Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele "allowed a certain climate to exist" that resulted in the committee paying for a now infamous visit to a Los Angeles strip club, a senior RNC committeeman told Fox News.
Steele's critics point to the strip club story as another in a series of controversies in which his leadership has been found wanting. The chairman's office has rejected such flak as unwarranted by the facts in the case. RNC spokesman Doug Heye also points out that Steele was not at Voyeur, did not have any knowledge of the expenditure and finds the use of committee funds at such a location unacceptable.
Publicly filed documents revealed this week that a Republican donor, Erik Brown, had been permitted to charge the RNC for a $1,946 visit last February to the Los Angeles strip club Voyeur. In response to the disclosure, the RNC Tuesday fired staffer Allison Meyers, the director of the committee's "Young Eagles" program. It was Meyers who turned in the receipt as an expense.
Some RNC members say they are growing increasingly "frustrated" with Steele. The chairman recently went on his book tour without any RNC press aides and during the tour announced that the GOP "might not be able to lead the country." Steele also controversially said on a cable talk show he thought some Republicans were "afraid of black people".
However, the gaffe that may have upset party faithful the most was Steele's decision to schedule this year's RNC winter retreat in Hawaii. Many saw that as a decision totally out of step with normal Americans who are struggling through the present recession.
But well-placed Republican Party sources told Fox News they did not believe think the latest controversy, over the activities at Voyeur, will cost Steele his chairmanship. Ultimately, these insiders said, Steele's job is to win elections -- and the GOP has done well on that score lately.
Last fall, Republican candidates captured the governorships in Virginia and New Jersey, and more recently scored an enormous triumph with Scott Brown's upset in the special Senate election in Massachusetts, held to fill the seat vacated by the death of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.
"I don't think he will get fired," said one influential RNC member of Steele. "The question is: Will he get re-hired?"
These sources believe all the right moves were made in the wake of the Voyeur embarrassment -- a responsible staffer was fired, all funds have been accounted for -- but many still worry about the bigger picture.
"For the first time I can remember, we have less cash on hand than the Democrats, and that's the real crime here, we should be spending our money more wisely." said one well placed Republican source.
In February, the RNC raised $7.69 million but spent $7.71 million, beginning March with only $9.5 million in the bank. The Democratic National Committee, in the same period, took in $7.4 million and spent $6.9 million, ending the month with $10.7 million cash on hand. However, the DNC also had $3.7 million in debts.
Heye dismissed talk of mounting frustration with Chairman Steele.
"We get great feedback from our members," Heye said. "By and large, they think stories like this are overblown and just want us to concentrate on winning elections. By the way, have you ever noticed that I'm the only one quoted by name in these stories?"
Steele was elected RNC Chairman in January of 2009. The next election for the chairmanship will take place in January of 2011.
Jake Gibson is a producer working at the Fox News Washington bureau who covers politics, law enforcement and intelligence issues.