|Iraq, Fundraising Take Spotlight on Campaign Trail|
Oct. 4, 2002 -- The question of possible military action in Iraq and fundraising from failed Texas energy giant Enron have emerged as critical issues in the race for the U.S. Senate from Texas.
The Republican candidate, Attorney General John Cornyn, said Tuesday that he believes the U.S. should consider a U.N. plan to send inspectors to Iraq before deciding on military action.
The comments marked the first departure from President Bush's stated positions on Iraq and surprised observers who say Cornyn has long tied his political success to his support of Pres. Bush, and the former governor of the Lone Star State.
Cornyn made his remarks to the editorial board of the Houston Chronicle, telling the group that the United States "shouldn't refuse to take 'yes' for an answer." Just hours after the meeting, President Bush voiced opposition to the plan on the same day.
The Austin-American Statesman pressed the GOP campaign for clarification about whether Cornyn was breaking with the president. Campaign officials said Cornyn fully supports the president's plan and pointed out his remarks came prior to Mr. Bush's.
The campaign also said that it wasn't privy to all the information that the president has at his command and would defer to Mr. Bush on such issues.
The Iraq question has also caused problems for the campaign of Cornyn's Democratic opponent, Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk.
Kirk angered some voters last month when he implied that national leaders might be less likely to place troops into combat if they were the son's of wealthy parents.
"Look who would be doing the fighting? They're disproportionately ethnic; they're disproportionately minority," the Dallas Morning News quoted Kirk as saying. "The point is, I would be curious to see if we would go to war without any thought of loss if the first half-million kids to go came from families who made $1 million."
He later apologized for the tone of the remarks, saying he intended to express concern for all members of the military.
By Wednesday, both candidates had lined up in support of a compromise on an Iraq resolution reached between Bush and congressional leaders.
As the two candidates have focused on possible war, at least one independent group has focused on making candidates' fundraising an issue in the fall. Kirk's camp has criticized Cornyn for accepting donations from scandal-ridden corporate giant WorldCom and for a fundraiser that was to be hosted by one of the firm's top executives, but was later canceled.
The San-Antonio Express News reported on Wednesday that a voter group has targeted Cornyn and Republican Gov. Rick Perry over the same issue.
"The Reform Voter Project, based in Washington and Boston, is nonprofit and nonpartisan although its biggest donors in the past have supported Democrats, project director David Donnelly said. He proposes public financing of campaigns. The billboards - there are separate ones for Perry and Cornyn - display the backward-leaning Enron 'E'; the amount the group says Perry ($252,000) or Cornyn ($193,000) received from Enron executives, their families and its political action committee; and the question, 'What Did It Buy?'" writes Express News reporter Peggy Fikac.
Cornyn defended his record, saying he donated $200,000 to a fund to help the children of laid off Enron employees. He also dismissed the billboards as "special interest money" being spent in support of Kirk.