DNC chair denies she tried to silence critic

AP News
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Posted: Feb 20, 2015 7:43 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz on Friday denied that she considered offering her support for a Florida medical marijuana ballot initiative in exchange for a prominent donor stopping his public criticism of her.

"It's outrageous to suggest that I would ever cut a deal," the Florida congresswoman said in an interview with The Associated Press. Wasserman Schultz said she had hoped to discuss ways of improving the language of a future ballot initiative but never sought to muzzle Florida attorney John Morgan, who spent nearly $5 million to champion the issue.

"It's unfortunate that John's passion gets the best of him sometimes, let's put it that way. But just because of his tendency to do that, that doesn't mean I would be motivated to change my position to get him to stop," she said. Asked about the criticism, she said, "I'm not going to stoop to that level."

Politico reported this week on emails and text messages released by Morgan, a top fundraiser for President Barack Obama, appearing to show Wasserman Schultz's staff suggesting she would alter her position on the issue if Morgan would retract his criticism.

It was the latest rift in a long-running squabble between the powerful congresswoman and party chair and a top fundraiser for Democratic presidential candidates. Morgan has said he plans to support Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign.

Morgan bankrolled the initiative in part because of the suffering of his quadriplegic brother and said he felt betrayed by the congresswoman when she announced her opposition.

Nearly 58 percent of the electorate supported the amendment last year, but it fell short of a three-fifths majority needed to pass a constitutional amendment in Florida. Supporters hope to pass legislation in the state but may push for a similar ballot measure in 2016.

Morgan said in an interview that Wasserman Schultz's opposition puts her on the wrong side of the issue. "I actually feel sorry for her. You're watching somebody freefall without a parachute in front of the whole world," he said in a phone interview from Hawaii.

Morgan wrote in an email to supporters earlier in the day that his organization would not "negotiate with prohibitionists. Or bullies."

Wasserman Schultz's name has been floated as a potential Senate candidate next year for the seat held by Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who is considering a presidential bid. In the interview, she said her "only focus" was chairing the DNC and representing her South Florida constituents and would not respond directly to questions about a possible Senate campaign.

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