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Democrats Hit GOP E-Mailing But Can't Escape a Spanking


October 14, 2001

Early last week, Democrats pounced on the Republican National Committee for sending an e-mail offering recipients a chance to "sign a petition" supporting the war on terrorism. Democrats assailed the e-mail as an inappropriate invocation of the war effort and said it could benefit the GOP politically by enhancing the party's database of home and e-mail addresses.

But it seems the Democrats were looking to do a little enhancing of their own.

Late last month the Democratic National Committee asked the Federal Election Commission to relax the rules on "soft money" in a way that might let the party pump more cash into this year's governor's races in New Jersey and Virginia. Party officials complained that they needed the relaxation because they had to cancel many fundraisers in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Republicans didn't exactly hammer Democrats over the issue, but they urged reporters to look into it and made a point of saying they had declined a request to co-sign the DNC letter to the FEC. Of course, Republicans traditionally raise a great deal more highly regulated "hard money" than Democrats, so a change in the soft-money rules would not have helped them as much.

Meanwhile, Common Cause did not hesitate to spank the Democrats over their soft-money request.

"There are a lot of things that are more difficult in the wake of the September 11 attacks, and political fundraising may well be one of them," Common Cause President Scott Harshbarger said. "But for the Democrats to claim that terrorist attacks somehow justify widening the soft-money loophole is simply not credible."

An FEC spokesman said that agency lawyers were reviewing the request and that a decision could come as early as Oct. 25.

Special House Elections

Electoral politics marches on this week with three special House elections.

In Arkansas, two Republicans will square off in a primary runoff for the right to succeed former GOP representative Asa Hutchinson, who vacated his seat to take over the Drug Enforcement Administration. There are Democrats running in Arkansas as well, but the winner of the GOP contest will go into November as the prohibitive favorite.

The GOP race pits physician John Boozman, the top vote-getter in the Sept. 25 primary, against state Sen. Gunner DeLay, a distant cousin of House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.). Boozman has the backing of former Arkansas representative Jay Dickey and other state Republicans. DeLay has the support of prominent conservatives such as author David Horowitz.

In Massachusetts, Democratic state Sen. Stephen Lynch faces Republican state Sen. Jo Ann Sprague in an election to succeed the late Rep. Joe Moakley. Lynch was recently endorsed by the Boston Globe and remains the heavy favorite in the overwhelmingly Democratic 9th District. But Sprague has been looking to peel off some Democratic support and has been endorsed by the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League.

Finally, in Florida, GOP state Rep. Jeff Miller is expected to easily defeat Democrat Steve Briese in an election to succeed former Republican representative Joe Scarborough in the conservative 1st District.

By Ben White, Copyright © 2001 The Washington Post Company

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