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Liberal Group Criticizes VA Concert Cancellation

September 28, 1990|RONALD BROWNSTEIN | TIMES POLITICAL WRITER

A prominent liberal Los Angeles political group Thursday charged that the Department of Veterans Affairs has squelched an upcoming fund-raiser as part of an effort by Republicans to discredit the group.

At a news conference attended by two dozen entertainment industry figures, the Hollywood Women's Political Committee said the VA this week abruptly rescinded permission for an Oct. 4 abortion-rights fund-raising concert to be held at its Wadsworth Theater in West Los Angeles.

Political Committee Executive Director Margery Tabankin called the decision--which follows several attacks by Republicans this year on Democrats who accepted funds from the group--"a continuation of years of attacks on the artistic and entertainment community of this country, and, in fact, many countries."

But the VA said it was merely following federal law and department regulations that prohibit political fund-raising on federal property.

VA spokesman Larry Caird said that although the women's group booked the theater in July with officials at UCLA--which leases the facility from the VA--the department did not become aware that the event was a political fund-raiser until Tuesday, when it received material about the program.

VA regulations specify that "partisan activities are inappropriate" uses of department facilities. Also, federal criminal codes bar the solicitation of funds "in any room or building occupied in the discharge of official" federal government duties.

But Robert F. Bauer, a Washington election lawyer who advises the political committee, said neither the VA nor criminal code prohibitions apply to the Wadsworth Theater because it is not used for official business.

Michael Blachly, associate director of UCLA's Center for Performing Arts, said he wrote the committee that "no partisan fund-raising activities" are permitted at the theater.

But Tabankin said that UCLA had not raised objections until this week despite ample notice "that it was a fund-raising event. . . . Our name is the Hollywood Women's Political Committee. What did they think we are: a canasta club?"

Blachly said he failed to specifically clear the concert with the department, an oversight he termed an "honest error."

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