Does Michael Steele Have a Potential Ethics Conflict on His Hands?

I have, for some time, been on a tirade against the self-dealing, back scratching, and incestuous relationship among GOP consultants. The Democrats have had their own problems with the issue.

To be sure, there are some consultants and consulting firms that are must use. But not all of them.

To his credit, Michael Steele recognizes the same problem and sent out an email to RNC members describing how he intended to solve the problem. But, one of the criticisms about Steele from some of the RNC members has been his relationship to Blaise Hazelwood, a DC consultant.

In Steele’s email, he wrote, “No member of the RNC staff will benefit financially from the RNC beyond their salary. The RNC will utilize a RFP process that mirrors best practices among national non-profit organizations. Contracts will be awarded strictly on merit.”

But privately, some RNC members question if he’ll live up to his email and they point their finger to Mrs. Hazelwood. Here’s why:

In 2002 and 2004, Mrs. Hazelwood worked at the RNC serving as Political Director. During that time, the RNC sent just shy of $1 million to Targeted Creative Communications in 2002 and again in 2004. Mrs. Hazelwood’s husband is the president of the company.

Notably, in the 2006 cycle, after Mrs. Hazelwood left the RNC, the payments to her husband’s company went from almost $1 million per election cycle down to $600,000.00.

In 2006, Mrs. Hazelwood went to work for Elizabeth Dole at the National Republican Senatorial Committee in the ill-fated “defend Lincoln Chafee” election cycle. Interestingly, prior to Mrs. Hazelwood going to the NRSC, payments to her husband’s company by the NRSC totaled zero dollars. In 2006, the number went up to $121,000.00.

Presently, Mrs. Hazelwood has ownership interests in iWeb Strategies and Grassroots Targeting, LLC. She is not at the NRSC or the RNC. Both of her companies have brought in large sums from a variety of candidates. I think that shows that she’s a competent operative. We should then be able to conclude that she is a consultant who Republicans would naturally be drawn to.

But that does not really explain the 2002 to 2006 cycles when Mrs. Hazelwood was involved at the RNC and NRSC. When she left the RNC, payments to her husband’s company went down and when she arrived at the NRSC, payments went up from zero to over $100,000.00.

Today at the RNC event, many of the 168 committee members had questions about consultants and conflicts of interest. As Lt. Governor Steele makes his last pitch tomorrow for RNC Chairman and takes on the issue, he probably needs to provide some clear insight on what Mrs. Hazelwood’s role would be at the RNC and how her outside business interests would be treated.