Campaign 2006 News

Until the Nov 7 election, The Hill will publish a Campaign 2006 news bulletin each Monday night so subscribers can keep up with campaign developments. The website will also be updated continuously with election news. The newspaper will publish on Wednesdays, and the Tipsheet news bulletin will come out each Friday, as usual. Tonight's stories include:

* CNN poll: Most say Hastert should resign
* Despite differences, Sen. McCain backs Graf
* Cunningham and his new pen pal
* Free Enterprise Fund goes after Tester
* Foley scandal a boon for Hastert’s opponent
* Buchanan digs deep

CNN poll: Most say Hastert should resign
A majority of Americans say that Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) should resign as Speaker of the House, according to a nationwide poll commissioned by CNN and made public Monday.

The new data may put pressure on Republicans in tough reelection races to turn against their leader. Rep. Ron Lewis (R-Ky.), who is in a competitive reelection race, recently asked Hastert not to attend a scheduled fundraising appearance for his campaign. Other incumbents have also cancelled Hastert fundraisers in the wake of the scandal.

Hastert has dismissed calls for his resignation, and except for The Washington Times editorial board and a few mavericks, most conservative leaders have stopped short of calling for Hastert’s ouster. In addition, no Republican lawmaker has yet called for Hastert to step down.

Fifty-two percent of those surveyed said Hastert should resign while 31 percent said he should remain as Speaker. Seventeen percent had no opinion. The poll, conducted by Opinion Research Corporation, surveyed 1,028 people over the past weekend. The sample included 920 registered voters and 543 likely voters.

The poll also showed that Democrats are now seen as more ethical than Republicans, a stunning development for the GOP, which in recent years has branded itself as the party of traditional moral values.

Forty-seven percent of respondents said that most Republicans in Congress are ethical, while 44 percent said they are unethical. Fifty-four percent of respondents said most congressional Democrats are ethical. -- Alexander Bolton


Despite differences, Sen. McCain backs Graf
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has endorsed Randy Graf, a member of the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps and a former member of the Arizona House of Representatives, in his bid to fill the seat vacated by Rep. Jim Kolbe (R).

The Minutemen, a controversial group that patrols the borders and is pushing for stringent immigration laws, has opposed McCain's comprehensive reform approach toward immigration.

But despite the differences, McCain has thrown his weight behind Graf in one of the most competitive races for the House this year. Graf is facing an uphill battle against his Democratic rival, Gabrielle Giffords.

"Randy Graf’s record as a state representative has demonstrated his commitment to the values important to the people of Arizona," McCain said, according to a statement posted on Graf's campaign website. "His voting record on issues such as supporting our military, reducing taxes, and [reining] in election and welfare fraud bodes well for his future in the U.S. Congress. I urge the voters of the 8th district to support him on Nov. 7. It would be a pleasure to work with him in Washington."

In turn, Graf called Senator McCain’s endorsement "a great honor."

McCain's endorsement of Graf follows that of the other GOP Arizona senator, Jon Kyl. --Roxana Tiron


Cunningham and his new pen pal
Former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.) is lashing out at the reporter who exposed his corrupt activities more than two years ago.

In a handwritten letter crafted from his federal prison in North Carolina, Cunningham wrote to Copley News reporter Marcus Stern and The San Diego Union-Tribune: "I hurt more than anyone can imagine and without my faith your constant cruelty would destroy me."

He adds, "Each time you print it hurts my family and now I have lost them along with everything I have worked for during my 64 years of life. I am human not an animal to keep whipping," according to excerpts of the letter posted on the Union-Tribune’s website.

Cunningham’s letter was in response to an interview request from Stern.

The former legislator also attacks defense contractor Mitchell Wade, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to giving him more than $1 million in bribes.

"Wade is the absolute devil and his lawyer is trying to save his donkey," Cunningham wrote, "I should have said no to the gifts. For that, I am truly sorry."

Attorneys for Wade did not comment on the letter. Republicans retained Cunningham’s seat earlier this year in a tight race between now Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.) and Francine Busby (D). Bilbray is the favorite to win the rematch next month. – Bob Cusack



Free Enterprise Fund goes after Tester

The Free Enterprise Fund's new 527, which filed its first disclosure with the Internal Revenue Service less than a month ago, is launching a new ad buy in Montana to help out incumbent Sen. Conrad Burns (R), who has lagged behind Democratic challenger Jon Tester in recent polls.

The ad, titled "Paint Job," depicts state senator Tester as eager to increase taxes on "everything from pick-up trucks to soda pop." While Tester has criticized Burns for supporting the Bush administration's steep tax cuts, last week he proposed his own tax relief package for homeowners and first-time homebuyers.

The Free Enterprise Fund, largely known for its campaign to relieve businesses from reporting requirements under the Sarbanes-Oxley law, has escalated its political activity of late, launching another ad push targeted at liberal MoveOn.org. Founded by former Club for Growth chief Stephen Moore, the Fund is now led by New York-based businessman Mallory Factor. – Elana Schor


Foley scandal a boon for Hastert’s opponent
The scandal involving former Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) has trickled down to help the longest of long shots, including Speaker Dennis Hastert’s (R-Ill.) opponent.

In the days since Foley resigned, Democrat John Laesch raked in $40,000 from online contributions. He has had to reorder yard signs and install new phone lines in his campaign headquarters in Yorkville, Ill.

"Over the weekend, there were 20 to 30 people in the office that I’d never seen before," Laesch told The Hill. "People were coming in with a $100 check and asking for a yard sign."

The new interest in Laesch’s quixotic campaign underscores the impact the Foley scandal has had. Still, Hastert has never had a close race since winning with 52 percent of the vote in 1986. Since then he has always won with more than 64 percent of the vote in a district that President Bush won in 2000 and 2004 with 55 percent of the vote. – Jonathan E. Kaplan


Buchanan digs deep
Florida 13th district Republican House candidate Vern Buchanan recently plugged another $650,000 into his bid to replace Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Fla.), and now his Democratic opponent has released a poll showing Buchanan down by double digits.

Buchanan has emerged as one of the top self-funders in the country, now spending a total of $2.75 million on his campaign. He has also raised more than $2 million from outside donors, making the 13th district race one of the richest in the country almost by himself.

The latest infusion triggered the Millionaire’s Amendment, allowing Democrat Christine Jennings to raise larger sums from individual donors.

Jennings released a poll last week showing her leading the businessman 50-38. A previous post-primary poll showed her leading 46-38 in the district, which Harris won by 10 points each of the past two elections.

Jennings lagged far behind Buchanan in the primary, raising less than $1 million while Buchanan spent heavily to gain the Republican nomination. Recently, Buchanan has used his war chest to flood the airwaves.

The 13th district shares a long border with former Rep. Mark Foley’s (R-Fla.) 16th District, which could make Buchanan’s task even tougher. -- Aaron Blake

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