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Dean slams RNC-funded 'Fun With Guns' event at university in letter to Mehlman

Ron Brynaert
Published: Tuesday September 12, 2006

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(Update at bottom: RNC condemns events)

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean wrote Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman today "calling on him to stop RNC-funded campaign activities that promote discrimination and endorse violence against political opponents," according to a DNC press release received by RAW STORY.

Dean's letter was written in response to an article published in the Michigan Daily about an "intern hired by the Republican National Committee to win the hearts and minds of Michigan 20-somethings" at the University of Michigan.

Events planned by the intern, Morgan Wilkins, include "an event called Fun with Guns, in which young Republicans would use a BB gun or paintball gun to shoot cardboard cut-outs of Democratic leaders such as Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.)" and "Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day, in which a volunteer would play the part of an illegal immigrant and hide somewhere on campus while others try to find him."

In April, Penn State University College Republicans dropped plans to hold a Catch an Illegal Immigrant Game after a student outcry "ensued," but other colleges such as the University of North Texas have held such events.

"Promoting Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day, which has been used by the Republican Party in other states including Pennsylvania and Texas, is not only offensive, it promotes discrimination for political gain," Dean wrote Mehlman. "And an event titled "Fun with Guns" that encourages young Republicans to shoot cardboard cut-outs of Democratic leaders further promotes intolerance and violence."

"These un-American activities cannot go unchallenged," wrote Dean.

The DNC chairman referred to a front page Washington Post article on Sunday which reported that the "National Republican Congressional Committee, which this year dispatched a half-dozen operatives to comb through tax, court and other records looking for damaging information on Democratic candidates, plans to spend more than 90 percent of its $50 million-plus advertising budget on what officials described as negative ads."

"We'd read that the RNC would use its funds to engage in negative campaigning in a desperate attempt to hold on to power and mobilize Republican voters in November, but these un-American attacks and violent, inflammatory campaign tactics are beyond the pale," Dean wrote Mehlman.

"As Chairmen of America's two major political parties, we have a responsibility to elevate the political discourse in America," wrote Dean. "Whether this is directly an RNC funded activity or not, I ask that you not only order such events ceased but also denounce these types of campaign tactics that breed only hatred, division and fear."

Full transcript of Dean's letter:

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Ken Mehlman, Chairman Republican National Committee 310 First Street, SE Washington, D.C. 20003

September 12, 2006

Dear Ken,

A troubling article today reported that a Republican National Committee-hired intern is planning events that can only be described as divisive, potentially dangerous, and discriminatory to promote the Republican Party's agenda at the University of Michigan.

Promoting "Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day," which has been used by the Republican Party in other states including Pennsylvania and Texas, is not only offensive, it promotes discrimination for political gain. And an event titled "Fun with Guns" that encourages young Republicans to shoot cardboard cut-outs of Democratic leaders further promotes intolerance and violence. These un-American activities cannot go unchallenged.

We'd read that the RNC would use its funds to engage in negative campaigning in a desperate attempt to hold on to power and mobilize Republican voters in November, but these un-American attacks and violent, inflammatory campaign tactics are beyond the pale. As Chairmen of America's two major political parties, we have a responsibility to elevate the political discourse in America. Whether this is directly an RNC funded activity or not, I ask that you not only order such events ceased but also denounce these types of campaign tactics that breed only hatred, division and fear.

You said yourself to a gathering of Hispanic elected officials that America is a "nation of immigrants.a nation united by ideas, not race, creed or place of origin." That same day you also acknowledged that "we are all held to account by a common rule of law," and that "respect for this basic concept is critical to an America where we are all treated the same." To demonstrate your commitment to these words and ideals you must immediately act to have these desperate, inappropriate attacks stopped. America's democracy can only continue to work if we respect each other, and uphold the values that have made our country great. I hope to hear back from you on this important matter promptly.

Best regards,

Howard Dean, Chairman Democratic National Committee

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RNC CONDEMNS EVENTS

"Republicans on Tuesday distanced themselves from campaign activities that encourage college students to Catch an Illegal Immigrant and shoot cardboard cutouts of leading Democrats with a BB gun or paintball gun," the Associated Press reported late Tuesday night.

"The Republican National Committee said it had no connection with Morgan Wilkins, the woman accused of organizing the offbeat campaign activities at the University of Michigan," reported Will Lester for the AP.

RNC spokesman Brian Jones told the AP that "the woman has no affiliation with the Republican National Committee, and we certainly condemn this kind of behavior. It's offensive and there's no place for it."

"Paul Gourley, chair of the College Republican National Committee, said Wilkins is an independent contractor hired to recruit students to the GOP, but he said the reported activities were not authorized," continued the AP report.