University of Michigan GOP campus organizer upsets parties

By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Republicans on Tuesday distanced themselves from campaign activities that encouraged college students to “Catch an Illegal Immigrant” and shoot cardboard cutouts of leading Democrats with a BB gun or paintball gun.

Democratic Chairman Howard Dean said in a letter to his Republican counterpart, Ken Mehlman, on Tuesday that such activities, reportedly put together by a GOP college organizer, “can only be described as divisive, potentially dangerous and discriminatory.”

The Republican National Committee said it had no connection with Morgan Wilkins, the woman accused of organizing the offbeat campaign activities at the University of Michigan. RNC spokesman Brian Jones said, “The woman has no affiliation with the Republican National Committee, and we certainly condemn this kind of behavior. It’s offensive and there’s no place for it.” He said the news reports saying she was hired by the RNC are incorrect.

Paul Gourley, chair of the College Republican National Committee, said Wilkins is an independent contractor hired to recruit students to the GOP, but he said the reported activities were not authorized. Wilkins declined to comment Tuesday night.

The events were reported by the University of Michigan newspaper, The Michigan Daily.

The “Catch an Illegal Immigrant” event reportedly allows participants to win prizes for catching others posing as illegal immigrants and a “Fun with Guns” event allows people to shoot cardboard cutouts of top Democrats such as Sens. Hillary Clinton and John Kerry with a BB gun or paintball gun, the newspaper reported.

Dean cited several news reports that college Republicans on other campuses were involved in events like “Catch an Illegal Immigrant.”

“As chairman of America’s two major political parties, we have a responsibility to elevate the political discourse in America,” Dean wrote to Mehlman.

Mehlman, who has been trying to recruit more minorities into the GOP, wrote back: “I wholeheartedly agree with you that the activities you cite in your letter are reprehensible.”

Mehlman said Dean’s call for less divisive rhetoric was ironic, citing the Democratic chairman’s earlier comments that Republicans are “a white Christian Party,” and “I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for.”