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Al's No Playboy

One of the hottest tickets during the Democratic National Convention will feature the ears of a bunny rather than a donkey. Hispanic Unity USA, a political action committee, is hosting a late-night fund-raiser at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles.

"We selected a high-profile venue and there's been a lot of buzz about it," said Sarah Anderson, spokeswoman for Rep. Loretta Sanchez, the chair of Hispanic Unity.

But the word "buzz" barely covers the scope of criticism the party venue has received, starting with Vice President Al Gore.

Though Gore has worked hard to court Latino voters this election year and appointed Sanchez as a co-chair of the Democratic National Committee, he will not attend the fund-raiser.

"We're not attending, participating, supporting, condoning or giving our imprimatur in any shape, way or form," to the event, Chris Lehane, spokesman for the Gore campaign, said Tuesday.

"We never really expected he would attend. He's a really busy guy," said Anderson, avoiding comment on the tone of the Gore statement.

But Richard Rosenzweig, executive vice president of Playboy Enterprises, called the Democratic candidate's response "surprising" and "outrageous."

"We have supported the party for decades … this is disappointing," said Rosenzweig, adding that his corporation is typically "overwhelmed" with requests for donations from the Democratic Party.

In fact, Gore has accepted $1,500 in donations from Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner and daughter Christie Hefner, chairman and CEO of Playboy Enterprises. The senior Hefner also contributed to the Clinton/Gore campaigns in '92 and '96.

Rosenzweig said Hugh Hefner had not commented publicly on the Gore statement, but added, "he has used the word 'hypocrisy' with me."

The Gore campaign said there were other more appropriate venues in which to hold the event. "Just because the campaign accepts a donation doesn't mean we condone what goes on in their house," Gore spokesman Doug Hattaway told

Not surprisingly, Republicans jumped on the opportunity to lambaste the event and Rep. Sanchez, the Democrat who unseated Republican Robert Dornan in California's 46th congressional district.

"Scantily dressed women and alcohol is no way to improve Latino participation in the electoral process," said California Republican Party Chairman John McGraw. "Sanchez is not only out of touch with the voters, but she is out of touch with her Democratic presidential nominee."

Anderson, Sanchez's spokeswoman, refused comment on McGraw's remarks, saying only that Hispanic Unity USA is a bipartisan organization that works to promote voter registration across the country. She also noted that Playboy has shown a commitment to causes promoting voter involvement. The Hugh Hefner Foundation, according to Rosenzweig, contributed $20,000 to the Hispanic Unity Foundtion, which is separate from the Hispanic Unity PAC.

Despite Gore's snub, Anderson says there are no plans to cancel the event. Invitations are going out to 500-600 guests and Anderson expects the gala to be a sellout.

As for those scantily-clad women, a Playboy spokesman says no "bunnies" will be present. The traditional costume of ears and fuzzy tails from the old Playboy Club only surfaces these days for promotional campaigns. But there will be "playmates" - women featured in the magazine - on the premises, and they will be "appropriately dressed." They will likely serve as tour guides for the mansion and its massive grounds, which include an aviary, a redwood forest and a private zoo.

That should attract a lot of animal lovers.

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