More issues at the RNC

Luckily for Michael Steele, someone named Shirley Sherrod was starring in a far more significant drama yesterday and will for at least the rest of this week. As is his habit, Steele had another interesting day yesterday as the embattled chairman of the Republican National Committee. Recall that Steele has been described as "embattled" since as far back as March of 2009, just two months after taking over at the RNC. He has enforced a never-a-dull-moment policy ever since.

The latest incident is nearly $7 million in debt that failed to appear on reports filed with the Federal Election Commission in the spring. RNC spokesman Doug Heye said nothing was hidden, the debts had been repaid in May and June and a review had been ordered. The news of the unpaid invoices was revealed by the RNC treasurer, Randy Pullen, a Steele rival.

Staff at the RNC points to the $11 million cash on hand and $3.9 million in debt the Democratic National Committee currently has compared to the $10.9 million cash on hand and $2 million in debt the RNC had at the end of June to illustrate that the RNC is in a competitive position financially. But adding to Steele's numerous gaffes and blunders, contributions are down, spending is up and the RNC membership isn't happy about it.

Does it mean Steele is gone? Is he ever gone? He doesn't back down, no matter what. Should Pullen — often mentioned as a replacement for Steele should he ever step down as chairman — produce some evidence that Steele can be blamed for intentionally hiding unpaid bills, things could change. For now Steele likely just adds another chapter to his stormy tenure at the RNC.
But the midterm elections are around the corner, and that means time is running out for the GOP to coalesce not only around some principles and an agenda, should they win control of the House and/or Senate, but also around some leaders in the party who can pull it together in time to mount a serious challenge to President Obama in the next election. Long before a GOP presidential nominee emerges in 2012, the Republicans need to decide who the grown-ups are.

IS THE WHITE HOUSE LETTING THE ENERGY BILL DIE? Ask A.B.returns Monday, July 26. Please join my weekly video Q&A by sending your questions and comments to Thank you.

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