Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele made a curious donation from the national party coffers in the last two months, the Hotline reports: $20,000 to the Republican Party in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, which has no electoral votes, no vote in Congress, and too small a population to even imagine statehood — but where the party committee members did help him win the chairmanship a year ago.
Under the RNC’s rules, territories are on the same footing as states in determining the party chairman, and each state/territory gets the same number of committee members. The CNMI’s committee members had the same say in determining the party chairman as did states like Texas or California. The CNMI’s votes had initially gone to former Michigan GOP chairman Saul Anuzis, which gave them a strong position as swing votes in the final ballot between Steele and former South Carolina GOP chairman Katon Dawson. Steele won that race by a vote of 91-77 — a margin greater than the CNMI votes.
“Insiders said the islands sought a financial commitment from the eventual chair; Dawson refused, and the island votes went to Steele. Steele advisors have denied a deal was cut,” the Hotline reports. “RNC spokesperson Gail Gitcho told Hotline OnCall the money was sent to the Northern Mariana Islands ‘to help them win elections.'”
Regardless of whether there was a deal, just how useful is it to the party’s national fortunes to spend money in a remote U.S. territory with less than 100,000 people? How important is a Northern Mariana election, beyond the people who live there?