College Republican National Committee officials say that the White House ordered them to stop distributing a poster soliciting private donations to assist the "contras" fighting the Nicaraguan government.
"The White House was just getting too much heat," said College Republican convention director Warren Simms. He said his group had been told that no more posters could be sent out after 6 p.m. Wednesday.
The White House denied that the group had been told to halt the distribution, but another GOP official said that "friends" of the College Republicans had advised them that the poster was counterproductive.
"There has been no contact from the White House to the College Republicans about the poster," a White House spokesman said.
The poster, called Save the Contras, shows a man called "Charley" wearing a crucifix and ammunition belts and carrying a gun. The headline reads, "Only 53 cents a day will support a Nicaraguan freedom fighter." It asks for money for "regular meals, medical attention, and the chance to vote in a free and open election. That's all we want." The poster has a cutout coupon for sending donations to the College Republicans at Republican National Committee headquarters.
William I. Greener III, deputy RNC chief of staff for political operations, said the College Republicans are a "free-standing auxiliary" funding its own projects. He said the Republican National Committee "could not tell them print that or don't print that. We couldn't tell them either way."
But he added, "A lot of people know who the College Republicans are. Their friends and allies told them that what they were doing was not a positive contribution to getting the aid we all want for the contras. So the College Republicans said, 'Okay, we won't do this anymore.' "
The poster had provoked an angry reaction from Save the Children, a private nonprofit agency that assists families in underdeveloped countries. The poster is similar to Save the Children magazine ads.
"We thought it was inappropriate and in poor taste," said Lee A. Mullane, manager of publications for Save the Children.
The College Republicans printed 5,000 posters and had distributed about 1,000 to GOP members of Congress and state College Republican chairmen, Simms said.
Yesterday afternoon, after some discussion, College Republican staffers decided to mail most of the remaining 4,000 posters to state College Republican chairmen with letters urging them to distribute the posters as widely as possible. Some also were sent to members of Congress.
Simms said that the College Republicans have a "definite" way to funnel contributions to the contras and that the group still plans to do so.
Asked whether the money could be used to purchase arms, Simms said, "After it leaves our office, we have no control over it. If they want to use the money to purchase M16s, that's their business."