Republican fund-raising efforts that capitalize on the popularity of Marine Lt. Col. Oliver L. North have been strongly criticized by Sen. Warren B. Rudman (N.H.), senior GOP member of the Senate's Iran-contra committee, and Republican Elliot L. Richardson, who resigned as attorney general during the Watergate scandal.
In response to a letter mailed last month over the signature of Republican National Committee Chairman Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr., Rudman said North, as a National Security Council staff aide, participated in the deception of President Reagan and other top administration officials.
"These are not actions that are representative of the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan," Rudman said.
"I deeply regret the message that your letter carried," he added.
In his letter appealing for funds to begin a "massive lobbying campaign" for renewal of aid to the contras fighting the Sandinista government of Nicaragua and to defeat "pro-Sandinista liberal Democrats" in next year's elections, Fahrenkopf praised North and criticized his interrogators.
"If you're like me, you're very proud of Oliver North," Fahrenkopf said. "Through six days of grueling interrogation by some of Washington's most self-serving liberal politicians and lawyers, Col. North held his ground, brilliantly argued the case for freedom in our hemisphere and eloquently defended President Reagan's Central American policy," the party chairman added.
"I hope I am not one of these self-serving liberal politicians and lawyers that you refer to," Rudman retorted in a letter to Fahrenkopf earlier this month. Later, in an appearance in New Hampshire, Rudman said Fahrenkopf's appeal was an example of "strange things" that are done to raise money in campaigns.
Robert Stevenson, Rudman's press secretary, said the senator spoke to Fahrenkopf over the telephone and was assured by the Republican chairman that he was not implying criticism of Republican members of the investigating committee.
A Republican National Committee spokesman said she knew of no other complaints from members of Congress and that the general response to Fahrenkopf's letter had been "very positive."
Richardson's rebuke came in response to a separate letter mailed last month by Rep. Guy Vander Jagt (R-Mich.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, to help raise money for North's legal defense fund and for the election of pro-contra Republicans to Congress.
"After a lifetime as a working Republican, I didn't think I could be surprised by the cynicism of any new fund-raising gimmick," Richardson responded in a letter to Vander Jagt. "I have to admit, however, that your letter . . . sets a new record."
Richardson said it was "not hard to understand . . . the appeal of Ollie North to people who would otherwise be watching soaps. It is easy to picture Gary Cooper or Jimmy Stewart playing North, or North playing Gary Cooper or Jimmy Stewart."
But, he added, North "stands convicted out of his own mouth of conspiring to deceive and to evade accountability to the duly constituted authorities of the executive branch and the Congress, as well as the American people. He admits lying as a means to an end whose priority over legislative constraints he presumed to judge for himself. The fact that the NSC staff members could assume such a role is frightening in itself. That it should be condoned and, indeed, extolled by leading officials of the Republican Party is deeply dismaying."
Vander Jagt's letter urged contributions of $75 to $100 to raise $50,000 to help North defray legal expenses in connection with his congressional testimony and investigation by an independent counsel and to "elect Republicans who will end Congress' on-again, off-again policy toward the Nicaraguan freedom fighters . . . . "