The new site's "Heroes" section touts various historically important Republicans, many of whom are minorities. At the bottom of each entry, readers interested in "more information on these and other Accomplishments of the Republican Party" are directed, with a link, to a book called Back to Basics for the Republican Party, by Michael Zak.
In an email to TPMmuckraker, Zak confirmed that he had written the Heroes section, as well as the Accomplishments section, "at the request of the New Media team." He added that he would "continue to write historically-themed items for the RNC blogs."
We couldn't get a copy of Back To Basics right away. It was published almost a decade ago and Border's told us it's out of print. But the first few pages, as well as the table of contents and the index pages, are available on Amazon. They make clear that the book is an effort to re-establish the GOP's reputation as the true champion of African-Americans. But they also show that it's not, shall we say, a particularly rigorous piece of scholarship.
On the third page, Zak writes:
Republicans correctly viewed the Civil War as a battle for supremacy between the slave system and the free-market society. Would the United States become all slave or all free? These two visions still contend for dominance today. The slave system, the very opposite of the free market society our Republican Party advocated, required a vast regulatory and enforcement infrastructure to keep people enchained for the benefit of others, just as the socialist policies of the Democratic Party do today. Trapped in the role once filled by slaves before the war and then afterward by poor blacks during the Jim Crow era, an underclass today maintains the political and economic power of the Democratic Party elite and those in their employ, if indirectly, in the government bureaucracy. No underclass would mean no immense bureaucracy to run the welfare state established by the Democrat Lyndon Johnson administration.
Why did our Party, born as a mass constitutional rights movement, lose the policy initiative to a party whose socialist policies have recreated a vile new version of the slave system? Rather than history repeating itself, what we have is a political version of the Law of Inertia; that is, forces continue until stopped by other forces. What stopped our Republican Party from completing Lincoln's "unfinished work," and why has the Democratic Party not been stopped from extending socialism? (our emphasis)
Zak appears to have made his career as an operative for Republican and conservative causes. In 2006, he joined the National Association of Manufacturers as a corporate communications specialist, according to an announcement (via Nexis) put out by the lobby group. Before that, said NAM, he had worked for the House Republican Policy Committee.
As for his educational credentials, NAM wrote:
He has an MBA from the Garvin School of International Management and a B.A. in economics from Georgetown University.
Zak did not immediately respond to a request from TPMmuckraker for more information on his educational or academic credentials.
It's not hard to see why Steele might embrace Zak's version of history. Indeed, Zak's website prominently displays a photo of the RNC chair holding a copy of the book, with his arm around the author. But it's revealing that this is the figure the Republican Party turned to for help polishing its image.
The RNC did not immediately respond to a request for comment on its work with Zak.