How party went flat for its Playboy fund-raiser

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The Independent US

When Loretta Sanchez, Democratic Congresswoman from the 46th District of California, booked the Playboy Mansion, home of soft-porn magnate Hugh Hefner for a high-profile fund-raiser during the Democratic National Convention next week, she envisaged a splashy, Los Angeles-type event that would bring the party big money and big attention.

When Loretta Sanchez, Democratic Congresswoman from the 46th District of California, booked the Playboy Mansion, home of soft-porn magnate Hugh Hefner for a high-profile fund-raiser during the Democratic National Convention next week, she envisaged a splashy, Los Angeles-type event that would bring the party big money and big attention.

Intended primarily for the party's growing Hispanic constituency, the fund-raiser would show off the party's strength in ethnic diversity and its ability to kick the traces and have some fun.

Unfortunately, Ms Sanchez, a Hispanic who won two bitterly fought Congressional elections against a nationally-known conservative, reckoned without the party's greater need to polish its credentials in the morality and decency department.

With the Lewinsky affair fresh in the minds of suburban voters elsewhere in the country, and the Republican party promising to restore "honour and dignity" to the White House, a fund-raiser at the Playboy mansion was just what the Democratic Party hierarchy did not want.

With imagined photographs of Al Gore and Playboy bunnies dancing before their eyes, the Vice-President's aides made clear that there was no way their candidate would go anywhere near the Hefner menage. Then, when Ms Sanchez declined to take the hint, the heavy mob was brought in.

Still unbowed, Ms Sanchez was removed from the speaking roster at next week's convention and could lose her co-chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee as well as central party funding for her re-election campaign.

As the first Hispanic, and one of the few women to hold such a prominent party position, the longer-term loss could be as great for the Democratic Party as for Ms Sanchez.

But the party's absolute priority next week is to keep the convention squeaky clean and demonstrate that Al Gore is no Bill Clinton.

Ms Sanchez suggested yesterday that she would be willing to move her gala fund-raiser to another location. "If someone can find a different venue and guarantee that it will have that kind of cachet that people will come and donors will come ... then it's quite possible we could put it some place else," she said.

It was unclear whether that was a concession or continued defiance by other means.

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