Rep. Sanchez Refuses to Criticize Gore, Democrats

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:26 PM EDT

( - The Democrats have dumped on Rep. Loretta Sanchez, but so far, she has refused to dump on them.

In an interview on NBC's Today show Friday, Sanchez said she won't cancel her planned fund-raiser at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles, but she said she would be willing to move it - if someone can find a better place to hold the event.

This is about Hispanic unity, not the Playboy Mansion, Sanchez told Katie Couric.

"The more important thing is that Hispanic Unity USA will have a good event and they will be financially strong and will be able to...empower people."

Sanchez said she chose the Playboy Mansion because it has "cachet" and would attract fund-raisers at a time when other high-profile democrats - Bill and Hillary Clinton and Al Gore -- are also competing for the dollars of wealthy celebrities at various high-profile fundraisers.

Sanchez said the Democrats offered her an alternative, "substandard venue" at which to hold her fund-raiser, and she turned it down.

Katie Couric asked, "It doesn't bother you that the chairman of the DNC said, if you don't cancel the fundraiser, you can't speak" [at the Democratic National Convention]?

"Well, actually, no," said Sanchez. She explained that she's "a different kind of politician."

"It's not about my personal agenda. It's about the cause of getting people who haven't been involved with the process into the process." Sanchez said Hispanic Unity helps to educate and register voters so they will go out and support candidates who will "be good on working-family issues."

Sanchez said Hispanic Unity is a non-partisan group that includes members of all parties.

Sanchez deflected questions that gave her the opportunity to criticize the Democrats and Al Gore for what some people consider their heavy-handed treatment of her.

She called Gore a "straight shooter, a good father, a great husband...a good, honest, decent person."

Gore "doesn't need to cloak himself in this whole issue of morality," Sanchez said, adding that she likes him, supports him, and believes he will win in November.

In a statement released late Thursday, Joe Andrew, the chairman of the Democratic Party, said he was "sorely disappointed" with Sanchez' decision to go ahead with the event at the Playboy Mansion.

"We have done everything we can and now we have no alternative but to take action," Andrew said. Democratic officials have stripped Rep. Sanchez of her speaking role at next week's Democratic convention.

Andrew told Sanchez in an earlier letter that hosting the party at the Playboy Mansion would send the wrong message to families.

For the record, both Playboy founder Hugh Hefner and his daughter gave $1,000 to Gore's presidential campaign.

"There's a huge distinction between accepting an individual contribution and holding a event that's related to the Democratic Party, in some way, shape or form, at a location like the Playboy Mansion, said Gore spokesman Chris Lehane.