Playboy fund-raiser bumps congresswoman from Democratic Convention
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Top Democratic officials removed California Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez as a speaker at next week's national convention after she refused to cancel a political fund-raiser to be held at the Playboy Mansion.
A spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee said late Thursday night the action was taken after Sanchez was told that holding the fund-raiser there of Hispanic Unity USA -- her political action committee -- was not "reflective of our party's values" and she decided to move forward with her plans anyway.
Sanchez is vice chairwoman of the DNC and it was in that capacity that she had been slated to address the convention delegates, said committee spokeswoman Jenny Backus.
Sanchez said she picked the Playboy Mansion because it is a "high-profile venue"
Other sanctions against the congresswoman, including her removal as a DNC officer, are possible after the convention. The DNC has a formal meeting planned for August 19, the day after the convention.
"I am sorely disappointed by the congresswoman's decision to proceed with her playboy fund-raiser," said DNC National Chairman Joe Andrew. "We have done everything we can and now we have no alternative but to take action. Loretta Sanchez will not be speaking at the Democratic National Convention next week."
Andrew had sent Sanchez a letter earlier Thursday warning her of possibile disciplinary action and the Al Gore presidential campaign also had urged the congresswoman to move the fund-raiser to a different location.
Sanchez later held a news conference to announce she was standing firm with her plans for the fund-raiser next Tuesday. She said she picked the Playboy Mansion because it was a "high profile venue" that helped draw a sellout crowd, which means a lot of money and attention to the group's efforts to register, educate and empower Latino voters.
Sanchez's Playboy fund-raiser comes at a time that Gore and other national Democratic leaders have been making a concerted effort to divorce themselves from the personal problems associated with President Clinton as a result of the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
It has been widely speculated that Gore's selection as his running mate of Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, who is renowned for his integrity, was part of this effort.
Moving against Sanchez was sensitive because of the importance of the Hispanic-American vote in November in key electoral states. Sanchez was first elected in California's 46th congressional district by ousting ultra-conservative GOP firebrand Bob Dornan in 1996 and she beat him again in 1998.
But Nelson Diaz, chairman of the DNC's Hispanic Caucus, said he had heard from "Latinos across the country expressing their opposition" to the Playboy fund-raiser. He said he supported "any course of action my chairman may deem necessary" if Sanchez refused to move the event.
Another key Hispanic Democrat, California party chairman Art Torres, said he was puzzled by the unwillingness of Sanchez "to budget out of the Playboy Mansion" after we have worked so hard over the last few years to embrace issues of import to women and to embrace family values. The Playboy Mansion is anathema to those issues."
Playboy spokesman Bill Farley disputed that point, saying "The Playboy Mansion itself is not by any means a Sodom and Gomorrah. It's more like a five-star hotel in terms of the events we put on."
Andrew said in his letter that as "the father of young children, I tried to convey my dismay at the kind of message that this event would send." He also said the event "was neither appropriate nor reflective of our party's values."
Reuters contributed to this report.