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GOP chided by Senate candidate


U.S. Senate candidate Alan L. Keyes, smarting from his party's denial of $400,000 in financial aid, accused a GOP leader yesterday of setting "phony" qualifications for the campaign money and of "punishing" his outspokenness.

At a news conference in his Rockville office where some thought he might renounce his party membership, Mr. Keyes declared his "independence within the Republican Party."

"Because the Republican Party is the party of Abraham Lincoln, I will never surrender the Republican label," he said.

But he said he would not "succumb to intimidation" by Texas Sen. Phil Gramm who, as chairman of the Republican National Senatorial Campaign Committee, decided not to give him $400,000 for the remaining weeks of his campaign against Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski.

Wendy Burnley, a spokeswoman for the committee, said last week that Mr. Keyes had failed to meet the committee's standard for cash on hand. Without $300,000 of its own in the bank, the campaign had not sufficiently demonstrated that its race was "winnable," she said.

A call to the campaign committee was not returned yesterday.

In a free-swinging indictment of his party and some of its leaders, Mr. Keyes was critical of those managing the re-election campaign of President Bush.

"Despite economic woes, unemployment and a skyrocketing national debt, they want us to believe that everything's just fine," he said.

"If we want real change, there is only one solution -- vote the incumbents out," he said.

He declined to say if his statement was meant to include Mr. Bush or to say how he would vote, saying all Americans, including political candidates, can keep their votes secret.

Mr. Keyes has been trailing Ms. Mikulski by as much as 38 points in the public opinion polls.

He said that polls taken at this point in a campaign are notoriously inaccurate.

Mr. Gramm and other party leaders, relying on such poll data, prove they "are so out of touch they don't see what we are accomplishing in Maryland," he said.

Mr. Keyes, who is black, said he does not think race was a factor in the denial of funds. But he said his party had failed again to "give more than lip service to efforts to broaden the party's base and encourage participation from traditionally Democratic constituencies."

Mr. Keyes continues to draw an $8,500-a-month salary from campaign contributions, a campaign official said. Previously, Mr. Keyes justified the salary, which amounts to more than $100,000 on an annual basis, by saying he is not wealthy and needs the money to pay his mortgage and support his family.

During the news conference, Mr. Keyes said he has raised a total of $1.1 million through direct mail to conduct his campaign, and he indirectly dismissed any possible connection between his salary and the denial of funds. The committee did not cite the salary in its explanations of the decision to deny the money.

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