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Money Flows into RNC, but Steele Still Hounded

Michael Steele

The Republican National Committee announced yesterday it recorded a new milestone in fundraising last month, but questions about RNC Chairman Michael Steele's leadership are still plaguing the organization.

The Republican committee pulled in $11.4 million in donations last month, its best March fundraising totals ever in a midterm election year, the Washington Post reports. Steele was working the phones yesterday to assure donors that the RNC is on track for success, in spite of recent missteps.

A report out this morning, however, suggests not all of the money Steele has raised during his tenure as chairman was brought in appropriately.

The Daily Caller reports that the RNC struck a deal with the Michigan Republican Party for the state party to raise money for the national party, so that the committee could bolster its fundraising numbers. Then, the money was then reportedly immediately returned.

"It was a known secret that a deal had been struck on the topic," a former RNC official told the Daily Caller.

Federal Election Commission reports indicate that 15 donors from Michigan gave a total of $456,000 the committee on one day, Dec. 31, 2009, the Caller reports. The RNC then reportedly gave $500,000 back to the Michigan Republican party over the next two months.

The Michigan Republican Party told the Caller that it was "patently false" any deal had been struck, while the RNC did not comment.

Meanwhile, Steele has continued to face a deluge of criticism in the wake of reports last week that the committee reimbursed nearly $2,000 in expenses from an outing some donors took to a topless, bondage-themed nightclub in Los Angeles. A handful of top committee staffers have been fired or resigned as a result of the incident, coupled with other gaffes.

Yesterday on CNN, former unpaid RNC adviser Alex Castellanos said that Steele should resign.

"I think a change in the direction now, at this point, would do the party good," Castellanos said.

He stopped serving as an adviser to Steele because "I lost my ability to be of service to the RNC," Castellanos said, adding that Steele has "lost the support of a lot of our major donors."

The RNC is, in fact, collecting less money from top donors, the Wall Street Journal reports. In the 14 months prior to March, the committee raised $2 million from donors who gave $20,000 or more, accounting for 2.5 percent of its total receipts, according to the Journal. Yet during the same period in the last election cycle, it raised $14.5 million from those donors, or 18 percent of its cash.

Meanwhile, with $11.3 million in the bank -- after accounting for what the committee spent in March, according to the Journal -- the RNC is heading into a campaign season in which it will have to help fund dozens of competitive congressional seats.

"There have been some concerns from some of the committee members about the money on hand and how much money comes in," Gary Emineth, chairman of the North Dakota Republican Party, told the Journal. "There just isn't a lot of cash available."

Other Republican leaders are less concerned.

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"The political environment is certainly better for Republicans than it's been in many years at this stage of an election cycle, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, leader of the Republican Governors Association, told the Washington Post. "So if -- and I emphasize if -- the RNC is not as strong in November as it may have been at some other times, the other committees can make up for that, particularly with seven months of warning."

The Republican Governors Association has more money than it's ever had, CBS News Chief Political Consultant Marc Ambinder reports. Meanwhile, according to Ambinder, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee are in a strong financial position, and new groups like, American Crossroads, are forming to raise their own funds for Republicans. American Crossroads aims to raise at least $30 million and has high profile Republicans on board like former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie and former White House adviser Karl Rove.

Still, the RNC's mistakes could continue to brew up trouble for the party. For instance, many may not welcome yesterday's announcement from former porn star Stormy Daniels that the topless nightclub incident has inspired her to possibly run for the Senate as a Republican.