Michael Steele, former lieutenant governor of Maryland, was elected chairman of the Republican National Committee Jan. 30. He won on the sixth ballot in voting that a Washington Post writer said “displayed a level of drama rarely seen in national politics.”
A question reporters might ask Steele is how he feels about a plank in President Obama’s civil rights agenda to issue “harsh penalties for those who have engaged in voter fraud and provide voters who have been misinformed with accurate and full information so they can vote.”
Republicans often express concern about voter fraud, so Steele might go along with the idea, right? On the other hand, maybe not. For in Steele’s recent background is a nasty dirty trick—some might call it fraud—from 2006 when he ran for U.S. Senate in Maryland and Republican Robert Ehrlich ran for re-election as governor. By the campaigns’ own admission, Ehrlich and Steele put out a phony “official voter guide” in which three prominent black Democrats were said to back Ehrlich and Steele for election. In fact, only one of the three had endorsed Steele and none had endorsed Ehrlich.
On Election Day, according to the Washington Post, at least seven large buses picked up recruits in Pennsylvania and Delaware to distribute the deceitful flyers at mostly black voting places in Maryland. (This Slate article shows the flyer.)
A Washington radio station, WTOP, quoted a spokeswoman for the Ehrlich campaign as saying the ballots were “paid for in part by the Bob Ehrlich for Maryland Committee, as well as the Steele committee, as well as the Maryland GOP.”
There was quite a stink at the time. A lot of it is recorded on the Web but I didn’t see any comments from Steele. Perhaps as GOP chairman he’s got some views on voter fraud or dirty tricks that he’d like to share; it’s 2009 now and he’s had a good bit of time for reflection.
The 2006 Election Day chicanery went to the Justice Department, which didn’t do anything. Ehrlich and Steele lost so it can’t be said that they stole an election, only that they tried.