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RNC says risque outing was unofficial, and news to party officials

The Republican National Committee chief of staff says in a memo that no senior party officials took part in or had knowledge of the $2,000 'get-together' of young donors at a West Hollywood nightclub.

March 31, 2010|By Kathleen Hennessey

Reporting from Washington — A night out at a risque West Hollywood nightclub was an "after-hours nonofficial get-together" that followed a meeting of young Republican donors and should not have been paid for with party money, a top Republican National Committee official said in a memo released Tuesday.

RNC Chief of Staff Ken McKay said no senior party officials attended the outing at Voyeur, which features performers in bondage and sadomasochistic scenes. Nor did party officials know of the purpose of the reimbursement to the donor who paid the nearly $2,000 tab, the memo said.

A Southern California businessman, Erik Brown, paid the Jan. 31 bill on the understanding that he would be reimbursed by the RNC, party officials said.

McKay did not identify the RNC staff member who authorized the reimbursement, which prompted headlines and a spate of criticism Monday when first reported on the website the Daily Caller.

But a Republican source who wasn't authorized to discuss the incident and so spoke on condition of anonymity identified the employee Tuesday as Allison Meyers, a finance department staffer who was fired Monday.

"That person was aware that this activity was not eligible for reimbursement and had been previously counseled on this very subject," McKay wrote in the memo to RNC members.

Meyers was in charge of the RNC's Young Eagles program, which aims to recruit donors 45 and younger, a GOP official told the Associated Press. An RNC statement Monday seemed to imply that the staffer had requested Brown's help.

Meyers could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but she would not have been the only RNC staffer to authorize the expense. Expenditures require approval from a department head as well as an administration official, the Republican source told The Times.

In his memo, McKay said no member of the senior staff "was aware of the purpose of this reimbursement."

Brown is president of Dynamic Marketing Inc., a Southern California firm that provides direct-mail services to political campaigns. He has agreed to repay the RNC the $1,946.25 tab, McKay said.

Since November, the RNC has paid Brown's company about $19,000 for printing and direct-mail services, campaign spending reports show, and Brown has contributed several thousand dollars to the party, according to the Associated Press.

The incident is the latest to prompt questioning of the spending practices and leadership of RNC Chairman Michael Steele. He has been criticized as spending lavishly on hotels, travel and remodeling his office. He also made headlines in January for casting doubt on the party's chances of winning control of the House of Representatives in November.

Steele's dour assessment of the party's midterm fortunes has discouraged at least one donor.

"I think that had a chilling effect on me and other guys I've talked to," said Brian Ballard of Florida, who has given generously to the RNC in the past but not in this campaign cycle. If winning elections isn't what they're there to do, he said, "I don't know what is."

khennessey@tribune.com

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