According to WBAL TV in Baltimore, during their Senate and gubernatorial campaigns respectively, Michael Steele and former Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich paid $400,000 from several different Republican accounts to a single commodities trading firm, Allied Berton LLC, for "political consulting". 

"I would make of this being a little hinky," said Professor Don Norris, the director of the Institute for Policy Analysis at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

"The firm doesn't have anything to do with political consulting or providing services to elected officials or campaigns, and what we can't tell by looking at what was reported is what the expenditures were really for," Norris said.

According to the report, Allied Berton had lost its right to conduct business after failing to file proper paperwork--in 2005, a year before Steele and Ehrlich gave them the money. When asked what the money was paid for, an Erlich Spokesman said:

"[t]the money might have been used to pay for six busloads of poll workers on Election Day in 2006. The buses carried several hundred black men from Philadelphia -- many of whom were homeless -- as part of a strategy to attract black support that was denounced at the time by Democrats as deceptive."

The Washington Post quoted one of the men who pegged the number of "election workers" bussed in by the two campaigns who were homeless at 85%. The fliers they handed out read "Ehrlich Steele Democrats", ostensibly a play on "Reagan Democrats". As read however, they appeared to identify Ehrlich and Steele as Democratic candidates.The fliers, which billed themselves as "voter guides," also featured pictures of two local black Democrats and then head of the NAACP Kwesi Mfume. Only one of the Democrats had endorsed Steele, none had endorsed Ehrlich.

It wasn't the first time Steele had tried to obscure his party affiliation. His Senate campaign also passed out stickers that read "Steele Democrat".

Both Steele and Erlich lost their election bids. Because black people aren't idiots.

Oh, and I almost forgot, Republican insiders are apparently already talking about getting rid of Steele. The FBI is also already investigating fraud in connection with Steele after a campaign official said that no work was done for money paid to a company owned by Steele's sister.

Via TPM.

-- A. Serwer

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