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Sanchez cancels convention speech in wake of Playboy controversy

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Loretta Sanchez, the California congresswoman whose planned Playboy Mansion fund-raiser caused a pre-Democratic convention brouhaha, Monday canceled her planned opening day speech to the convention delegates.

Even though Sanchez finally moved the fund-raiser venue from the mansion to a blues club under pressure from party officials and the Al Gore campaign, a spokeswoman said the two-term lawmaker was concerned that the controversy took attention away from the purpose of the event.

Sanchez cancels her planned opening day speech to delegates at the Democratic National Convention  

The fund-raiser, sponsored by her Hispanic Unity USA political action committee, was to designed to intensify efforts to register Hispanic-American voters for the Nov. 7 election.

Because of her initial refusal to move the party, the Democratic National Committee, of which she is a vice chairwoman, had bumped her from the convention speakers' roster. She was reinstated Friday after she relented and agreed to move the Tuesday evening fund-raiser to B.B. King's blues and jazz club at Universal City Walk.

Her decision to decline the re-issued invitation to address the convention -- at 3:15 p.m. EDT Monday -- came as a surprise. DNC officials are "disappointed that she doesn't want to speak, but we respect her decision and her wishes," spokeswoman Jenny Backus said.

"She's declining the invitation for a number of reasons," said Sanchez spokeswoman Sara Anderson. "There's a lot of confusion about the event. It wasn't about where, it was about the organization (Hispanic Unity). It was portrayed that she moved it for her personal gain, for the coveted convention slot. That was not the case."

Anderson said she did not know the intended focus of Sanchez's convention speech.

She said the 40-year-old congresswoman, who unseated ultra-conservative Republican Bob Dornan from his Orange County seat in 1996 and beat him again two years later, said the fund-raiser was moved because "the mission was always to raise money for a good cause. It was never about Playboy. She decided to move it because it was becoming an enormous issue, even overshadowing the convention."

Anderson said Sanchez harbors no bitterness over the episode and remains "committed to get Al Gore elected."

DNC officials had been trying to get Sanchez to move the fund-raiser to a different location for two months before she finally gave in, and had threatened to remove her as a DNC officer after the convention.

"We're very proud of the work she's done for this party and the work she's done for the DNC," Backus said. "We think she's a very forceful advocate for Latinos and her district. We had a place in the program for her to speak, but we respect her decision to decline. She may still change her mind, though it doesn't seem likely, and we're moving along with our program."


Monday, August 14, 2000

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