RNC staffer fired in sex scandal paid $100,000 to ‘keep quiet’

By John Byrne
Wednesday, June 23, 2010 10:04 EDT
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The former chief of staff to the Republican National Committee received more than $100,000 in a “severance payment” after he was fired for his role relating to the discovery that the party had signed off on $2,000 in reimbursements for a sex-themed Beverly Hills club.

RNC insiders say the money was approved as “hush money” to keep the former staffer, Kenneth McKay, from divulging details of GOP Chairman Michael Steele’s leadership practices.

The severance payment and hush money allegation was first reported Tuesday by ABC News.

One GOP insider described the six-figure payment to outgoing RNC Chief of Staff Kenneth K. McKay IV  negotiated even though McKay had scarcely a year on the job — as “hush money” to keep a former employee from divulging details of Michael Steele’s controversial tenure as RNC chair.

Party insiders told ABC News the six-figure payout represented McKay’s severance package, and came in exchange for him signing a strict confidentiality agreement. Two RNC sources, both of whom spoke on the condition they not be identified, said similar deals were struck with others who had been forced out in the last few months. Both sources have been critical of Steele’s leadership. They said in separate interviews that, while they were not alleging that anything illegal took place, they believe the McKay agreement and others like it are aimed at preventing the departing cast of employees from disparaging Steele. McKay, who had received $163,000 in salary payments, did not respond to messages left at his home in Rhode Island….

[A top RNC spokesman] would not comment on the two large payments to McKay, which appeared on newly filed campaign finance reports Monday. On April 30, three weeks after McKay’s resignation, the RNC wrote him a $62,949 check that it classified as “payroll.” A week after that, McKay received another payment, this one for “housing reimbursements,” totaling $40,967. The payments were first reported by Politico.

In response to the story, an RNC spokesman called the severance hush money claim “laughable.”

“It would be laughable to think a confidentiality agreement is anything other than standard operating procedure for a political organization,” the spokesman declared. “It’s in our employee handbook.”

Steele didn’t respond to ABC requests for comment.

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