Republicans try new twist in Arkansas: a voter `lottery'

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

We've had the California lottery, the Massachusetts lottery, and the New York lottery. Now comes the Republican lottery. The first three lotteries are about money. The last one is about politics -- 1986-style. And it's created a bit of a storm.

The Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, faced with the potential loss of 10 to 20 seats in this year's elections for the United States House of Representatives, hopes its new lottery will help.

Here's how it works: By correctly answering 10 questions about Rep. Bill Alexander (D) of Arkansas, participants have a chance to win a free air fare for two to anywhere in the world -- plus $2,000 for travel expenses.

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What's the catch? Well, you have to live in Mr. Alexander's district and be at least 18 years old to participate.

But more important, the questions aren't really questions. They're more like . . . political points.

Take question No. 1 for example. It comes with a world map pinpointing certain countries and says: ``Bill Alexander has taken trips to every country shown above -- at taxpayer's expense. So far, he has made 62 visits to foreign countries.'' The player checks one of three boxes indicating whether this is considered ``very important, somewhat important, or not important.''

Then there's question No. 4: ``Bill Alexander voted to raise your personal income tax by 10 percent.'' Is that ``very important?'' etc.

Needless to say, Congressman Alexander wasn't pleased. He immediately called a press conference in Jonesboro, Ark., to blast the lottery. In a statement, he called it ``the cheapest misrepresentations and distortions yet in this campaign.''

Alexander said the people of Arkansas don't need ``faceless outsiders putting up big money to tell our citizens how to vote.''

The Republicans paid $20,000 to place ads about the lottery in nine daily and 16 weekly newspapers in Arkansas. The state's primary election is next Tuesday, May 27.

Participants are invited to fill in the questionnaire and then mail it to the Republican committee headquarters in Washington, where the winning entry will be drawn.

Negative political advertising like this has grown in recent years. It is mostly used by political action committees in close campaigns.

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