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Collins Planned RNC Bid Before Quitting

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Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele is facing a challenge from his former political director.(Richard A. Bloom)

Former Republican National Committee political director Gentry Collins made preparations to run against chairman Michael Steele at least a week before he quit his job, according to documents filed on his behalf.

Collins ended his tenure at the RNC on Nov. 16, when he wrote a scathing letter to Steele and the RNC's executive committee accusing the incumbent chairman of leaving House and Senate seats on the table because of lackluster fundraising. Rumors quickly circulated that Collins was considering running for chairman.

In fact, a top Collins ally had already taken the first step toward a campaign. Former Iowa Republican Party chairman Brian Kennedy, Collins' close friend, had filed paperwork with the Iowa Secretary of State's office incorporating Collins for Chairman, a political committee that would allow Collins to raise unlimited funds as he explores a race.

Kennedy signed the form on Nov. 9, a week before Collins quit. The Iowa Secretary of State's office received it on Nov. 12, according to a time-stamp. The documents were first uncovered by The Iowa Republican, a prominent Hawkeye State political blog.

Collins waited seven days from the time Kennedy filed the first paperwork to unleash the memo aimed at raising new questions about Steele's tenure. Collins' memo warned the RNC "will not be a productive force in the 2012 campaign" if it continued down the path Steele had taken it. He revealed the RNC had massive debts and accused Steele of failing to fully fund the party's venerable 72-hour program.

The memo was interpreted as a major blow to Steele, given Collins' reputation among committee members and his discretion with the media. But Collins allies passed the memo to reporters even after, the documents show, he had taken the first steps toward running for chairman, presumably against Steele.

Kennedy filed the forms [pdf] incorporating the group with the IRS on Nov. 22. Collins announced he had formed the committee on Nov. 23.

Collins did not respond to an email sent on Thanksgiving Day.

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