The Nail in Michael Steele’s Political Coffin

Flickr/<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/huffstutterrobertl/3913192439/sizes/m/in/photostream/">roberthuffstutter</a>

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Michael Steele, the gaffe-prone, soon-to-be-ousted chairman of the Republican National Committee, has left the committee’s reputation in tatters. But what may truly seal Steele’s downfall is his abysmal stewardship of the RNC’s finances.

The committee is buried under $20 million of debt, and the RNC’s financial health is in the worst shape it has been in three decades, the Washington Post reported on Friday. Hundreds of donors are fleeing the turmoil-ridden RNC, and the $7 million raised by the committee for the midterm elections was a small fraction of what it raked in during the 2006 midterms. (The Democratic National Committee raised $38 million for the 2010 elections.) Surely part of the RNC’s woeful fundraising is due to the rise of powerful outside groups like Crossroads GPS and American Action Network, which have big-name organizers and scant disclosure requirements. But Michael Steele’s error-filled tenure at the RNC’s helm no doubt contributed to the flight of donors.

Here’s what one donor told the Post:

“You can’t even dream of winning in 2012 with that kind of operation,” said John Dowd, a Washington lawyer and longtime RNC donor who decided against contributing in the past two years because of the “mess” at the party. “As long as it’s in that kind of shape, I can’t even think of giving.”

With Steele’s ouster all but assured, it’ll be up to his replacement—the odds favor Reince Priebus, the head of the Wisconsin GOP—to revive the RNC’s fundraising machine. In a letter announcing his entrance into the RNC race in December, Priebus wrote, “We will work to regain the confidence of our donor base and I will personally call our major donors to ask them to rejoin our efforts at the RNC.” That’ll be the next chairman’s true test: Can he or she lure back donors from the independent outside groups that so heavily influenced the 2010 midterms, or is the RNC’s long-term influence diminished for good? 

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Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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