UPDATE III: The Republican National Committee has fired the staffer behind a nearly $2,000 charge for a night at a Los Angeles “bondage-themed” bar, Politico reports:
Ã¢â‚¬Å“This was not an RNC sanctioned event and was not associated in any way with any RNC official event,Ã¢â‚¬Â RNC Chief of Staff Ken McKay wrote of the February outing to Voyeur, a West Hollywood club modeled after the risquÃƒÂ© Tom Cruise-Nicole Kidman movie Ã¢â‚¬Å“Eyes Wide Shut.Ã¢â‚¬Â
McKay wrote that the fired staffer, who is not named in the email, Ã¢â‚¬Å“was aware that this activity was not eligible for reimbursement and had been previously counseled on this very subject. Accordingly, that staff person has been terminated.Ã¢â‚¬Â
McKay also wrote that the donor who was reimbursed for footing the bill at Voyeur, Erik Brown, Ã¢â‚¬Å“has verbally agreed to repay the funds to the RNC.Ã¢â‚¬Â
A source with knowledge of the situation said Brown, a church-going mid-level political operative, Ã¢â‚¬Å“was not entirely thrilled with the venue that people ended up at,Ã¢â‚¬Â but nonetheless agreed to foot the bill after the RNC staffer in question told him the committee would reimburse the cost.
UPDATE II: A California political consultant has said he was behind the $1,946 charged to the Republican National Committee for an evening at a “bondage-themed” topless bar in L.A.
A report at the Daily Caller, published Monday, had suggested it may have been RNC Chairman Michael Steele who had spent that money. The RNC released a statement after the report, denying that Steele had been there that night.
According to CNN, Erik Brown, president of Dynamic Marketing Inc., was the person who was reimbursed nearly $2,000 that was spent at the topless bar. Brown has reportedly said that he will return the money to the Republican Party.
“It’s not clear why the RNC re-imbursed Brown for the charges or who else was with him at the club,” CNN reported.
UPDATE: The Republican National Committee is denying that it was party chairman Michael Steele who spent nearly $2,000 at a “bondage-themed” topless bar in L.A. — but the party doesn’t deny it reimbursed costs for someone‘s visit to the racy establishment.
“We are investigating the expenditure in question,” the RNC said in a statement quoted at TalkingPointsMemo. “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.”
The statement also said that a story at the Daily Caller, published Monday morning, “willfully and erroneously suggests that the expenditure in question was one belonging to the Chairman [Michael Steele].”
Reporter Tucker Carlson, who is editor-in-chief of the Daily Caller, responded on Monday afternoon by writing that the RNC’s protests against the story “lack substance.”
“Despite claims to the contrary, no one from the committee has ever explained the specific circumstances of any of the expenses listed in its most recent disclosure filings,” Carlson wrote.
Our questions remain: Why did the committee spend more than $17,000 on private jets in the month of February? How and why was RNC business conducted in a bondage-themed nightclub, and how and why were the nearly $2,000 in charges that resulted approved by RNC staff?
To be clear: We did not claim that Michael Steele personally visited Voyeur West Hollywood. In fact, and unfortunately, we still know almost nothing about that trip, including its purpose. If the RNC provides details, weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll put them on the site immediately.
ORIGINAL STORY FOLLOWS BELOW
Adding fuel to the fire already raging around Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele, a little-noticed expense in the Republican Party’s 2010 budget includes a nearly two thousand dollar tab for a bondage-themed bar in West Hollywood, according to a report on Tucker Carlson’s new politics website.
The report cites figures from a new Federal Election Commission filing. According to the records, Steele dropped $1,946.25 at topless bar Voyeur West Hollywood, which the article notes is a “bondage-themed nightclub featuring topless women dancers imitating lesbian sex.”
On the same California trip, the records say, Steele spent $9,099 at the Beverly Hills hotel and $6,596 at the Four Seasons.
A review of the Voyeur club sums up the experience thus: “In Los Angeles, it takes a lot to shock and awe. When you walk into Voyeur on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood, you might not be completely shocked at the almost naked women writhing on each other but you will undoubtedly be in awe.”
“The walls are also lined with black and white pictures of beautiful naked girls from decades past while temptresses wearing nothing more than pasties and a black thong Ã¢â‚¬Å“stretchÃ¢â‚¬Â on tables or in large glass boxes,” the review adds. “Yes, the women donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t strip or show off their outdone go-go girl dance moves. Instead, they hold onto ropes on the walls and literally stretch, like yoga class but much sexier (and probably more naked).”
Steele also suggested that the Republican Party buy its own private jet, according to aides quoted in the piece. And even though the Party hasn’t bought its own jet, the chairman continues to travel in style.
“According to federal disclosure records, the RNC spent $17,514 on private aircraft in the month of February alone (as well as $12,691 on limousines during the same period),” Daily Caller’s Jonathan Strong writes. “There are no readily identifiable private plane expenses for Democratic National Committee chairman Tim Kaine in the DNCÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s last three months of filings.”
“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,” Strong adds. “A midwinter trip to Hawaii cost the RNC $43,828, not including airfare.”
The high-flying RNC chairman declined to comment for the piece. Attack pieces on Steele have mounted in recent months, oftentimes a seeming product of angry Party donors.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I know that Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ regular ongoing use of planes was something that was looked at,Ã¢â‚¬Â one person in the piece is quoted as saying. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t speak to how serious those inquiries were.Ã¢â‚¬Â
SteeleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s spokesman, Doug Heye, didn’t deny the RNC had discussed buying its own airliner.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know what somebody might have discussed or might not have discussed,Ã¢â‚¬Â he says in the piece.