Teller, center, was asked by Scalise to resign effective immediately. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)
The longtime executive director of the conservative Republican Study Committee has been asked to resign by first-term Chairman Steve Scalise, R-La.
Scalise told lawmakers at the weekly closed-door RSC meeting on Wednesday that Paul Teller was let go earlier in the day, according to multiple GOP lawmakers who were in the room.
Scalise confirmed to CQ Roll Call that he had asked Teller to leave. “When I ran to restore the RSC as a member-driven organization, we obviously got a lot of history, a lot of members interested in advancing the conservative agenda and that’s what our focus is,” Scalise said. “And we all rely on staff and we have to have the full trust of our staff. Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case, and all the current and former chairmen of the Republican Study Committee support this decision, as well as the founders.”
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, Scalise’s immediate predecessor at the helm of the RSC, said, “Paul Teller is a great guy [who's] been great for the conservative movement, but I support Steve and everything he’s doing.”
Sources said Scalise made a brief announcement to the group without much elaboration, saying it was not the appropriate forum in which to do so.
Members exiting the meeting confirmed that Teller was asked to resign, effective immediately, for a record of undermining confidentiality agreements, leaking conversations to outside conservative groups and actively working against the RSC when it was pursuing a strategy with which he disagreed.
“There were some trust issues,” said one lawmaker.
“I like Paul, but I gotta trust Steve’s judgment,” said another. “I’m sure there’s a whole lot more to this than we know right now.”
The move was first reported by Politico.
Teller was in the middle of one of the uglier intra-GOP fights of recent years when, in 2011, he was castigated by Republicans for compiling an internal whip list on the 2011 debt vote. When Teller’s whip list was discovered — along with emails in which he urged outside organizations to help defeat Speaker A. John Boehner’s debt proposal — members targeted by the group were incensed.
Jordan, who was RSC chairman at the time, apologized for the episode, but Teller never regained the trust of many of the Republicans who were targeted. Teller’s firing over leaks to those same outside organizations that have been a thorn in leadership’s side showed how long some of the memories were.
Scalise’s decision to retain Teller late last year was a surprise to many members who wanted him gone. But Teller always retained a strong base of support in the larger conservative infrastructure off Capitol Hill. Teller worked as executive director under seven RSC chairmen.