Democrats blast letter comparing Daschle, Lindh
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The number-two Democrat in the Senate Thursday called on Republican leaders to denounce and refuse money from a conservative group raising funds for GOP candidates with a letter comparing Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle to John Walker Lindh, asking "Who is more dangerous to America?"
Senate Assistant Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, distributed the letter to reporters Thursday, highlighting a line that reads in part "the liberal Democrat Majority Leader in the Senate has put America in far greater danger than 'Johnnie Taliban' ever could."
Lindh is the American accused of fighting for the Taliban in Afghanistan.
A Daschle spokeswoman called the letter "outrageous and sad."
"Republicans should find other ways to raise money," said Ranit Schmelzer.
The letter is written by Tom Phillips, who says he is chairman of the National Conservative Campaign Fund. Phillips says his goal is to raise $1 million in donations to help elect conservative Republicans to the Senate and the House.
Reid said because the letter -- which starts "Dear fellow conservative" -- also says Lindh should lose his liberty and "perhaps his life," it is suggesting there should be violence against Daschle.
"They call for the death of John Walker Lindh in the first paragraph. It doesn't take a real stretch to see that's what they're asking," said Reid.
A spokesmen for the official committees to elect GOP Senate and House candidates -- National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee -- both told CNN they knew nothing about this group or this letter.
"The NRSC has never heard of them and we're not affiliated with their fund-raising efforts," said Dan Allen.
"We have no knowledge who they are, no affiliation," said Carl Forti, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Reid told reporters he found out about the fund-raising letter Wednesday when he saw it on the desk of a Republican senator in the Senate chamber. Reid called Daschle over to take a look at the letter, which has large pictures of the majority leader and Lindh side-by-side.
Reid would not disclose the name of the GOP senator who had the letter.
Since taking over the Senate more than a year ago, Daschle has been the target of GOP rhetoric, fund-raising letters and advertisements as the single biggest obstacle to getting President Bush's agenda enacted into law.
But Reid said he wanted to hold a press conference about this particular letter because "this is way outside the bounds of any civilized political debate that I'm familiar with. This is a vicious piece of charactor assasination and, sadly, an incitement of violence against Tom Daschle."
"If this were an isolated incident maybe I wouldn't have the outrage that I feel but it's not," said Reid, "This is a sustained campaign by the right wing that includes no less than 12 ads running aginst Senator Daschle in South Dakota since October, 2001."
A pro-Democrat group has started a Web site called "DaschleDemocrats.org" to support the majority leader.
The National Conservative Campaign Fund letter promises to throw in a copy of conservative pundit Ann Coulter's new book, "Slander," with every $100 donation or more.
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