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August 11, 2000 03:47pm
U.S. Rep. Sanchez Pressured Over Playboy Party
Source: Reuters
by: Christopher Noxon

(LOS ANGELES, CA) -- Pressure mounted Friday on U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez to find a more G-Rated venue for a planned fund-raising party than the Playboy Mansion, with the chairman of the Democratic party chastising the congresswoman for aligning the Democrats with ``the Playboy lifestyle.''

Democratic National Committee National Chairman Joe Andrew said hosting a political fund-raiser at Playboy magazine founder Hugh Heffner's estate was ``completely out of step with the values of working Americans and the Democratic party.'' Heffner is a longtime Democratic party contributor and a spokesman said he considers himself a liberal Democrat.

Under intensifying criticism from party leaders, Sanchez said Friday she may drop plans for the Playboy bash, which would benefit a political action committee (PAC) that promotes voter registration among Latinos. But meanwhile members of the PAC she represents said the Playboy party will carry on as planned.

``For the Democratic leadership to force her to kowtow to their wishes is outrageous,'' said Raymond Estrella, an Anaheim banker who sits on the steering committee of Hispanic Unity USA. ``How stupid can you get? Playboy is hardly even porno. Besides, it's just a venue. It's not like we're going to have naked women running around.''

But Democratic leaders threatened to come down hard on Sanchez if she does not change the venue by removing her from the speaker list and revoking her credentials for next week's Democratic National Convention. Andrew said continuing with the fund-raiser would leave the Democrats vulnerable to Republican attacks.

``The Republicans have just finished a convention in which they maintained that the previous Democratic administration lacked moral character,'' said Andrew. ``We don't want people distracted by these attacks.''

Indeed, the anti-abortion activist group Operation Rescue announced it planned to demonstrate outside the Playboy Mansion during the fund-raiser. Leaders said the Playboy event would ''continue a White House of porn.''

During an interview on NBC's ``Today'' show, Sanchez said she would consider changing the venue if another venue offered the same ``cachet.''

``If someone could find a different venue and they can guarantee that... donors will come and we'll continue to be able to raise the money that we need, then it's quite possible that we could put it someplace else.''

Democratic leaders have offered the use of a ballroom at a downtown Los Angeles hotel that serves as the headquarters for the Democrats. But Sanchez called it ``a very substandard venue'' that would fail to attract donors to the $5,000-a-head party.

A spokesman for Playboy praised Sanchez for her refusal to back down, noting that Hugh Heffner and his family have been long-standing contributors to the Democratic Party. ``Hugh Heffner has been a lifelong liberal Democrat,'' said Playboy spokesman Bill Farley. ``This leadership is being completely draconian.''

Andrew acknowledged that Heffner has contributed $10,000 to the party since he became chairman, but that the contributions did not soften the opinion of party leaders.

``Playboy does not represent the values of our party,'' he said. ``There's a lifestyle that the Playboy mansion represents -- and that lifestyle is not one this party supports... I discourage anyone from going to this event.''

Meanwhile party organizers at Playboy said Heffner would cover any expenses if the party was canceled. ``We support Sanchez and will continue to do so if she is forced to move the event,'' he said. ``And if we bought a few extra cases of caviar, I'm sure we can find a use for them.''

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