McLEAN, Va. -- Gov. L. Douglas Wilder and Sen. Charles S. Robb, Virginia's two pre-eminent Democrats, are pummeling each other with such verbal ferocity that some party leaders and political analysts say they are endangering both their political futures and their party's dominance in Virginia.
In the latest exchange, Mr. Wilder charged Friday that someone had taped personal calls he made on the cellular phone in his limousine and had passed on the contents of the conversations to Mr. Robb. He did not say what the conversations were about. The governor called the alleged eavesdropping "criminal" and said that while he had no evidence that it had been carried out on behalf of Mr. Robb, he believed that the senator was at least guilty of passing on confidential contents of the tapes to other Democrats.
Through a spokesman, Mr. Robb denied any involvement with tapes of Mr. Wilder's conversations.
The governor's accusations came to light in an article in the Washington Post yesterday. Interviewed by telephone from Bonn, Mr. Wilder said he learned about the taping from various sources, none of which he would identify.
He ordered his chief of staff, J. T. Shropshire, to inform the superintendent of the state police, Col. William F. Corvello, of the alleged eavesdropping. "It's wiretapping and it's a criminal act," the Post quoted Mr. Wilder as saying. The state attorney general's office says that Virginia and federal law prohibit intentional interception, taping and disclosure of cellular phone conversations.
The governor could not be reached yesterday by reporters seeking comment. But Mr. Shropshire, in a telephone interview from his home near Richmond, said that Mr. Wilder was "deeply disturbed" by the purported taping.
Mr. Robb's spokesman, Steve Johnson, said: "Neither Senator Robb nor anyone on his staff has been involved in providing tapes to anyone or playing such tapes for Democrats."