Sunday, February 08, 2009


Revelation of the Day: Allegations against Michael Steele

Michael Steele was elected chairman of the Republican National Committee a little more than a week ago, and already the FBI has paid a visit to his sister.

Steele was formerly chairman of the Maryland Republican Party and the state's lieutenant governor. He also ran for Senator in 2006. The upshot of all this is that he had a lot of loose campaign cash on his hands.

Now Steele's finance chairman during his run for the Senate, Alan B. Fabian, is telling anyone who'll listen that Steele was using the money in violation of campaign finance laws. Among the allegations is that Steele paid his sister, Monica Turner of the now defunct Brown Sugar catering services, for work she did not perform—hence the federal agents' visit with Ms. Turner.

The catch here is that Fabian has been sentenced to a 9-year sentence for his participation in a $40 million fraud scheme and is clearly looking for some leniency.

Steele is taking a dismissive stance—"It's from, what, a convicted felon? And it has no substantiation in fact"—neglecting to note that this convicted felon was indeed his finance chairman and in a position to know what he's talking about.

But it was not these matters, first reported by the Washington Post, that caught my attention, since it's only reasonable to assume that any Republican politician above the level of dogcatcher is crooked. It was the manner in which these allegations emerged.

It was not, as I hope no one supposes, because of a doggèd investigation by the Washington Post's intrepid reporters, but because of a little slip-up at the Justice Department—

The claim about the payment, one of several allegations by Alan B. Fabian, is outlined in a confidential court document....

The U.S. attorney's office inadvertently sent the confidential document, a defense sentencing memorandum filed under seal, to The Washington Post after the newspaper requested the prosecution's sentencing memorandum.

Defense memorandum? Prosecution memorandum? What the hell, a memo's a memo.

The best thing Barack Obama did on his first day in office was to issue a directive ordering all federal departments and agencies to adopt a presumption in favor of any Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request—which is to say he wants the government to be more free with its information. The Justice Department has apparently taken the directive to heart.

This is bound to cause some friction, which will inevitably generate some heat. And—who knows?— maybe a little conflagration. But in the office of the chairman of the RNC, or at the Justice Department?


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