Virginia Democrats have given the phrase "a good card-carrying Democrat" new meaning: It's someone who says "charge it" a lot.

Last week, as part of a novel fund-raising approach, the state Democratic Party sent letters to 75,000 party loyalists inviting them to sign up for a Democratic Party of Virginia MasterCard, dubbed "The Good Government Card."

According to Leila Osina, the party's director of finance and operations, every time the charge card is used, 0.5 percent of the amount charged will go into the state Democratic coffers.

The charge card, issued by Investors Savings Bank in Richmond, was suggested to the state party by the Democratic National Committee. Other state Democratic parties also are considering using them for raising funds, Osina said.

Although new to political fund raising, colleges and interest groups such as the Sierra Club have issued similar cards to help their fund-raising efforts. The cards are called "affinity cards" because they help groups for which card carriers have an affinity.

Osina said that the party hopes to get a 2 to 5 percent response from the mailing, and that officials estimate the cards could raise between $25,000 and $200,000 annually.

Osina said applications were sent to former donors and other known party loyalists. She said the card and bank were selected because they offered the best deals for both the party and the card carriers.

People who use the card receive benefits such as travel and hotel discounts, competitive interest rates, travel accident insurance, a 10 percent discount from National Car Rental, and access to area Most automated bank teller machines.

"Now you can enjoy the rewards you've earned and fulfill the dreams you've always had," says the application form. "Maybe a new suit, or a dress, a vacation, furniture, a night out or anything else. Even that extravagant splurge. You've earned it."

The party will use proceeds from the card "for the fight to bring America back to the values that make this a special place to live . . . . The fight for good government."

For Republicans who think this sounds like a good way to take up that fight, don't despair. The state Republican Party also is considering issuing a charge card for its regulars.