Reporting from Washington — The Republican National Committee's ouster Friday of two top finance officials marks an attempt to rebound from a string of reports on lavish spending, including a $1,946.25 expenditure at a lesbian-theme bondage club in Los Angeles.
RNC Chief of Staff Michael Leavitt announced the reorganization of the finance department late Friday in an e-mail to committee members. RNC Chairman Michael Steele asked for resignations from finance director Rob Bickhart and his deputy, Debbie LeHardy, "to improve on our strong fundraising numbers" and to "help us to provide the necessary resources to defeat Democrats across the country," the e-mail said.
Bickhart will be replaced by Mary Heitman, former finance director of the Republican Governors Assn. and RNC deputy finance director under former Chairman Haley Barbour.
Spending at the RNC has been a sore point for Steele for months, but the issue blew up in late March when finance reports showed the committee reimbursed a donor for a night out at Voyeur, a West Hollywood nightclub that features performers in bondage and sadomasochistic scenes. Some in the party's socially conservative base balked at the news and told contributors to put their money elsewhere.