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Another Michael Steele spending spree

The Washington Post reports that the Republicans, under the leadership of Michael Steele, have already spent more than $636,000 on their 2012 national convention, to be held in Tampa, Florida. Four years ago at about the same time, the Republicans had spent only $35,000 on the 2008 convention. David Norcross who chaired the RNC’s committee on arrangements for that convention says, “I can’t imagine what you’d spend $636,000 on at this point.”
A spokesman for the RNC says one reason for the dramatic increase in early spending is that the RNC decided, based on recommendations from previous convention managers, to accelerate the process of picking the convention city and making arrangements. In this account, the Republicans are ahead of the game, having locked down hotel space and so forth before the Democrats have even picked a city for their extravaganza.
However, the expenditure of this much money this early seems premature. The Republicans don’t even have a designated convention manager or an arrangements committee chairman. Thus, critics worry that the spending decisions being made now may limit the discretion of those who should be making decisions about arrangements, as well, perhaps, as the choices available to the eventual nominee about how to stage the convention.
Critics also note that Steele has named his former assistant Belinda Cook as his liaison to the convention. Reportedly, she is being paid $15,000 a month plus a $25,000 bonus. The Party is also paying the rent on waterfront property in Treasure Island, Florida, where Cook set up shop. It seems reasonable to question these expenditures at such an early stage.
The substantial early spending may have something to do with the fact that Steele’s term as RNC head expires in January 2011 (Cook’s contract also expires then). It seems unlikely that Steele will be given another term. Thus, Steele may see this as a case of now or never when it comes to influencing the convention and spreading money around.
In any event, his excessive early spending on the convention, some of which is going to a crony, is viewed by critics as his parting act of financial irresponsibility

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