RNC Chair Wary of Right-Wing Group

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The head of the Republican National Committee wants his
fellow party members to quit the Council of Conservative Citizens because ``it
appears that this group does hold racist views.''

``A member of the party of (Abraham) Lincoln should not belong to such an
organization,'' GOP Chairman Jim Nicholson said in a statement released

Nicholson also appealed directly to Buddy Witherspoon, one of the party's
national committee members from South Carolina, to resign from the council.

Witherspoon, an orthodontist from Columbia, told Nicholson he would do nothing
of the sort. He insisted the council's South Carolina chapter holds no racist
views, but is simply an advocate for conservative causes, especially the right
to display the Confederate flag in the South.

``Never have I heard anything said about race in any way, shape or form,''
Witherspoon said in an interview.

The St. Louis-based council has caused the RNC grief recently because of
reports that both Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., and Rep. Bob
Barr, R-Ga., spoke at council meetings.

Barr and Lott have said they were not aware of the council's racist positions.
Barr said last month he disagreed ``with many of this group's ridiculous
views.'' Last week, Lott also distanced himself from the group.

The council's Web site includes numerous articles suggesting that the white
race is under siege. On Tuesday, visitors were urged to forget ``petty
pretenders'' such as Martin Luther King Jr. and celebrate the birthday of
``the greatest American who ever lived'' -- General Robert E. Lee, leader of
Confederate forces during the Civil War.

``There is no room for racist views in the Republican Party,'' said Nicholson.
``I never heard of the CCC until a few days ago, but it appears that this
group does hold racist views. The Republican Party rejects and condemns such
views forcefully and without hesitation or equivocation.''

The issue is likely to come up at this week's RNC's winter meeting.

At the meeting, Witherspoon is also planning to propose a resolution that
would require the GOP to stop taking donations from gambling interests, and
require that party donations be withheld from any candidate who supports
legalized gambling.

Common Cause, a government finance watchdog, reports that from 1988 to 1998,
the gambling industry made $7.2 million in so-called soft money donations to
the GOP, versus $6.3 million to the Democratic Party.

The video poker lobby also played an instrumental role this fall in defeating
South Carolina Gov. David Beasley, a Republican who opposed creating a state
lottery. Witherspoon said he supported Beasley.

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