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QUEST FOR DONATIONS

Kerry pitch faults GOP in sale of graphic T-shirts

WASHINGTON -- Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry is appealing for donations in an e-mail accusing the GOP of allowing the sale of racist and antigay T-shirts at a convention of college Republicans this summer.

The e-mail yesterday, also posted on Kerry's campaign website, includes a photo of the shirts.

One says "No Muslims No Terrorism." Another has a photo of black filmmaker Spike Lee and the message "Bring back the blacklist." A third shows a photo of lesbian television personality Rosie O'Donnell and her partner with the line "Mr. (?) and Mrs. (?) Rosie O'Donnell." Another says "The Clinton Legacy" and shows the World Trade Center after a plane crashed into it.

Kerry's e-mail said the T-shirts, from a company called Ocents, were displayed and sold at the College Republicans National Convention in Washington in July.

"The divisive slogans and graphic pictures are not to be laughed off as campaign rhetoric -- they are racist, antigay, and violent," Kerry wrote. "I support the First Amendment, and I am using my right to free speech to protest their politics of division. But our protest must come in actions not words. Click here to contribute now."

Kerry told prospective donors he's "taken the high road in this campaign" and needs their support "to send George Bush and his right-wing friends back to Texas."

Kerry wrote that donations were especially important before the third fund-raising quarter ends Sept. 30.

David Joyslin, spokesman for the College Republican National Committee, said his group had nothing to do with the T-shirts, and was unfamiliar with the company that sold them.

"We sold over 50 tables to vendors. We didn't monitor every single product of every single vendor," Joyslin said. "Obviously our organization wouldn't endorse any statements of the sort that I saw on the Internet."

Bush campaign spokesman Scott Stanzel declined to comment.

The T-shirts were spotted at the GOP convention by a Kerry supporter who was staying in the same hotel, Kerry spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

Kerry is among several presidential hopefuls making last-minute e-mail pitches for contributions before the current fund-raising period ends next week.

Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman sent an e-mail Wednesday night citing the third-quarter deadline and telling potential donors next year's election could be as close as 2000's. "Democratic presidential candidates are so desperate they'll say anything to get elected," Mehlman wrote. "Special interest groups have committed to raising over $400 million in soft money specifically to defeat President Bush."

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