- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is defending a $10,000 campaign contribution she gave to a pro-life Democratic Senate candidate who is fiercely opposed by pro-choice feminist groups that have been her strongest allies.

Continuing to pursue a political strategy aimed at moderating her liberal image, the New York senator said Monday that her political action committee, HillPac, gave Pennsylvania state Treasurer Robert P. Casey Jr. the maximum contribution allowed under campaign financing laws. This was done despite their differences over abortion and opposition to Mr. Casey from liberal women’s groups, such as the National Organization for Women and the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL).

“Regardless of what differences there may be among Democrats, the differences between Democrats and Republicans today could not be starker,” Mrs. Clinton said. “And if we can move toward a Democratic majority, we can prevent some of the ill-advised legislation and [Supreme Court] nominations we have to deal with from ever seeing the light of day.”

Polls show Mr. Casey, the expected Democratic nominee, running 10 points ahead of Republican Sen. Rick Santorum, a leader in the pro-life movement.

Mrs. Clinton called Mr. Casey, the son of a late governor who also embraced pro-life issues, a “real champion” on health care issues.

Her contribution, the largest she has given to any candidate in this election cycle, went not only to a pro-life Democrat, but also to a supporter of Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr, whose nomination Mrs. Clinton voted against last month.

Her latest move in the Pennsylvania race is seen as an attempt to tone down her liberal reputation by embracing candidates with different views.

Mrs. Clinton’s voting record has earned her a 100 percent lifetime rating on pro-choice issues from NARAL and Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc., and a zero score from the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC).

It is not clear whether her support for Mr. Casey will drive a wedge between her and pro-choice groups. NARAL did not return calls for comment.

But Kate Michelman, NARAL president at the time, sent a signal to Democrats last month after the Alito vote.

“As a Pennsylvanian, I am particularly appalled that local and national Democrats would hand our Senate nomination to someone who openly supports giving Roe an Alito-induced death,” she said.

In the mean time, pro-life groups working to re-elect Mr. Santorum were eager yesterday to promote the dispute that has divided Democrats in the Senate race. They said Mrs. Clinton’s liberalism on abortion raises questions about Mr. Casey’s pro-life views.

“Senator Santorum is a strong pro-life leader, and Senator Clinton is just as strongly pro-abortion. Senator Clinton obviously feels that helping defeat Rick Santorum and helping elect Bob Casey Jr. would be advantageous for the causes she believes in,” said Karen Cross, NRLC’s political director.

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