, there's a half-naked girl hanging from a net across the ceiling and at one point I walked to the bathroom and pretty much just stopped dead in my tracks to watch two girls simulating oral sex in a glass case. Really understated elegance here."
Classy. According to the Daily Caller's piece: "Steele himself declined numerous interview requests, though his defenders point out that luxurious accommodations are sometimes necessary to attract big-time donors, especially since Republicans remain in the minority in Washington."
Update: The Republican National Committee has now put out a statement responding to the Daily Caller article and denying that Steele himself was at Voyeur. It describes the $1,946 bill as "a reimbursement made to a non-committee staffer". Here's the full statement:
We are investigating the expenditure in question. The story willfully and erroneously suggests that the expenditure in question was one belonging to the chairman [Michael Steele]. This was a reimbursement made to a non-committee staffer.
The chairman was never at the location in question, he had no knowledge of the expenditure, nor does he find the use of committee funds at such a location at all acceptable.
Good reporting would make that distinction crystal clear. The committee has requested that the monies be returned to the committee and that the story be corrected so that it is accurate.