Representatives from many of the Republican presidential campaigns met Sunday night to discuss reforms to future presidential debates after a widely criticized CNBC debate Wednesday in which candidates accused the moderators of asking “gotcha” questions and generally holding a liberal bias. While the network has defended its moderators and their questions, some CNBC executives do have close ties to Democratic candidates.
When candidates and Republican National Committee officials expressed anger over the debate last Wednesday, CNBC Senior Vice President for Communications Brian Steel served as the network’s spokesman defending its actions. Steel previously worked in the White House under former President Bill Clinton, where he held several positions at the Department of Justice and then worked as a domestic policy advisor to the vice president.
But that’s not the only connection Steel has to the Clintons. Steel is married to Eileen Libutti, who is a managing partner at New York City law firm Lewis Johs Avallone Aviles LLP. Libutti has donated $2,700 -- the maximum contribution -- to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Steel and Libutti are known to socialize with other former members of the Clinton administration. The couple was seen at an anniversary party in June along with former Clinton administration press secretary Jake Siewert and Clinton White House staffer Christine Anderson, according to Politico. Those same Clinton alums attended a surprise birthday party that Libutti threw for Steel in New York in August. That party was also attended by other former Clinton staffers and media personalities.
These connections could provide fuel for Republicans as they promise to put TV networks under more scrutiny going forward.
In essence, there is fury about press but camps here are deciding to treat Fox differently moving fwd. More scrutiny for other outlets.
— Robert Costa (@costareports) November 1, 2015
"People are afraid to make Roger mad." Quote of the night, via text, from a source participating in the mtg.
— Robert Costa (@costareports) November 2, 2015
The next Republican debate will take place Nov. 10 and is being hosted by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal. According to the Washington Post, any new rules mandated by Republican campaigns or the Republican National Committee would go into effect after that debate.