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POLITICAL MONEY PLEAS ARE IN THE MAIL

POLITICAL MONEY PLEAS ARE IN THE MAIL

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With the new election year, the holiday greeting cards stop filling mail boxes and requests from politicians for campaign funds replace them.

R.P. ``Bo' Thomas, the Hendersonville Democrat seeking his party's nomination to challenge Sen. Jesse Helms in the U.S. Senate race, sent out 77,000 letters to potential contributors.The single-page letter only refers to Helms by his first name - Jesse - perhaps testimony to the Republican's wide name recognition and 18 years in office.

``The next election is a referendum on the future,' Thomas writes. ``Will we have positive leadership that moves us forward in the populist tradition of the Democratic Party?'

Bob McCarson, spokesman for the Thomas campaign, said the mailing was sent to people who contributed to the state Democratic Party, to former Lt. Gov. Bob Jordan's campaign for governor in 1988 or former state Sen. Tony Rand's campaign for lieutenant governor in 1988.

Meanwhile the state GOP sent out letters to 38,000 contributors seeking to raise $1.2 million for this year's legislative races. The goal, party Chairman Jack Hawke says, is to give Republicans more clout in 1991 when legislative district boundaries are redrawn.

``The Democratic caucus in the North Carolina General Assembly will spend a quarter-of-a-million dollars alone to elect more Democrats,' Hawke writes. ``These Democrats will draw new and unfair congressional and legislative districts in 1991 so they can keep Republicans from being elected.'

SOME REQUESTS ARE UNSELFISH

One letter from a politician seeking money isn't aimed a raising funds for a future campaign or to pay off old campaign debts.

Bob Jordan, the former Democratic lieutenant governor soundly defeated two years ago by Gov. Jim Martin, sent letters to 8,000 contributors seeking donations for the Early Childhood Initiative Inc.

The organization, headed by Randy Johnston, one of Jordan's chief campaign fund-raisers in 1988, aims to to develop community-based programs that will work with existing agencies to aid disadvantaged families with young children.

``I do not believe we are going to see many new social programs coming out of the U.S. Congress or the N.C. General Assembly,' Jordan said in the letter. Thus, he said, there are increased needs for organizations such as the Early Childhood Initiative.

POLITICAL GIFTS RUN GAMUT

What are hidden benefits to serving in the U.S. House of Representatives? Rep. Alex McMillan, a Republican from Charlotte who represents the 9th District, keeps track of every gift coming to his office and reports it on his annual financial disclosure form.

According to Congressional Quarterly, a weekly magazine that reports on Congress, McMillan received 128 gifts that he didn't solicit. They included a season's pass to Grandfather Mountain, a family membership to the Discovery Place museum in Charlotte, a white pine Christmas tree from the N.C. Christmas Tree Association and a lump of coal from U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall II, D-W.Va.

He also received a copy of ``Honest Graft,' a study of special interest influence peddling and campaign fund-raising. Retail cost: $19.95.

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