Monday’s nightclub expenditure is just the latest event in an election cycle filled with distractions for the Republican National Committee.
UPDATE 3:55 p.m.: An RNC spokesperson confirms that Brown will reimburse the committee for the expenses. The committee says he wasn't working for it in any capacity, which raises questions about how he had access to the account.
The person who expensed a nearly $2,000 meal on the Republican National Committee's (RNC) dime at a risque Los Angeles club has been identified as Erik Brown.
The RNC's Federal Election Commission (FEC) report from February shows an expense for $1,946.25 at Voyeur West Hollywood, a popular club featuring simulated bondage and nudity. Brown's is the name listed alongside the expense.
Brown is a consultant at Dynamic Marketing, Inc., in Orange County, Calif. The firm also has a Washington, D.C. office. It's website is currently under construction.
Reports on Monday pointed to a Twitter page on which Brown mentioned attending a sporting event with RNC Chairman Michael Steele. The Twitter page appears to have been taken down.
A profile of Brown on another website describes him as Chief Executive Officer at DMI. He is actively involved in a number of conservative groups and his church's ministry.
Brown did not immediately comment.
A spokesperson says a non-committee staffer spent the $2,000 and Chairman Michael Steele was not at the club.
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) Chairman Chris Van Hollen is laying out the welcome mat for Sarah Palin.
In an interview with The Hill on Friday, Van Hollen (D-Md.) said he welcomes Palin to campaign for any and every Republican candidate around the country. The head of Democrats’ effort to keep the House said Palin is marginalizing Republicans who associate with her, which will make it easier for him to hold seats in November.
Palin this week announced her 2010 efforts would focus on 20 House districts, and she is in Arizona today campaigning for her former running mate, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
“We will send her an invitation to campaign in every congressional district on her list,” Van Hollen said with a smile.
Former DCCC political director Brian Smoot will run the DSCC's independent expenditure program this cycle.
Smoot, who started a firm with other former DCCC staffers last year, will jump over to the Senate side and be in charge of a program tasked with strategically doling out tens of millions of dollars in top races around the country.
The programs, generally referred to as I.E. programs, spend money independently of the rest of the committee in order to comply with campaign finance limits on the committee's ability to coordinate with campaigns. Much of their spending goes straight into campaign ads.
Democrats have been taking plenty of hits on healthcare, but they are also seeking to play some offense too.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has seized on the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) estimate Thursday that the healthcare bill will cut the deficit by $1.2 trillion over 20 years.
Issuing strategic press releases in a few dozen districts, they are trying to cast the Republicans voting against the healthcare bill as voting against deficit reduction and tax credits for small businesses.
“Representative Michele Bachmann will soon have a chance to back up all of her tough talk about the need to reduce the deficit when the House votes on health insurance reform,” the DCCC says in a release targeting the Minnesota Republican. “Bachmann can either vote for health insurance reform, which will reduce the deficit by more than $1 trillion over 20 years or she can continue protecting the status quo for big insurance companies instead.”
Democrats note that tax credits to small business who offer healthcare are a popular concept, with 75 percent favoring the idea in a February Newsweek poll.
A DCCC release on that topic asks whether the GOP incumbent will “support tax relief 20,000 small businesses in his district” or side with big health insurance companies.
The NRSC is starting to stock away money for what's looking to be a promising election cycle.
The committee raised a strong $4.6 million in February, compared to $4 million for the DSCC. The NRSC also banked $2.2 million of that, upping its cash on hand to $12.9 million, while the DSCC banked $1.3 million and had $14.3 million cash on hand.
The DSCC also has about $417,000 worth of debt left, meaning the NRSC trails by about $1 million when totals are adjusted for debt.
Totals for the House committees weren't available as of Friday afternoon.
The NRCC has added former Arizona state Sen. Jonathan Paton to its Young Guns program.
Democrats on Thursday called on Republican leaders to clarify that mailers that resembled Census letters were not, in fact, official Census documents.
The call from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) comes on the heels of a 416-0 House vote taken yesterday to ban misleading mailings.
The DCCC alleged that the letters, sent out by Republicans and signed by House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and RNC Chairman Michael Steele, could discourage people from filling out their actual Census forms.
"[Boehner and Steele] have
a responsibility to tell every Republican who received their fundraising
solicitation that it is not an official U.S. Census form and encourage them to
fill out their census form," DCCC spokesman Ryan Rudominer said in a statement.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) issued a "census" letter earlier this year.
The DCCC's counterpart, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) also sent letters titled the "2010 Census of America's Republican Leadership" and asked recipients to fill out information regarding their political leanings.
The NRCC and RNC have previously denied that the letters were misleading and repeated that stance Thursday.
"The NRCC remains opposed to misleading mailings, which is why we will continue to comply with the law," spokesman Paul Lindsay said in a e-mail.
"Just as the committee has done in the past, the RNC will continue to be in full compliance with the law," RNC spokesman Katie Wright said in an e-mail.
But one Republican staffer said that a Democratic National Committee mailer looks like a government document and called Democrats "pretty hypocritical" for criticizing the GOP.
Indiana's Republican Attorney General is calling out the NRCC for running robocalls that he says violate the spirit of the law.
Attorney General Greg Zoeller said the NRCC's robocalls are "flouting" the law and disregarding a treaty reached by political parties inside the state. In January, the parties reached an agreement, solicited by Zoeller, to refrain from robocalls.
"I'm sorry to report that the National Republican Congressional Committee is the first to intentionally violate the treaty and show a lack of respect for the privacy of Hoosiers by blitzing them with unwanted political calls," Zoeller said. "This national group fails to appreciate what the three political parties in Indiana readily embraced: that unsolicited and unwanted calls on any subject are an annoying and ultimately counterproductive tactic that Hoosiers neither need nor want."
Zoeller's office notes that it is illegal for the NRCC to run automated dial robocalls, but that it is not illegal to have live operators ask for permission to play a recorded message.
It said that it contacted the NRCC and asked it to cease, and the NRCC declined.
"This national group and anyone considering similar activities should be on notice that the tactic of tiptoeing right up to the line of illegality in pursuit of short-term gain carries a public penalty as a violation of the Treaty of 2010," Zoeller said.
UPDATE: The NRCC reiterates that it is following the law.
"We felt it was important to make these calls so Hoosiers could let their Democratic Congressmen know that they do not want this healthcare bill rammed down their throats," NRCC spokesman Tom Erickson said.