Rob Bickhart is a former finance director for the Republican National Committee. He was appointed to his post by the current RNC chairman, Michael Steele. On May 7, 2010, Steele replaced Bickhart with Mary Heitman.
Bickhart's annual salary, paid by the RNC, was estimated to be roughly $196,000, while his consulting fees for the second half of 2009 were roughly $240,000. These wages and fees caused controversy within the Republican Party. RNC treasurer Randy Pullen, who is also the chairman of the Arizona Republican Party, has expressed concerns about Bickhart's consulting fees.
In 2010, Bickhart joined Cozen O'Connor Public Strategies, a subsidiary of the law firm Cozen O'Connor. Bickhart works out of the firm's Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia office, where the law firm is headquartered.
2010 Fundraising presentation
In 2010, Bickhart wrote a PowerPoint presentation that had urged Republican fundraisers to use "fear" of President Obama to raise money, and that had made use of images depicting President Obama as The Joker (as played by Heath Ledger), Harry Reid as Scooby-Doo, and Nancy Pelosi as Cruella de Vil, while referring to the Obama administration as the "Evil Empire" and encouraging the fundraisers to stoke fear of "socialism". The presentation was delivered at a party retreat in Boca Raton, Florida by Bickhart and Peter Terpeluk, a former ambassador to Luxembourg who is now the RNC's Finance Chairman. This presentation was criticized by Randy Pullen as "not the kind of professionalism I'm used to seeing" at the RNC. RNC chairman Michael Steele also criticized the presentation, saying through a spokesman that it used "unacceptable" imagery. The Democratic National Committee referred to the presentation as "RNC Fear-Gate", and its spokesman said that the presentation was evidence that the Republican Party had been "taken over by the fear-mongering lunatic fringe".
In response to the controversy, conservative commentator and former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough called for Bickhart's firing. However, Curly Haugland, a member of the Republican National Committee from Bismarck, North Dakota, defended the presentation and the tactics used in it, saying "this conversation is in the mainstream already, it's not just a public relations tool". Another RNC member, Donna Lou Gosney of West Virginia, also defended the contents of the presentation, but expressed frustration that one of the retreat-goers had left behind a copy of the presentation, which was intended to be private, in the hotel where the retreat was held.
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