Sunday, October 31, 2004

House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier is waging a furious re-election battle after he was targeted by a Los Angeles radio talk show as a “political human sacrifice” for his record on illegal immigration.

In the past month, Mr. Dreier and Republicans have spent an estimated $1 million to blanket his district with fliers and radio ads aimed at countering the massive “Fire Dreier” campaign led by “The John and Ken Show” on KFI-AM in Los Angeles.

Last week, Mr. Dreier, California Republican, and the National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC) filed a Federal Elections Commission complaint against Clear Channel Inc., which owns KFI-AM.

“He’s basically complaining that we’re picking on him and supporting his opponent,” said John Kobylt, who hosts the show with Ken Champiou.

Mr. Dreier, who received a D+ from the Americans for Better Immigration, was targeted for defeat by listeners of the show in August. By taking down a Republican congressman, Mr. Kobylt and Mr. Champiou say they hope to jolt the party into cracking down on the flood of illegal aliens crossing the border from Mexico.

Since then, the show has devoted hours of airtime urging listeners to vote for Mr. Dreier’s challenger, Democrat Cynthia Matthews. A first-time candidate, Ms. Matthews has defied her party by adopting a tough stance on illegal immigration and thus becoming the only Democrat to win the endorsement of Americans for Legal Immigration.

“What you have is a U.S. representative who’s taking his salary from the taxpayers and legal immigrants and then representing people who are here illegally,” Ms. Matthews said.

Most of her volunteers are Republicans, drawn to her campaign by the radio show. Her campaign also has benefited from two spin-off blogs, FireDreier and Disciples of John and Ken, which are promoting her candidacy.

Ms. Matthews plans to join Mr. Kobylt and Mr. Champiou for a live broadcast tomorrow outside Mr. Dreier’s Glendora, Calif., office. A September rally drew hundreds of listeners waving anti-Dreier signs and chanting, “Fire Dreier!”

A 24-year House veteran who hasn’t faced a formidable foe in two decades, Mr. Dreier appeared to be ignoring the hoopla until he received the results of an internal poll Oct. 6, said his opponents.

“I’m guessing he got some ugly numbers,” Mr. Kobylt said. “Since then, he’s probably spent $1 million in advertising. He’s even running ads during our show.”

The Dreier campaign did not respond to messages. Last week, however, he defended his record on illegal immigration to a local newspaper.

“I’ve never gone through anything like this. It’s the most blatant mischaracterization of the work I’ve done,” Mr. Dreier told the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin. “I take a back seat to no one on the issue of illegal immigration, yet I’m being painted as a coyote.”

The Dreier camp also has swung back with a phone message from Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Dreier pal, who says, “Don’t let anybody fool you: David Dreier is tough as nails on illegal immigration. No driver’s licenses, no amnesty.”

Three weeks ago, Mr. Dreier introduced legislation to hire 700 new border enforcement agents and protect Social Security cards from fraud, a move his opponents blasted as a shameless ploy to bolster his record.

“All of a sudden, he’s active, introducing legislation, filing complaints, putting out hit pieces,” Ms. Matthews said. “But people are tired of it. It’s too little, too late.”

The FEC complaint, filed Oct. 14, accuses Clear Channel of engaging in “illegal corporate coordination by promoting Cynthia Matthews’ congressional campaign.” Mr. Kobylt said that the station’s lawyers described the complaint as “frivolous.”

“I suspect he [Mr. Dreier] thought that the Clear Channel lawyers would tell us to shut up and give him a few days’ peace,” Mr. Kobylt said.

Instead, the hosts spent two days lambasting Mr. Dreier and the NRCC for trying to infringe on their free-speech rights. They noted that no Republicans complained when the show rallied for the recall of former Democratic Gov. Gray Davis last year. Mr. Drier was the co-chairman of Mr. Schwarzenegger’s campaign.

“We’ve been doing this for 14 years, and we’ve never had a reaction like this from a politician,” Mr. Kobylt said. “It’s really massive hypocrisy. Republicans have gotten a good ride with talk radio; then one show goes after one Republican, and suddenly they want to shut us up?”

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