RNC Chief of Staff Ken McKay resigns

Top Republican Party official resigns in wake of scandal over expense at bondage-themed nightclub

Published April 6, 2010 12:15AM (EDT)

There's been quite a bit of turmoil and bad news over at the Republican National Committee lately, and Monday evening brought more: One of the RNC's top officials, Chief of Staff Ken McKay, has resigned.

The resignation is effective immediately, the RNC announced. Mike Leavitt, who worked on Sen. John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign and has been the party's deputy chief of staff, will be replacing him.

This move comes in the wake of revelations that the RNC allowed a staffer to expense the cost of taking potential donors to a Los Angeles nightclub that often features topless women, with a bondage theme. That news had only sharpened the criticism Steele has faced over the organization's spending during his tenure, and increased the pressure on him to do something about it. It appears this resignation is both an attempt to show something is being done and to throw McKay under the proverbial bus.

"The chairman felt it was critical to make a move swiftly to ensure that no improper expenses happen in the future," RNC spokesman Doug Heye told Hotline On Call. Similarly, he told Politico, "This is about ensuring that we have the tightest financial controls in place and to ensure that every nickel we spend is done with the goal of winning in November .... The chairman wanted to take swift action so that we can move forward."

Reaction to the move has been mixed. Former RNC Chair Ed Gillespie praised Leavitt in an e-mail to Hotline On Call. But one RNC member who spoke with Salon slammed the decision.

"Ken Mckay worked his ass off for the party and for the chairman, and for all the different problems, ups and downs, well documented, he was stunningly loyal to both the building and the chairman," the RNC member said, adding, "The problem in the building had nothing to do with Ken. He was part of the solution, not part of the problem." The RNC member did emphasize that this judgment wasn't a reflection on Leavitt, however.

Update: One of Steele's closest allies, consultant Curt Anderson, is out as well, seemingly in response to the news.

"Ken McKay's departure is a huge loss for the Republican Party. Ken steered the party through very successful elections last fall that have given us tremendous momentum," he said in an e-mail, according to CNN's Political Ticker blog. "He's a great talent. Given our firm's commitments to campaigns all over the country, we have concluded it is best for us to step away from our advisory role at the RNC."

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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