Dear RNC, let the expense reports go

DEAR RNC, LET THE EXPENSE REPORTS GO…. The Republican National Committee was knocked on its heels this week in a story the party would no doubt prefer to forget. Publicly-available expense reports showed that the RNC had made a variety of odd spending decisions, most notably the nearly $2,000 charge at “a bondage-themed nightclub featuring topless women dancers imitating lesbian sex.”

In the wake of the story, the RNC fired one of its employees, and the controversy was starting to die down. But today, the Republican National Committee, in its infinite wisdom, deliberately brought party expense reports back to the attention of political reporters.

In hopes of redirecting incoming fire about its spending habits, the Republican National Committee on Wednesday tried to turn scrutiny to the spending habits of the Democratic National Committee but came up with nothing nearly as risque as almost $2,000 in expenses for a night out at a bondage club and no private planes.

It tallied up, instead, two years worth of catering, luxury hotels and limousine bills.

RNC Chairman Michael Steele has been widely criticized for his expensive travel tastes — especially for using private jets and car services. An e-mail from RNC Communications Director Doug Heye pulled together DNC expenses dating back to October 2008.

“The DNC spent at least $2,204,000 for luxury hotels and caterers,” Heye writes at the top of the e-mail.

At face value, the RNC’s research appears to be legit. Over the last 18 months, the DNC really did spent $2.2 million for luxury hotels and caterers. That’s probably supposed to sound scandalous, but it’s actually a rather dull observation — parties host events at nice places. It’s all pretty routine. If the sum total of the RNC expenditure reports had to do with nice hotels and caterers, few would have even raised an eyebrow.

But therein lies the point: the controversy surrounding the RNC’s spending included a lot of money on private planes (a practice that did not turn up in the DNC’s reports), and nearly $2,000 at “a bondage-themed nightclub featuring topless women dancers imitating lesbian sex.”

I can’t help but wonder what genius at the RNC thought it’d be a good idea to bring all of this back up. They poured through DNC filings looking for dirt, and they came up with mundane hotel and catering expenses. The smart thing to do, then, would be to say nothing more about expense reports, and instead work on changing the subject.

But, no. The RNC thought it’d be fun to hit the hornets’ nest with a stick, and then hang around to kick it a little more.

DNC spokesperson Hari Sevugan seemed only too pleased to respond to the RNC’s latest efforts.

“The RNC got in trouble not because it was doing traditional fundraising at hotels, or holding meetings at hotels — and we’ve never raised that issue. They got in trouble with their donors because they are spending more money than they are raising (deficit spending is a pattern with Republicans) and because they are doing so in part at sex clubs. […]

“[I]f Republicans want to compare our spending to their spending and allow us to say Michael Steele approved spending money at a Hollywood sex club a few more times — that’s fine with us.”

The RNC should appreciate the value of quitting while they’re behind.