Embattled Durbin Makes Fund-Raising Pitch for Democrats

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:31 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - Democrats are not distancing themselves from Sen. Dick Durbin. The Illinois Democrat, fresh from a tearful apology on the Senate floor, is now circulating a fund-raising letter on behalf of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

"Dear Friend," the email message begins, "On June 30, the DSCC faces its first big test."

Durbin explained that June 30 is when the books close on second-quarter fundraising, and he said it's important for Democrats to be competitive with Republicans in the fund-raising sweepstakes.

Durbin says journalists and political insiders are waiting to "declare the first winners of the election cycle" based on fund-raising totals, and so far, Republicans are well ahead of Democrats.

"I want the story on the front page to be that the Democrats are matching the Republicans dollar for dollar and that we have them on the run. That story won't be written unless we meet our goal to raise $500,000 online this quarter," Durbin's message says.

He says Democrats are "halfway there, but we're all going to have to dig a little deeper if we're going to make it. Please make a contribution today and help us put a stop to George Bush's right wing agenda."

The choice of Durbin to make a key fund-raising pitch on behalf of his party comes at a time when Durbin has dominated the political headlines for his comments comparing American military interrogators at Guantanamo Bay to Nazis and other "mad" regimes.

On June 14, Durbin -- reading from an FBI memo on the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay -- commented: "If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings."

Three days later, his office flooded with complaints, Durbin clarified but did not apologize for his comments. But on Tuesday, Durbin finally and formally apologized to people who were offended by his remarks:

"Some may believe that my remarks crossed the line," Durbin said on June 21, seven days after comparing American military personnel and detention centers to Nazis and Soviet gulags. "To them I extend my heartfelt apologies."

Becoming emotional, Durbin also apologized directly to the U.S. military. "They're the best. I never, ever intended any disrespect for them," he said.

"Mr. President, I've come to understand that was a poor choice of words," said Durbin. "Last Friday, I tried to make this very clear that I understood that those analogies -- the Nazis, Soviets, and others -- were poorly chosen. I issued a release, which I thought made my intentions and my innermost feelings as clear as I possibly could."

In the DSCC fund-raising pitch sent out Wednesday afternoon, Durbin said he's been serving as Senate Democratic Whip for six months now, and he's "learned one very important thing in that short time: We need more Democrats in the United States Senate in order to put a permanent stop to the right wing agenda supported by George Bush, Bill Frist, and Tom DeLay."

Durbin called Republican priorities "way outside the mainstream," and he said a Democrat-dominated Senate would "shift the nation's focus to issues that truly matter: restoring our nation's honor abroad..."

Money raised by the DSCC goes directly to Democratic Senate candidates.

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