When Michael S. Steele took over as chairman of the Republican National Committee earlier this year, he brought along longtime personal assistant Belinda Cook and gave her a salary nearly three times what her predecessor made.
Mrs. Cook's son, Lee, also landed an RNC job.
Mr. Steele hired another family friend, Angela Sailor, to be the party's outreach director at a salary of $180,000, more than double her predecessor's compensation, though new responsibilities have been added to the job, according to a high-ranking RNC official and Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings.
Mr. Steele's early record and personnel decisions figure to be hot topics at a special meeting of Republican state party chairmen Tuesday and Wednesday at National Harbor in Washington's Maryland suburbs. His hiring of friends and the salaries he is paying them already helped to instigate a struggle over who controls the party's purse strings, one that forced the new party chairman to relinquish some control to elected RNC members.
"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."