Tales from the Trail

Republican party chief says he’s staying put despite spending furor

Under fire for the Republican National Committee’s  free-wheeling spending on posh hotels, private jets and a party at a Los Angeles nightclub, committee Chairman Michael Steele said Monday he will not resign despite the controversy.

“No,” he said flatly on ABC’s “Good Morning America” when asked whether he would step down. It was his first television interview since the controversial spending came to light. “When I first heard about this behavior going on, I was very angry and we dealt with it.”

Steele has been excoriated over the last week, including by some members of his own party, for spending that included $2,000 at a sex-themed nightclub as well as tens of thousands of dollars spent on luxury hotels, private  planes and limousines in the month of February.

USA-POLITICS/REPUBLICANS“I’m not staying in fancy hotels, in the Four Seasons, and flying around in corporate jets,” Steele said. One RNC staffer has already lost her job because of the nightclub incident. “We have managed the money in a way that has allowed us to compete in some races that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to compete in.”

Last year, Republicans wrested victories in two key governors’ races — Virginia and New Jersey — and also won an upset victory in January to fill Democratic U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy’s seat in Massachusetts after he died from cancer.

Congress scraps plan for new executive jets

Remember when members of Congress embarrassed auto executives who flew to Washington aboard private jets when their companies were looking for bailouts?

The public grilling that was replayed over and over again came back to haunt the lawmakers, reappearing in television news stories about the House adding four executive jets to a defense appropriations bill despite Pentagon objections.

Late Monday, House leaders reversed course and dropped plans to spend $550 million to upgrade the Air Force fleet used by senior government officials and members of Congress for world travel. The Pentagon had only requested $220 million to buy four passenger jets. So, the House leaders are reverting to the the original request.