GOP Says Dems Broke Florida Money Laws

Republicans accused Democrats of breaking political money laws in Florida through cozy arrangements among candidates, unions and outside fund-raising groups, an allegation a top Democrat said Thursday was absurd.

At issue is a lengthy handbook for Democratic volunteers and others working to persuade and turn out voters in the battleground state.

The document proposes that representatives of organized labor, trial lawyers and teachers join Democrats at a campaign "decision-making table," a plan that Republicans contend is illegal under the 2002 campaign finance law.

The plan revealed "illegal coordination resulting in excessive and prohibited contributions," said Jill Holtzman Vogel, chief counsel for the Republican National Committee (search).

Republicans said they would file a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (search) but did not expect any action before the Nov. 2 election.

The campaign finance law erected walls between campaigns, parties, labor unions and certain outside groups in an effort to force campaign spending into the open.

Democrats said the document was authentic but was a draft of their final strategy for Florida. The plan is aboveboard, said Michael Whouley, election manager at the Democratic National Committee.

"Those allegations are absurd," Whouley said. Both parties have run similar coordinated operations with outsiders for years, he said. "This is a smokescreen."

The Democrats' memo describes phone calls and other efforts to persuade white middle-class retirees in Florida to vote for Sen. John Kerry. Democrats are also going after Republican women with Democratic husbands, veterans and their families, and sportsmen, the memo said.

"The Florida statewide vote goal, based on a 52 percent Democratic win number, is 3,314,240," the plan says. Four years ago, George W. Bush drew 2,912,790 votes; Al Gore won 2,912,253.

Democrats have knocked on 50,000 doors in Broward County alone, Florida Democratic organizer Nick Baldick said Thursday. They have also recruited 75,000 poll watchers, he said.

Lawyers are a big part of the party's planning effort in Florida and in other closely contested states where legal challenges could cloud the outcome.

"There are trained lawyers assigned to every polling place in Florida," Baldick said, either at the polls or available by phone.