GOP fires Allison Meyers as strip-club scandal taints party
Allison Meyers was director of the GOP's Young Eagles, a group that wooed young donors and visited a strip club in Los Angeles – racking up $1,946 in expenses that the party initially reimbursed. The scandal could hurt the GOP in three ways, in particular.
Allison Meyers, the director of the Young Eagles, a Republican program aimed at wooing donors under 45 years old to the GOP cause, was fired as a result of the strip-club scandal that has embroiled the party this week, according to media reports.
The Republican National Committee reimbursed about $2,000 in expenses rung up by the Young Eagles at a Hollywood nightclub featuring topless dancers and bondage outfits. Ms. Meyers allegedly approved the expense.
Fallout could affect Republican fundraising, particularly among its fiscally and morally conservative small donors. Moreover, the news has increased pressure on party Chairman Michael Steele, who is already already under fire for his management of party spending.
The conservative website “The Daily Caller” first reported that the RNC’s February financial disclosure statement included a $1,946 reimbursement to a California consultant for “meals” at the risqué nightclub. The financial report also disclosed the party had spent $17,514 for private jets, $12,691 on limousines, and $19,016 at the posh W Hotel in Washington.
“It was an inappropriate expenditure and the chairman dealt with it swiftly,” Republican National Committee Communications Director Doug Heye said in an e-mail to the Monitor. Mr. Heye told the Associated Press that the party would be reimbursed by the consultant, Erik Brown.
Alienating small donors
But for some, that news might come too late.
“It stands to reason that many small GOP donors would think twice before sending along another check after hearing about club Voyeur,” says Larry Sabato a political scientist at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. “Many of the party’s base voters are fundamentalist Christians, who are both morally and fiscally conservative. The nightclub expenses manage to offend them doubly.”
For example, Peggy Nance, president of the conservative Christian Women for America, referred to the nightclub reimbursement in a statement Monday saying, “why would a [Republican Party] staffer believe that this is acceptable, and has this kind of thing been approved in the past?”
The scandal could add to a growing trend among conservative donors. “Already we see big donors avoiding the RNC like the plague. Instead they are giving to the Republican Governors Association,” says Reid Wilson, editor of the nonpartisan blog, Hotline On Call. “That is going to hurt Republican efforts to retake the House and pick up Senate seats in November. Big donors don’t trust Michael Steele, and stories like this scare small donors away.”
That is a view disputed by Republican Party spokesman Heye. “As far as donors go, I’d point you to FireNancyPelosi.com, a website we launched just after the healthcare vote that has raised more than $1.5 million so far. It is issues such as healthcare, creating jobs, and our mounting national debt that matter to voters – and to donors.”
More pressure on Chairman Steele
Mr. Steele had already alienated some major donors with his spending. He held the party’s winter meeting at a beachfront hotel in Hawaii and drew criticism for delivering paid speeches and writing a book while drawing a salary from the GOP.
While he was not at the nightclub, the reimbursement gaffe adds to the impression that Steele is not an effective manager, some observers say. “RNC members are telling me that this is the latest nick in what they see as a death by a thousand cuts,” says Mr. Wilson, the blog editor. “It seems like every time Steele has a good day, some unforced error comes along and sets him back.”
Mike DeMoss, a longtime RNC donor, told Politico that, “The RNC cannot attack Democrats for how the government spends taxpayer money when it is spending Republican donor money recklessly. Recent RNC spending stories suggest a tone-deafness at best and a misappropriation of funds at worst.”
Confirming tea partyers suspicions
The nightclub flap could also hurt Republican efforts to reach out to "tea party" voters. “Tea party groups have intentionally kept their distance from establishment Republicans,” Wilson says. “The revulsion with Washington that tea party followers feel is aimed at Republicans as well as Democrats, and people – including Tea Party activists – are only going to be more angry with the GOP because of this frivolous spending.”
Professor Sabato agrees. “For the tea party voters, this just confirms their view that both parties are corrupt and on the wrong track. Since about 9 out of 10 tea party voters normally lean Republican, this obviously hurts the GOP more.”