No sooner did Wisconsin GOP chairman Reince Priebus emerge as a leading rival to Michael Steele for chairmanship of the Republican National Committee than Priebus got hit by the revelation that his Milwaukee law firm helped its clients get federal stimulus funds.
Interestingly, the revelation seemed to hit Priebus almost simultaneously from two different ideological directions -- the stimulus story being reported Tuesday by both Tim Mak at the "centrist" Web site Frum Forum and by conservative Dan Riehl at Andrew Brietbart's BigGovernment.com.
My own immediate reaction was that this looks bad enough to sink Priebus's challenge. Priebus told Mak "he has never worked with his firm's ‘Stimulus and Economic Recovery' group," but Riehl says it looks like Priebus is trying to hide online evidence of his involvement. Whatever the case, even indirect involvement with Obama's stimulus program -- anathema to conservatives -- could be heavily damaging.
The double hits raise the question of who is gunning for Priebus. Obviously, Steele's supporters would have a motive to release "oppo" research to damage a rival, but so would supporters of Steele's other rivals, who include Saul Anuzis of Michigan (who was one of Steele's rivals for the chairmanship two years ago), former RNC political director Gentry Collins and Ann Wagner of Missouri, who has been called a "conservative star" by St. Louis-based blogger Jim Hoft.
Of the 168 members who will have a vote next month when the RNC meets in Washington, more than 120 have still not committed to support any candidate for the chairmanship. Critics of Steele have blamed the chairman for the committee's lackluster fundraising during the 2010 election cycle.