By Perry Bacon Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 4, 2010; A03
Democrats on Wednesday sharply criticized a Republican National Committee fundraising document that caricatured President Obama as the Joker, while Chairman Michael S. Steele sought to distance himself from it.
Also depicted were House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.), presented as Cruella de Vil and Scooby-Doo, respectively. The three Democratic leaders were gathered under the heading "The Evil Empire."
The cartoonish images were part of a 72-page PowerPoint presentation assembled for potential campaign donors and fundraisers. The document was obtained by Politico after being left at a Florida hotel where the Republicans had gathered Feb. 18.
The presentation also outlined how donors will be encouraged to give to Republicans at a time when the party holds neither the White House nor Congress: "Save the country from trending toward Socialism!"
It cites "fear" and "extreme negative feelings toward existing administration" as reasons why donors might contribute to the GOP.
Said Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse: "If you had any doubt, any doubt whatsoever, that the Republican Party has been taken over by the fear-mongering lunatic fringe, those doubts were erased today." He added, "Republicans across the country have cheered on crowds where these very images appeared."
Steele did not attend the presentation in Boca Grande, Fla., and had not been aware of the document, spokesman Doug Heye said. "Fundraising documents are often controversial. Obviously, the chairman disagrees with the language and finds the use of such imagery to be unacceptable," Heye said in a statement. "It will not be used by the Republican National Committee -- in any capacity -- in the future."
Raynard Jackson, a GOP activist who has worked to attract blacks and other minority members to the party, was outraged by word of the presentation.
"This is just beyond the pale," he said. "And the best we can get is Michael Steele issuing a statement through a spokesman? And they wonder why they can't get minorities, especially black people, involved in the party?"
GOP aides privately said that the document might hurt the RNC because it suggested that its major donors may be "ego-driven" to give to the party and that they might be motivated by "tchotchkes."