Amid charges of fraud, a Republican group has agreed it will no longer use a controversial fund-raising technique -- at least in one state.
Alabama Attorney General Don Siegelman (D) said he will drop a lawsuit against the Republican Presidential Task Force after the group promised not to send any more letters to Alabama. The task force, a fund-raising program of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), mailed about 1 million of the fund-raising letters nationwide in August and September.
The letter enclosed a $25 check and asked recipients to endorse and deposit the check in their accounts. That action authorized the GOP to deduct $12.50 a month from the recipient's checking account indefinitely unless the individual takes steps to halt the withdrawals.
Eight Democratic state attorneys general, including Siegelman, complained about the scheme in a letter last week to President Bush. "This solicitation marks a shameful low in the history of American campaigning," the letter said. "It reduces the political process to the level of integrity normally associated with fly-by-night con artists, mail frauds and telemarketing scams."
Rep. Bruce F. Vento (D-Minn.), calling the fund-raising effort "a high-tech consumer rip-off program," introduced legislation to amend the Electronic Fund Transfer Act to ensure that the endorsement or deposit of any check would not be sufficient authorization for automatic withdrawals.
State officials in New Jersey and Illinois also have filed suit and court action is pending.
NRSC spokeswoman Wendy Burnley said yesterday that the committee has been talking with several state officials who are objecting to the solicitation and had offered to meet to discuss the concerns of any state -- but not until after the Nov. 6 election.