When Pat Brady and Reince Priebus pushed out a Party Chair

By DOUG IBENDAHL • November 10, 2012


What a difference two years makes. The 2010 midterm election was one of the most successful in the history of the GOP. Even Illinois Republicans were lifted by the national tsunami, although the Illinois GOP still underperformed relative to most other states.


Michael Steele was Chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC) back in 2010 and he guided the national party through that midterm election. That year the GOP gained 60 congressional seats (and took back control of the U.S. House of Representatives),  picked up six seats in the U.S. Senate, 690 seats in state legislatures, and six governors’ seats switched from Democrat to Republican.


But just weeks after the national party registered that historic performance, Pat Brady was publicly calling for Michael Steele’s ouster.


“Michael Steele is a good man, but it’s time for a change. I talked to him most recently last week, but – I think it’s time for someone else,” Brady said on November 17, 2010.


And that’s just what happened. In January of 2011, the 168 members of the RNC (Brady’s title of Illinois GOP Chair makes him one of those 168) chose Reince Priebus as its new Chairman. Brady supported Priebus’ bid.


Why did Brady dump Steele for Priebus? Well the rap on Steele was supposedly that he was a weak fundraiser, and also some ethical lapses occurred at the RNC on his watch.


Well guess what, Pat Brady was one of only six members of the RNC’s Budget Committee under Steele. So any financial shortcomings were squarely on Brady’s shoulders too.


The poor fundraising charge can probably be discounted by Steele’s results at the polls – as well as by reports that people like Karl Rove were working behind the scenes to dry up RNC fundraising to undermine Steele, and also because they wanted big donor cash for their own operations.


Still, there is no denying there were some serious ethical problems within the RNC organization during Steele’s tenure (such as the $2,000 of donor money spent by staffers at a bondage-themed topless nightclub). And Steele’s enemies did their best to exploit that narrative in the press.


But take a wild guess who chaired the RNC’s Ethics Committee under Steele? That’s right, Pat Brady.


Brady held two important posts within the RNC back then. That was a reward from Steele. Brady was one of the first to endorse Steele for his one and only two-year term.


Similarly, Priebus was an early supporter of Steele, and Priebus became the RNC’s General Counsel under Steele.


In November of 2010, Brady turned on Steele, but just seven months prior Brady was publicly telling everyone that things were fine at the RNC. “The problems that have surfaced in recent weeks don’t seem to be making a dent in fundraising efforts with six months to go before the November election,” is how Brady was quoted by The Pantagraph in April of 2010. “I think this will eventually go away. I’m not concerned at all,” Brady added.


Brady defended Steele in April of 2010 in reaction to public calls that had started for Steele’s early ouster. Obviously Brady still had use for Steele at that point.


Both Brady and Priebus milked everything they could out of Steele’s tenure. Then after the incredibly successful 2010 election, they simply better-dealed their “friend.” Brady and Priebus threw Steele under the bus.


Full disclosure, post-2010 election I wrote that Steele should go due to the RNC’s ethics problems. But that was before I knew we would get stuck with Priebus, a guy who every time I see him on television sounds to me like maybe he just left the Brat Stop, after maybe staying a little too long. (Note to Wisconsin friends, yes we all love the Brat Stop.)


Now fast forward to the present. Pat Brady, a guy who said almost immediately after 2010’s great election that the RNC Chairman had to go, still hasn’t had the decency to resign his State GOP Chairmanship after one of the most epic failures in the history of our Illinois party.


It’s coming of course. Everyone knows, including Brady, that he’s going to be replaced soon. Mark Kirk’s operation is just waiting to decide which Brady clone they’re going to jam on us.


And when that happens, Republican voters will have no say. The State Central Committee picks its Chairman, and since we still don’t have the right to directly elect the members of that committee, those individuals aren’t accountable to us and they have no incentive to listen. They’ll rubber stamp whoever Mark Kirk’s people tell them to rubberstamp. That’s how we got Brady, and Andy McKenna before that, and Judy Baar Topinka before that.


So good going direct election sellouts. You’ll soon be reaping what you sowed yet again.


But there’s never a reason not to clean house of a failed official and Pat Brady is as failed as they come. We just have to deal with the bad officials one at a time.


All we can do is try the best we can under the system we have while we have it. I’ll have more on that topic shortly.


Doug Ibendahl is a Chicago Attorney and a former General Counsel of the Illinois Republican Party.


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