Steele Accused of Hiring Friends

Published May 20, 2009

Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele, who rules over a divided GOP, is being accused by a leading conservative newspaper of stacking his staff with friends and family and guaranteeing them salaries far greater than that of their predecessors.

The Washington Times reported this week that when Steele agreed to become chairman, he brought along his longtime personal assistant, Belinda Cook, and paid her almost three times what the previous chairman’s assistant had earned. Then, according to the Times, Cook’s son landed a gig at the Republican National Committee. Steele then hired another family friend, Angela Sailor, to be the party's outreach director, paying her a salary of $180,000, “more than double her predecessor's compensation, though new responsibilities have been added to the job,” according to the Times.

The newspaper, which is owned by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon of the Unification Church, is known for its conservative stances on political and social issues. Moon once said that “The Washington Times will become the instrument in spreading the truth about God to the world." 

FOX News, another conservative media outlet, also broadcast a report about Steele’s hiring practices. In that story, FOX interviewed Hawaii’s Republican chief, Willis Lee.

"These salaries we hear about are way out of line for what staff should be paid for working for a political party, which most of us think of as a cause," said Hawaii Republican Party Chairman Willis Lee. "And if certain staff at the national committee are making that much, then the public understandably might think they are examples of cronyism."

The Republican Party, which has had a longtime reputation of dissing Black voters, hasn’t quite figured out how to size up its new leader, the first African American to hold the post. Some party members were strongly against his appointment, arguing that he was not a true conservative. The former lieutenant governor of Maryland has expressed support for a women’s right to choose an abortion and bucked the longstanding party line by suggesting that gay people do not choose to be homosexual. He has since recanted those comments.

In recent months, he has endured barbs from conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh, who casts himself as a true conservative and Steele as the wrong person to lead the Republican Party.

Written by BET.com Staff

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