August 11, 2000 06:40pm
U.S. Rep. Sanchez Drops Playboy Party Under Pressure
by: Arthur Spiegelman
(LOS ANGELES, CA) -- Democratic Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez bowed to heavy career-threatening pressure from her party on Friday and agreed to move a major Hispanic political fundraiser from the politically incorrect Playboy Mansion to a more sedate, family orientated location.
In a rambling statement that was televised on major news networks, the once rising star of the Democratic Party said, ''Our decision is that we will be moving to a different location.'' She did not say where, but a source close to the situation told Reuters it would be held at B.B. King's Blues Club at Universal Studios' City Walk.
Bill Farley, a spokesman for Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, told Reuters, ``I think Loretta Sanchez just got beaten up by a bunch of white guys in Washington and this is a lose lose situation for her and for the party. Vice President Al Gore is going to need the Hispanic vote in California.''
Pressure mounted all day Friday on the two term Democratic Congressman 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 her for aligning the Democrats with ``the Playboy lifestyle.''
Democratic National Committee National Chairman Joe Andrew said hosting a political fund-raiser at the estate of the Playboy magazine founder was ``completely out of step with the values of working Americans and the Democratic party.'' Hefner is a longtime Democratic party contributor and a spokesman said he considers himself a liberal Democrat.
Under intensifying criticism from party leaders, Sanchez dropped plans for the Playboy bash, which would benefit a political action committee (PAC) that promotes voter registration among Latinos.
But members of the PAC she represents said they wanted her to stand firm. ``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 did 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.''
Andrew acknowledged that Hefner had 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.''