- The Washington Times - Monday, May 28, 2001

Lola Aiken of Montpelier, Vt., is one of hundreds of loyal Republican contributors who shelled out contributions to re-elect Sen. James M. Jeffords after he sang for his supper with fellow Republican senators.
The octogenarian widow of Vermonts venerable Republican Sen. George Aiken was solicited for $2,000, the maximum allowable individual donation. She was among Vermonters serenaded by Mr. Jeffords and other members of the Singing Senators quartet at one of six fund-raising gatherings last year and in 1999 that helped him win a third six-year term and retain Republican control of the Senate.
State Republican leaders credit Mr. Jeffords fellow Republican senators for raising much of his $817,000 in individual donations from 1995 to last November and about $1 million from pro-Republican political action committees.
But Mrs. Aiken says she now feels betrayed by Mr. Jeffords decision to switch just five months into his new term and turn over control of the evenly divided Senate to the Democrats.
"I supported Jim Jeffords every time he ran [for Congress over the past 26 years] and gave money every time," Mrs. Aiken told The Washington Times. "I wouldnt have contributed [in 1999 and 2000] if I had known he would leave the Republican Party."
Skip Vallee, Republican national committeeman in Vermont and one of the partys chief fund-raisers, said Mr. Jeffords recently reported "a substantial" campaign surplus of $482,000 following the November election and should return Republican money that enabled him to win.
"I recommend that every Republican donor whos ever given a penny to Jeffords ask for it back," Mr. Valley said. "Im told that Senator Jeffords has agreed to give back to any donor the money they gave."
Some party-switchers in the past have refunded contributions. In 1994, when Alabama Sen. Richard C. Shelby switched from Democrat to Republican, he offered to return contributions to any donor who requested such a refund. He eventually returned approximately $20,000 in funds to donors who asked for refunds, according to a top Shelby aide.
Mr. Jeffords did not respond over the weekend to numerous telephone inquiries to his offices in Vermont and Washington.
Mr. Vallee said he felt "a particular sense of personal betrayal" by Mr. Jeffords party switch because he and other state Republican conservative leaders had incurred hostility from many grass-roots party supporters because of their steadfast support for the senator.
"When he was attacked by the right wing, I said he was a moderate but hed always support the party," Mr. Vallee said. "Ive defended him over the years."
Mr. Jeffords action ousted Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi and other Republicans from control of the Senate. Mr. Vallee said the irony is that Mr. Lott and others in the Singing Senators troupe — Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho and former Sen. John Ashcroft of Missouri, now attorney general — crisscrossed Vermont in repeated trips to raise campaign funds for him after his near defeat by Democrat Jan Backus in 1994.
Ms. Backus, a state senator from Burlington, was expected to be a stronger opponent in a 2000 rematch until her surprise primary defeat just two months before the general election by openly homosexual Democrat Ed Flanagan, state Republican officials said.
But in 1995, anticipating the Jeffords-Backus rematch, Mr. Lott and the Singing Senators started raising funds for Mr. Jeffords and made at least six trips to Vermont, the officials said.
Flush with money and $133,000 worth of pro-Jeffords TV-radio advertising paid for by the Republican National Committee in the last month of the campaign, Mr. Jeffords defeated Mr. Flanagan with almost 66 percent of the vote.
For the 2000 race, 19 congressional PACs controlled by Senate and House leaders also gave Mr. Jeffords $63,500, according to Federal Election Commission reports.
"Sounds like we ought to call for a refund," said Mr. Craig, chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, whose Alliance for the West PAC donated $1,000.
Mr. Craig said he spent five full days in Vermont with the Singing Senators to raise money for Mr. Jeffords. He said he would not go so far as to call his action a betrayal. "Im not using that word. Lets say Im very disappointed."
One senior Republican Senate leadership aide said the conference was rife with recriminations by other Republican liberals over Mr. Jeffords decision to bolt the party, which was forcing many leaders to be very cautious not to react harshly or seem hostile to Mr. Jeffords.
On Thursday, the day Mr. Jeffords bolted the party, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona blamed mistreatment by Mr. Lott and other conservatives for his exit.
Mr. McCain issued a statement in which he said Mr. Jeffords "was unfairly targeted for abuse, usually anonymously, by short-sighted party operatives from their comfortable perches in K Street offices and by some Republican members of Congress and their staff." He urged "enforcers of party loyalty" to learn to tolerate dissent, saying, "It is well past time for the Republican party to grow up."
On Friday, after a Republican leadership meeting in Mr. Lotts Capitol office, Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, made efforts to tone down recriminating rhetoric.
He said he would not seek a refund of $20,000 donated by the NRSC to the Jeffords campaign from 1995 to 1999. "People have invested in Jim Jeffords heavily in the past, including the NRSC, but did so in the knowledge that he was moderate to liberal in his voting and that will not change in the future," Mr. Frist said.
But state Republican leaders were not so gentle, questioning his integrity in an open letter on the Web site of the Vermont Republican State Committee.
"The time for political transformation was last year, Senator Jeffords, before you accepted the nomination of the Republican Party," said the letter co-signed by Patrick J. Garahan, state Republican chairman; Sara Gear Boyd, state national committeewoman; and Mr. Vallee.
"To be successfully re-elected in 2000, you used Republican volunteers and spent hard-earned Republican dollars. To switch your party affiliation now, six months after you were elected under the Republican banner, is ethically and morally dishonest."
Jeffrey Wennberg, former mayor of Rutland who worked on Mr. Jeffords staff when he was Vermonts congressman, said that to "honorably serve the people of this state," Mr. Jeffords should resign and run in a special election as an independent.
This was the course taken by Sen. Phil Gramm, Texas Republican, when he switched from the Democratic to the Republican party as a congressman in 1983.


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