Republicans Reject South Carolina Member's
Proposed Gambling Money Ban

By Michelle R. Davis
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Janaury 23, 1999

WASHINGTON - A proposal by a Lexington orthodontist that would have barred the Republican National Committee from accepting gambling money was rejected Thursday at the group's winter meeting here.

Buddy Witherspoon, a South Carolina Republican National Committee member, caused controversy by suggesting the resolution in the wake of the S.C. governor's race, in which the Democratic candidate won with the help of donations from gambling interests.

"We've got to take a stand," Witherspoon said after a meeting of the Committee on Resolutions, which was closed to the public.

The committee voted 5-2 against the resolution, RNC spokesman Tim Fitzpatrick said.

"Gaming, the lottery and gambling of one sort or another is perfectly legal in 37 states, and money from gaming interests is a perfectly legal source of support for both political parties," he said.  "We felt it wouldn't be appropriate for the RNC to propose such a broad limitation."

Witherspoon would not elaborate on the discussion surrounding the defeat of the resolution, but said the idea was not "sour grapes" after the Republican loss of the governorship in South Carolina.

"It is a vice," Witherspoon said of gambling.  "It is an issue that is destructive of families and it's something we need to take a good, hard look at, because it's getting worse instead of better."

His resolution had stated that "gambling is unconscionable in light of devastation via increased crime, marital strife, child abuse and neglect."  It would have prevented the RNC from accepting gambling money as well as preventing it from making a contribution to a candidate accepting gambling money.

Witherspoon also gained attention at the meeting Thursday for his connection to the Council of Conservative Citizens, said by some to hold racist views.  A day earlier, RNC chairman Jim Nicholson called on Republicans who are members of the group to resign.   He specifically targeted Witherspoon and asked him to withdraw his membership to the group.

Witherspoon declined, and said Thursday he'd meet with members of the South Carolina branch of the group to decide what to do.  He said the group focused on Sothern "preservation" issues.  He called the members of the group "constituents" who support the conservative party line.

"I will not turn my back on any constituents that come to me with issues," he said.

But state GOP Executive Director Trey Walker, who was also in Washington for the meeting, said that the CCC has "been involved nationally in some very scary things" and that the state party wants nothing to do with the organization.

He said involvement with the CCC goes against the party's goal of trying to attract new members, including African-Americans.

"We're not against Buddy.  He's a grown man and he'll have to make his own decision," Walker said.  "But this isn't the signal the state party wants or needs to send."