Spending and Strippers: RNC Spree Raises Questions

Chairman Michael Steele is under fire for hefty expenses.

ByABC News via GMA logo
March 30, 2010, 7:46 AM

March 30, 2010— -- Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele is in the hot seat after reports of a spending spree on the organization's payroll, including a controversial fundraiser at a Hollywood strip club.

It's the sort of lavish spending that sounds as though it would have taken place in better economic times -- $17,000 for private jet travel, $13,000 for limousines and car services and $9,000 for a trip to the Beverly Hills hotel.

But what the RNC is probably taking criticism for the most is a nearly $2,000 fundraiser on RNC's dime at Voyeur West Hollywood, a risque nightclub in Los Angeles. The expenses were not racked up by Steele but by staffer Erik Brown in the name of entertaining young Republicans. The strip joint is modeled on the 1999 movie "Eyes Wide Shut" and includes women acting out voyeuristic scenes in live art installations. Brown, a Republican operative and president of California-based Dynamic Marketing Inc., said he would reimburse the RNC for the $1,946.25 bill he racked up.

The RNC says it is investigating the expense, and that Steele was never at the club. At the time, he was flying back from the RNC winter meeting.

Steele "had no knowledge of the expenditure, nor does he find the use of committee funds at such a location acceptable," RNC's communications director Doug Heye said in a statement Monday. "Upon finding out of the expenditure this morning, Chairman Steele demanded the committee get to the bottom of this matter immediately."

"The committee has taken appropriate steps to address the issues relating to the reimbursement of certain expenses," Heye added. "It is unfortunate that a loyal GOP donor who has recruited other donors became involved in this incident while merely trying to help what turned out to be the improper request of a staffer who is no longer with the committee."

It's not clear why the RNC reimbursed Brown for the charges or who else was with him at the club.