WASHINGTON — Under fire from both right and left, the Republican National Committee is investigating how and why it spent nearly $2,000 for "meals" at a bondage-themed strip club in West Hollywood featuring topless dancers simulating lesbian sex.
The party confirmed Monday that it reimbursed a California consultant for $1,946 spent at Voyeur, a high-end bar/lounge that's described on one Web site as "classic slutty" where "you might not be completely shocked at the almost naked women writhing on each other, but you will undoubtedly be in awe."
"It was obviously improper for more than one reason," said party spokesman Doug Heye. "It was not a sanctioned RNC activity. It was improper because of the venue."
He said the party will get its money back from Erik Brown, the president of Orange County-based Dynamic Marketing Inc., who submitted the bill for reimbursement.
Brown, who couldn't be reached for comment, has worked for Republicans including California gubernatorial candidate Steve Poizner. His firm also maintains an office in Washington.
Brown socialized in the past with Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, once messaging via his Twitter account that he was "enjoying the football game with RNC Chairman Michael Steele. (Eagles vs. Redskins at FedEx Field)."
Heye said that Steele was not present at the strip club.
"Chairman Steele was not at Voyeur West Hollywood. He had no knowledge of the expenditure, nor does he find the use of committee funds at such a location acceptable," Heye said in a statement, adding that Steele, upon finding out about it on Monday, "demanded the committee get to the bottom of this matter immediately."
Heye also said that an RNC staffer has been dismissed.
"It is unfortunate that a loyal GOP donor who has recruited other donors became involved in this incident while merely trying to help what turned out to be the improper request of a staffer who is no longer with the committee."
Democrats pounced on the report, first revealed by the Web site DailyCaller.com, eagerly distributing media accounts of the brouhaha round the country.
Conservatives questioned it as well, led by the group Concerned Women for America.
"Did they really agree to reimburse nearly $2,000 for a bondage-themed night club?" asked the group's chief executive, Penny Nance. "Why would a staffer believe that this is acceptable, and has this kind of thing been approved in the past?"
The strip club costs were among several travel expenses that were listed in the RNC's most recent report to the Federal Election Commission and that suggested a high-flying lifestyle for party officials.
Among February expenses reported to the FEC: $17,514 for private jets; $12,691 on limos; $19,016.63 at the W hotel in downtown Washington; $9,099 at the Beverly Hills Hotel in California; and $6,596 at the Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire nearby.
The Daily Caller also reported that Steele discussed having the party buy a private jet, or a share of a private jet, for his personal use.
Steele has been the subject of complaints in the past about spending the party's money. Soon after he won the chairmanship in a contested election, the committee passed a resolution requiring that any contract for more than $1,000 be subjected to competitive bidding and that checks be signed by at least two officers of the party.
The March 20 report to the FEC showed that the Republican National Committee had $9.5 million in cash on hand.
The Democratic National Committee had $425,000 in cash.
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