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GOP Developer’s Clinton Gambit Is Signal to Bush : Politics: Kathryn G. Thompson of Orange County says breakfast she is co-hosting for Democratic presidential candidate is about nation’s economy.

TIMES POLITICAL WRITER

The prominent Orange County Republican developer who created an uproar this week when she announced she would co-host a breakfast for Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton acknowledged Thursday that she was trying to send a message to President Bush about the ailing economy.

The news that developer Kathryn G. Thompson and Western Digital Corp. Chairman Roger W. Johnson, two of the county’s most prominent Republicans, were hosting the GOP gathering for the Arkansas governor caused a major commotion in California’s most Republican county and drew attention from across the nation.

Thompson elaborated on her motives in an interview Thursday, and then Thompson and Johnson issued a statement that appeared to soften the initial rhetoric in their invitation to the event.

Instead of rallying support for Clinton, the statement said the main purpose of the Newport Beach meeting was to sound alarms in Washington that the “economy desperately needs attention. Now!”

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“We want to send a message to the President and the Democrats in Congress that it is time to put petty partisan bickering aside and put our nation’s interests first,” said the joint statement. “We decided the best way to send that message was to create this opportunity for Republicans to meet Bill Clinton.”

Both Thompson and Johnson said they have not decided whether to endorse Clinton, only that they have listened to the candidate’s proposals on the economy--including tax incentives for business--and felt the ideas should be heard by Republicans.

Thompson, who made Bush’s Team 100 list of 1988 contributors by giving more than $100,000, said in the interview that she has received “incredible support” for the breakfast, entitled “Looking for a Leader--Identifying Alternatives,” since it was reported on Wednesday. And a spokesman for Johnson said the size of the event at the exclusive Pacific Club has nearly doubled in the last two days to nearly 60 total guests.

But many Orange County Republicans were outraged.

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“Every response which I have received from Orange County Republicans has been one of outrage and displeasure,” said Thomas A. Fuentes, chairman of the county Republican Party. “I think a lot of people here will remember this tootsy-footing with liberal Democrats by these two people. We don’t like tootsy-footing.”

Thompson said that she might still support Bush in the election next year but that her frustration about inaction in the White House had forced her to seek alternatives.

“When it gets to a point in this country that I can’t talk to a Democrat without being called disloyal, then something is dreadfully wrong,” she said.

Thompson is president of Kathryn G. Thompson Development Co.

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The Republican National Committee responded Thursday to the Orange County breakfast by downplaying the implication that it represents a fracture in some of the President’s core support.

“I know that there are many people out there who are concerned about the economy, but there are those who know that electing a Democrat is certainly not the answer,” said Margaret Alexander, finance director for the national committee. “I do not think this is any indication of a breaking in the ranks in any significant manner.”

The statement from Thompson and Johnson on Thursday asked the President to meet with leaders of Congress and prepare an economic growth package for adoption when lawmakers reconvene early next year.

Congress adjourned recently amid confusion about whether it would return to hold a special session on the economy. But with both sides posturing for the upcoming election, Bush declined the Democrats’ challenge to call a special session during the holiday break.

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The White House has indicated that it would present an economic growth plan in the President’s State of the Union address in January. But Thursday’s statement from the breakfast organizers said that would be too late.

“We want to use this event to call on the President to personally . . . meet with Congressman (Dan) Rostenkowski (D-Ill.) and Sen. (Lloyd) Bentsen (D-Tex.) and any other Democrat leaders necessary to immediately negotiate an economic growth package that can be enacted into law in the first two weeks of January and signed into law prior to the State of the Union message,” the statement said.

“We want to send a message to our leaders that they must put partisan politics aside, and we hope that our meeting today with Bill Clinton will help send a message to the President and the Democratic leadership that the time for political nonsense is over--it’s time to personally get involved and start dealing with an economy that desperately needs attention--now!”


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