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Washington Times Trolls Gutter for RNC Critics

Judging by recent Washington Times coverage, the Republican National Committee is a hotbed of dissension — even after big GOP wins in Virginia, New Jersey, and most recently Massachusetts. But at the RNC winter meeting in Honolulu, in a series of key RNC ballots on party fundraising and candidate selection, there was not a single dissenting vote.

The centerpiece of the January 29 open session at the RNC winter meeting in Honolulu featured a speech by RNC Chairman Michael Steele touting a one-year GOP move “from looking at its navel to holding our head high.” Looking towards the November elections, Steele told committee members: “We will contest every seat from D to H — from the first state, Delaware, to the 50th state, Hawaii. We will begin by taking the seat where [Obama] was born. And we will finish by taking his Senate seat in Illinois.”

In the face of RNC leaders’ optimism about Republican chances in November, the Washington Times has reached out to some odd sources in its search for evidence of Republican dissension. On January 29 as the RNC met, the Times’ coverage — “Steele told he must win tea partiers’ trust” — included this complaint from one Dale Robertson:

“I have called into the RNC many times, and they still haven’t called me back,” Dale Robertson, head of TeaParty.org, which he claims has upward of 7 million members, told the Times. “I’ve called them, lots of times. I called them this morning. I called them yesterday. It’s like they ignore you as they try to figure out a strategy on how to defeat you.”

Interestingly, the Times ran the exact same quote from Robertson on January 19 in an article titled “‘Tea party’ activists feel slighted by GOP.” Did Robertson call the RNC on the morning of the 19th or the morning of the 29th? Or is the quote being recycled because it helps make the meme?

Why are some so hot to go to press with even the shakiest evidence of trouble within the GOP? California GOP National Committeeman Shawn Steel explains in a January 14 Politico commentary that “[Michael] Steele fired much of the RNC’s dead wood” and points to “Republican D.C. vendors, anyone considered to be ‘professional’ in politics.” Writes Steel: “During the Bush go-go years, the RNC paid millions to carefully favored vendors. The howling you hear is the groans of those who no longer receive unearned no-bid contracts. They don’t like the new sheriff.”

The January 19 and 29 articles weren’t the first Washington Times mentions of Robertson. A January 6 article, “Tea party head warns GOP of Fla. repeat,” describes Robertson as “a founder of the tea party movement” — a title better claimed by Rick Santelli. Unchallenged by the Times, Robertson bizarrely takes credit for a change of state party leadership by Florida Republicans and threatened repeat performances. He says, “We are turning our guns on anyone who doesn’t support constitutional conservative candidates.”

Contrary to claims he is “founder of the modern-day tea party,” tea party activists in Robertson’s Houston hometown say they had booted him out of their tea party rally on February 27, 2009, after he showed up with a sign comparing taxpayers to “niggar.” The liberal Washington Independent on January 4 — joined by bloggers from the formerly conservative Little Green Footballs — had a field day exposing Robertson after a commercial event of his popped up on Resistnet. The liberal site Drudge Retort on January 5, 2010, gleefully called Robertson the “teabaggers’ grand wizard.” The very next day the Washington Times began touting Robertson as a tea party leader — with no reference to the photo controversy. Was the Times turned on to Robertson by the liberal blogs?

On January 6 — the day after the first Washington Times article appeared — the Houston tea party issued a statement explaining: “[Robertson] has never been a part of organizing any of the tea party rallies in the Houston area, or any other area that we can find.” Houston tea party leaders pointed to an April 2009 statement in which they had described Robertson registering numerous tea-related business names in Travis County, Texas, then “threatening” and trying to “shake down” leaders of tea party rallies.

But the Washington Times didn’t skip a beat. Its January 7 headline reads: “Steele’s side pursuits drive away big donors.”

The Washington Times’ January 8 article “Steele to GOP critics: Fire me or ‘shut up’” repeats a common refrain of RNC critics: “The RNC is trailing the … Democratic National Committee in fundraising.”

In his Politico commentary Shawn Steel explains: “2009 was the best year for the RNC since 1993 to 1994, the early years of Chairman Haley Barbour’s era. … Steele racked up zero debt and raised more than $80 million, outperforming Obama’s Democratic National Committee.”

RNC Chief of Staff Ken McKay reported the RNC’s fundraising goal for 2010 is $100 million and January 2010 fundraising is already on track to meet that goal.

Speaking to the Republican Honolulu confab, RNC Treasurer Randy Pullen reported receipts over $91 million for 2009. Fundraising was slow in the months immediately after Democrats swept the 2008 elections. But the RNC out-raised the DNC for each of the year’s last six months.

Asked about fundraising at a contentious news conference in Honolulu on January 29, Steele told one reporter: “Check your facts. But get it right, because you’ve been getting it wrong.”

Author of several of the critical pieces, Washington Times’ Ralph Z. Hallow describes himself on his Facebook page as a fan of Lew Rockwell — mentor to failed Republican presidential contender Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX).

Robertson is not the only marginal critic being given national stature by the Times. A January 28 article includes this item:

A member of the Illinois state GOP central committee established a “dumpsteele.com” website that lists what it says are Mr. Steele’s gaffes and transgressions as chairman. But it is unclear whether the website and other grumbling about Mr. Steele, the first black to head the party, has put his job in danger.

Once again the Times has it wrong. The website was put online January 12 by a single member of the 238-member Louisiana Republican State Committee — a Baton Rouge resident named Ryan Booth. Sixteen days after Booth finished the website, it was getting national media attention from the Times. In spite of the coverage, as of this writing, the Twitter account associated with the site has a paltry eight followers — meaning it is safe to say that the site has not put Steele’s job in danger.

In the Times articles, references to both critics have been duplexed with comments by more temperate comments from reputable Republican sources in order to give the appearance that internal RNC strife extends beyond the Beltway. The Washington Times articles have then been laundered by other national media outlets who wisely avoid mention of Robertson or “dumpsteele.com.”

Another media theme focuses on the much-ballyhooed “purity test.” After three months of media hype, a Google search for the exact term “James Bopp” — name of the resolution’s author — now returns 40,700 links. But a straw poll of Republican state party chairs in Honolulu unanimously rejected Bopp’s proposal to withhold RNC support from any candidate not swift enough to lie about his positions on 10 key issues. Bopp then withdrew his two motions.

In its place, the RNC accepted without dissent a resolution offered by Texas National Committeeman Bill Crocker recommending examination of candidates’ adherence to the GOP platform.

Oregon State GOP Chair Bob Tiernan explained: “He got flatly rejected. There’s five or six people [on the committee] that didn’t get their candidate elected back in January and they’re still upset about it and they’re trying to micromanage the process and micromanage the chairman.”

After presenting the resolutions report to the RNC, Mississippi RNC member Henry Barbour explained: “I think we’d all prefer to see more focus on how we’re going to beat the Democrats in November than much of the noise that is coming from resolutions.”

The Washington Times next-day coverage did manage to quote Henry Barbour explaining: “This is not historic, nor is it binding. … The resolution still gives the funding discretion to the RNC chairman and state party leaders where it belongs.” But Crocker’s non-binding resolution was still tagged as “a litmus test.” This claim sets up a justification for future attacks by the Times via its invented tea party leaders.