Controversies a Distraction as Steel Promotes GOP.


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1Controversies a Distraction as Steel Promotes GOP .
2The camera pans across a bucolic river and a sunny cornfield , an American flag flapping in the breeze , as narrator Michael Steele extols the freedom to dream and achieve .
3Then , with the Statue of Liberty sweeping into the shot , comes a dire warning that freedom is fragile : Democrats , he says , are `` experimenting with America . ''
4The camera zooms in on a bespectacled Steele , who asks viewers for donations .
5`` Our freedom , '' he says with a smile .
6`` It 's worth fighting for . ''
7The television advertisement , which aired in selected markets last month , is vintage Steele _ affable , charismatic and seizing the spotlight .
8But the ad 's star is not running for anything .
9He 's the chairman of the Republican National Committee , with a mandate to promote his party rather than himself .
10Steele has put a public face on what had been largely a behind-the-scenes job , hoping to foster what he has called a `` hip-hop '' Republican renaissance .
11That high profile has been accompanied by a record of lavish spending and a string of gaffes , leading some party activists to complain that Steele revels in the perks of the office while neglecting some of the onerous work necessary to reclaim majorities in the House and Senate .
12This narrative grew more damaging last week with the disclosure that RNC staffers approved a $ 1,900 bill at a Hollywood nightclub that features topless dancers mimicking lesbian sex acts while wearing bondage gear .
13Still there have been no calls for Steele 's ouster , and some top Republicans have calculated that there is no upside in forcing out the first black chairman of a party largely dominated by white Southerners _ especially not while the GOP is winning under his watch .
14Steele claimed credit for recent Republican victories in Massachusetts , Virginia and New Jersey , telling reporters in January : `` I won two governorships and a host of special elections . ''
15Some Republicans question Steele 's contribution to the party 's recent successes .