The GOP’s Young Eagles: ‘If You’ve Got a Little Insecurity Complex, But You’ve Got Money — What A Cool Group To Hang Out With’

April 6, 2010 1:29 p.m.

So: Who’s your favorite member of the Young Eagles?

As we’re guessing you know by now, that’s the RNC-created program for young donors whose night out at a bondage-themed LA club ended up on the committee’s tab — triggering the latest round of speculation over whether Michael Steele can survive.Is it J. Roby Penn IV, the Young Eagles’ mid-Atlantic regional director and 29-year-old heir to an oil-and-gas fortune, who tells visitors to his Facebook page, “My ancestors, actually, weren’t on the Mayflower. They sent the servants over first to get the cottage ready”?

How about Ryan Morfin, the young private equity entrepreneur and former Countrywide Financial banker, who serves as a young Eagles co-chair and recently offered his advice on building one’s “philanthropic discipline” early?

Maybe it’s Italo Zanzi, the sports lawyer, former U.S handball goalie and all-around “American Dream Man” who ran unsuccessfully for Congress from New York and now is trying his luck in a bid for the Florida House of Representatives.

Or could it be Erik Brown, the California young Republican who became the original fall guy for the Voyeur bondage club scandal, after he unwisely offered to put the tab on his credit card after being promised he would be reimbursed by the RNC?

Whoever it is, there’s no doubt they know how to roll, GOP-style. Before an RNC official indicated this week that the group’s activities would be scaled back in light of the bondage-related fiasco, the Young Eagles had planned a Texas bird hunt, a trip to the Indy 500, a bull-riding event, and a jaunt to London to hobnob with Tory party leader David Cameron.

One DC gossip blogger noted last year, apparently without irony, that the group “has been hitting all the sexy hotspots” — including a Redskins game with Steele, dinner at Spago in LA with Newt Gingrich, and cocktails at the W Hotel with John Boehner.

And it’s not hard to see what makes these guys popular. As one young GOP donor put it to Politico: “If you’ve got a little insecurity complex, but you’ve got money — what a cool group to hang out with.”

According to a Young Eagles brochure obtained by The Daily Caller, the group has offered annual memberships at reduced rates of $2,500 if you’re 21-25, and $5,000 if you’re 26-35.

In fact, it looks like the Young Eagles penchant for living la vida loca has been simmering in the background of Republican politics for a while now. In late 2008, a plan for the group to attend a party at the swank Breakers hotel in Palm Beach, Florida provoked grumbling about the optics from National Review.

But the RNC has clearly been feeling the pressure to keep these high-rollers entertained. “Everything that’s cool from a pop culture perspective is Democratic — whether it’s Kanye West or Bruce Springsteen — and with younger conservatives, a good event is often a big way to help sell,” one former Young Eagle put it to Politico. “How many times can you go to the U.S. Open?”

The TPM Journalism Fund: A New Way To Support TPM
We're launching the TPM Journalism Fund as an additional way for readers and members to support TPM. Every dollar contributed goes toward:
  • -Hiring More Journalists
  • -Providing free memberships to those who cannot afford them
  • -Supporting independent, non-corporate journalism
Are you experiencing financial hardship?
Apply for a free community-supported membership
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Senior Editor:
Special Projects Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front-End Developer:
Senior Designer: