Healy also brought up reports from last month that Priebus's Wisconsin law firm helped clients secure stimulus funding, and that Priebus's name was attached to the "Stimulus and Economic Recovery Group." Priebus's team has pushed back hard on the report, from FrumForum, but voting members are aware of the story nonetheless.
Other candidates and their surrogates are raising questions about Priebus's neutrality ahead of the 2012 presidential contest, given his close ties to Mississippi national committee member Henry Barbour, nephew of Gov. Haley Barbour (R). Priebus has received behind-the-scenes support from Nick Ayers, executive director of the Republican Governors Association and another close Barbour associate, leading some to suggest Priebus -- who is neutral in the 2012 race -- would favor Barbour.
"Sure, it makes sense that certain candidates contemplating a run for the presidency would want to control the RNC and have their person as RNC Chair," wrote Michigan national committee member Holly Hughes, who supports Steele.
"It is simply fascinating how a million dollars or a possible presidency can motivate people. These are High Stakes [sic], and includes those high up who insisted that large donors should not contribute to the RNC under Steele," Hughes wrote, veiled references to both Barbour, the possible presidential candidate, and Indiana national committee member Jim Bopp, a favorite target of Steele's who is also backing Priebus (Steele has said several times he canceled a contract between the RNC and Bopp's firm; Bopp remains the lead attorney on the party's latest challenge to McCain-Feingold campaign finance legislation and has denied any contract was canceled).
In a sense, Priebus has been inviting the further scrutiny by portraying himself as the front-runner. Several prominent Republicans who hope to elect anyone but Steele have worked to set Priebus up as the default candidate. But that makes him a target, too; all of the other candidates want to claim the anti-Steele mantle as well. associating Priebus with Steele's 2009 campaign is the smart way to knock Priebus off his pedestal.
The assaults on Priebus's record come just days before the only scheduled forum all six candidates are likely to attend. That gathering, on Monday, Jan. 3, is being hosted by Americans for Tax Reform and the Daily Caller. It's a hint Priebus will face his toughest questions at a crucial point just a week and a half before the election, set for Jan. 14.
Priebus was not immediately reachable for comment early Saturday.