Steele defends stewardship of RNC

Chairman Michael Steele defended his stewardship of the Republican National Committee (RNC) on Friday, saying the committee guards its donors' money carefully.

Steele, during an occasionally testy interview with MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell, rejected characterizations of the RNC's spending as "lavish," and said the party had responded appropriately to a controversial reimbursement to a party fundraiser who expensed thousands at a risqué Los Angeles nightclub.

"No one's living lavishly," Steele said of the RNC's actions, especially in regard to donors' money. "We guard very, very much the resources they give to us."

Mitchell pressed Steele on whether it was necessary for the RNC to hold its winter meeting in Hawaii, as well as several flights the RNC has chartered over the past few months. (Party officials note that flights were chartered only in instances where normal air travel was unavailable.)

"We do not live a lavish lifestyle at the RNC," the chairman said. "What you are talking about one instance where we had to transport speakers from one part of the country to another part of the country."

On the Hawaii meeting, Steele said Mitchell was "going after nothing."

Steele's tenure as chairman has come under scrutiny from Democrats and some conservatives, who contend his chairmanship as a time of disorganization for the party.

The most high-profile instance was reimbursing nearly $2,000 in expenses to Voyeur, a Hollywood nightclub described as "bondage-themed."

Steele emphasized he did not approve of those expenses, and that the RNC employees culpable were held responsible.

"You mean to tell me that one employee of your organization has done something they're not proud of?" Steele responded to Mitchell's questioning. "I was not there. The individuals there were severely disciplined -- they were fired."

The RNC chairman also dismissed reports that GOP guru Karl Rove and former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie were organizing a group to contend with the RNC's work this election cycle.

Steele said he welcomed their help, noting that similar groups exist within the Democratic establishment, and that such groups aren't as constrained by campaign finance rules as party committees are.