N.J. clergy group files suit against GOP, Rollins


A group of New Jersey clergy filed a $500 million lawsuit against the state Republican Party and political strategist Ed Rollins, as more questions were raised about the truthfulness of a deposition he gave last week regarding an alleged GOP effort to suppress black voter turnout on Election Day.

Contending that the integrity of black ministers had been attacked, the suit -- which also names the campaign of New Jersey Gov.-elect Christine Todd Whitman -- was filed after Mr. Rollins testified that he lied when he said Ms. Whitman's campaign made payments totaling $500,000 to black ministers in an effort to persuade registered blacks against voting in the Nov. 2 election against Democratic Gov. James Florio.

The suit was filed yesterday in federal court in Newark, N.J.

Meanwhile, three political insiders close to Mr. Rollins, including GOP strategist Mary Matalin, who was the deputy manager of former President Bush's re-election campaign, disputed statements given by Mr. Rollins in the deposition last week before attorneys for the Democratic National Committee.

Robert Barnett, a Washington attorney for Ms. Matalin, said that Ms. Matalin -- who is engaged to James Carville, the Democratic strategist who led Mr. Florio's campaign -- said that comments attributed to her yesterday in the Philadelphia Inquirer were correct. The paper quoted Ms. Matalin as saying that Mr. Rollins told her that "he had paid off black ministers" three days before Mr. Rollins told the news media of the payments. Ms. Matalin could not be reached for comment.

Retired newspaper columnist Rowland Evans also was quoted as saying that Mr. Rollins also told him of the voter suppression campaign.

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