- The Washington Times - Friday, August 2, 2002

The head of the Senate Republicans' campaign committee said yesterday that Sen. Robert G. Torricelli's ethics problems have turned their long-shot hopes of winning his seat into a "dead-even" race.
"Six weeks ago, most strategists and consultants would have said we have a 1-in-20 chance of winning New Jersey," said Sen. Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican. "All of the surveys that have been conducted in the last four to five days show that race is dead even."
Meanwhile, an influential New Jersey newspaper called on the first-term Democrat to resign, saying he is "not ethically fit."
"Mr. Torricelli's misdeeds are so serious that they bring disrepute not only upon the Senate but upon the state of New Jersey and its citizens, who have suffered enough from sleazy politicians," the Bergen Record said in an editorial. "Mr. Torricelli violated Senate rules and his responsibility to represent the best interests of all New Jerseyans."
The newspaper said it did not make its decision lightly because control of the U.S. Senate hinges on Mr. Torricelli's fate. Democrats now hold a one-seat advantage in the chamber.
Mr. Torricelli ducked reporters' questions at the Capitol yesterday, two days after the Senate ethics committee severely admonished him for accepting expensive gifts from a campaign donor. The panel ordered Mr. Torricelli, who had partially reimbursed businessman David Chang, to repay him up to $2,000 for the full cost of the items.
The latest Republican poll, released yesterday by National Research Inc., showed Republican nominee Doug Forrester leading Mr. Torricelli, 40 percent to 37 percent. It was conducted Monday and Tuesday and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.
A poll taken last week by a Philadelphia television station showed the candidates tied at 43 percent. Democrats say internal polls show Mr. Torricelli with a double-digit lead.
Several Senate Republicans and the National Republican Senatorial Committee called on Mr. Torricelli to release the transcripts of his Ethics Committee hearings. Mr. Torricelli has said the decision rests with the panel, and Democratic Sen. Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii, who chaired the hearings, has said he will not release the material.
"We are appropriately demanding full transparency from CEOs from corporate America," Mr. Frist said. "Constituents and stakeholders in New Jersey will demand full transparency from Senator Torricelli. If they don't get full transparency, I predict that Doug Forrester will win the race and will win it handily."
Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, said the committee should release its documents, as it did during the "Keating Five" scandal. But Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican and a committee member, said the information is under seal by a federal judge because of a prosecutor's investigation that concluded without any charges being filed.
The Torricelli campaign reportedly planned to air television ads costing nearly $1 million last night and this weekend in its first major buy since the panel meted out his punishment. Former Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg told the Trenton Times this week that he does not expect the issue to go away for Mr. Torricelli.
"There are still a lot of questions that Senator Torricelli alone can answer, answers the court of public opinion may demand," he told the newspaper.
Democratic leaders said the ethics reprimand would not diminish their support for Mr. Torricelli.
"He's our candidate," said Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat.

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