Michael Steele's Latest Bondage Play: Hooking Up With Al Sharpton

By Cat Contiguglia

Michael Steele, the embattled head of the Republican National Committee, seems to be making a last ditch effort to make some friends -- any friends -- by hooking up with Al Sharpton.

Steele, who has been the subject of intense criticism for irresponsible spending, including the funding of a trip for donors to a bondage-themed nightclub, made an appearance at Sharpton's National Action Network convention this past week, and may have even shelled out some RNC money to help sponsor it.

Both the Democratic National Committee and the RNC were invited to the event by Sharpton, but the RNC went a step further and became one of the sponsors listed on the event program, even though nobody seems to know how.

Upcoming Events

According to the NAN website, to become a sponsor, one has to make a contribution between $1,000 and $100,000. RNC spokesman Doug Heye said the RNC was not a sponsor and hadn't contributed any money and had simply been invited to make a few remarks. The NAN press people couldn't clarify the situation and said they were not authorized to disclose the amount contributed by sponsors. When the Voice asked Sharpton how much the RNC had contributed, he said they were not sponsors, but had bought a ticket to the extravagant Keeper of the Dream Awards Dinner. "What, do you expect us to feed them?" he said.

Steele, meanwhile, got raves from the audience, according to The Daily Caller:

Steele's job, he says, is to turn the elephant. "Now, I don't know if any of you have ever had to turn an elephant, but the end you have to start with is not necessarily the best place to start." This gets a good laugh. A bit later: "Certainly one of the lessons I've learned and the challenges that I've had in this job is that you can't please everyone, but you can certainly make them all mad at you at the same time." This gets a great laugh. Later still, a story. When Steele became lieutenant governor of Maryland in 2003, he was told that his office had belonged to Thomas Jefferson in the early days of the republic. "And I would sit there from time to time and I would think to myself, Thomas Jefferson must be saying to himself, 'How did a brother wind up in my office?" Roars to the roof. "Well, Sally Hemings knows how I wound up in that office!" Through the roof!

But also: Huh?

And another question: how's that going to play in Richmond and points south?

Steele has fast been losing Republican support with pro-choice comments and reports of spending double his predecessors on private airplanes, limousines, catering, and flowers, and even suggesting the RNC buy a private jet. Some Republicans have called for outside fundraising to allow candidates to distance themselves from the RNC.

The National Legal and Policy Center, the conservative organization that originally reported about Steele's appearance, wrote an open letter to the RNC calling for Steele to withdraw from the convention.

Some at the convention were unhappy as well, saying that Steele was coming to them to shore up a sinking ship.

"[It's like a] public relations ploy, and so when you get sponsor throw some money around in hopes of getting a sympathetic ear or arm or a push or backing," said Minister James T. Thompson, a NAN member in the Syracuse chapter, who attended the speech. "I think black Americans are a lot more sophisticated than they were ten years ago. You have to be really more cagey about how you make moves like that because it could be deemed as an insult, trying to insult my intelligence, like I don't know what you're trying to do."

Steele and Sharpton have been fairly chummy in the past, appearing on television and radio shows together. Even Heye, the RNC spokesman, conceded the two "certainly know each other" and "have a good relationship." Sharpton's history indicates he doesn't really have a problem blurring political alliances with people advancing agendas contrary to the wishes of most paying members of his organization. He has canoodled with the likes of Bill O'Reilly, and Roger Stone organized Sharpton's 2003 presidential campaign.

Lately, Sharpton has been improving his relationship with President Barack Obama, reversing earlier statements he made critical of Obama. Certainly, the reverend could fit in one more blessing.


Sponsor Content

Newsletters

All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories
    Send:

Newsletters

All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >