The Fallout at the RNC

The Republican National Committee's chief of staff, Ken McKay, resigned yesterday, an instance of the RNC's continuing fallout over its Voyeur-nightclub-expenditure controversy, and, to be clear, it sounds like this was the doing of RNC Chairman Michael Steele--a step to address the controversy, not McKay deciding on his own that he didn't like it there.

"The chairman felt it was critical to make a move swiftly to ensure that no improper expenses happen in the future," RNC spokesman Doug Heye was quoted as saying, by Hotline OnCall.

This would seem to raise the question: why? McKay, as chief of staff, wasn't any more responsible for the expenditure at Voyeur than Steele himself, who, it has been pointed out, wasn't there. Last week, the RNC fired Allison Meyers, the staffer who ran the RNC's Young Eagles program--the recruitment program for young donors--and was present at Voyeur. The person most directly responsible had already been fired. Why take it up the chain of command, to the person next-highest behind Steele? Doesn't it follow, logically, that if McKay resigns, so should Steele?

Hotline OnCall's Reid Wilson, who has been knee deep in RNC reporting since Steele's campaign for chairman, explains that this is a major move with one very significant consequence: Michael Steele is now in control of the RNC.

McKay and, in particular, strategist Curt Anderson (whose firm On Message Inc. was contracted by the RNC) wielded power over the committee's direction. Mike Leavitt, who ran Steele's unsuccessful Maryland Senate campaign in 2006, now becomes chairman. The development, Wilson says, is that Steele now has his own people in place.

From an optics perspective, this is likely a good thing for Steele. He has taken intense criticism from members of his own party since becoming chairman; insofar as he's perceived to have not been responsible for the committee's direction, the shedding of a perceived old guard would signify a taking up of the reins.

Not that this addresses any of the problems Republican insiders have with Steele himself and how he comports himself in media appearances, for instance. And, of course, if the RNC is to have a new direction, people will likely want to see it.