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Unfair Tactics

Thursday, October 28, 2004; Page A24

APOLITICAL NEWCOMER in Virginia's 10th Congressional District, James Socas is running a determined if uphill campaign against Rep. Frank R. Wolf, the respected Republican incumbent. His determination is fine, and Mr. Socas, a Democrat and former investment banker, has some ideas worth considering. But in his attacks on Mr. Wolf, his zeal has outstripped his judgment in a couple of instances.

In one case, Mr. Socas wrote this month to the House ethics committee to complain that members of Mr. Wolf's government-funded congressional staff had improperly crossed the line barring them from engaging in active politicking. That's a not-uncommon grievance from a candidate running against an incumbent, and we make no judgment on the merits of Mr. Socas's particular complaint. But Mr. Socas has no standing with the ethics committee, whose rules specify that complaints must be filed or endorsed by members of Congress and, in any event, cannot be considered within 60 days of an election. And Mr. Socas really overstepped when he used the fact of his letter to suggest to voters, in a telephone survey, that Mr. Wolf might be under investigation.

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Similarly, Mr. Socas has used the telephone survey as well as fliers to suggest to voters that Mr. Wolf is a member of an "extreme" religious group known as "the Family," which was the subject of a lengthy article in Harper's Magazine last year. Mr. Wolf makes no secret of his deep Christian beliefs, which he says have motivated him to take a leading role in Congress on behalf of oppressed people (including Muslims and Buddhists) in Darfur, Ethiopia, Tibet, China and elsewhere. We have long admired Mr. Wolf's commitment to human rights around the world; few members of Congress have more actively pushed for recognition of the ongoing genocide in Darfur. For Mr. Socas to portray Mr. Wolf as some kind of religious fanatic is reprehensible.

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