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Tuesday, October 12, 2004 - Page updated at 12:24 A.M.

Second break-in hits a Bush office in state

By David Postman
Seattle Times chief political reporter

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The offices housing President Bush's Spokane campaign operation were broken into yesterday, the second burglary in as many weeks at state Bush offices.

A small amount of cash was taken after someone apparently kicked a hole through a wall from an adjacent, vacant office. But a television and a computer appeared to have been the target and were left behind on the floor, according to the Spokane Police Department. Police said most of the equipment was too big to fit through the hole in the wall.

The staff said the computer was loaded with confidential get-out-the-vote records. But, officer Dan Cole pointed out in a press release, "If they were after records, just the [computer] tower could have been taken through the hole."

Campaign workers suspect the thief was startled by something and left the intended loot behind.

On Oct. 1, three computers were taken in a break-in at the Bush campaign's office in Bellevue.

The break-ins happened amid other reports of crimes and altercations at Bush campaign offices in other states, and vandalism at some John Kerry offices around the country.

Yesterday, Bush national chairman Marc Racicot said that in the final weeks of the presidential campaign, Republicans and Democrats need to work to avoid a political atmosphere that could encourage more incidents.

"It's everyone's responsibility to provide constant reminders that — even though people feel strongly — the safety and security of everyone, of every stripe, is protected," Racicot said.

Racicot said there needs to be a "national discussion about this." He said he does not blame Democratic groups for the incidents.

Jano Cabrera, communications director of the Democratic National Committee, said "tempers do appear to be flaring on both sides."
 
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He said Kerry offices in Florida, Illinois and Ohio have been hit by vandalism.

"From the Democrats' perspective, we would much rather have these final two weeks be about the economy under Bush, rising health care under Bush, rising gas prices under Bush, than anything like this as a distraction," Cabrera said.

Racicot said Bush campaign offices around the country are being given "safety protocols to make sure our people are safe and secure."

The campaign reported a break-in at its offices Sunday night in Canton, Ohio. There also have been reports of shots fired at vacant Bush offices in West Virginia, Florida and Tennessee.

There are no suspects in the burglaries or shootings, and no injuries reported in those cases.

On Oct. 5, the AFL-CIO organized demonstrations around the country to protest Bush-administration regulations governing overtime pay. The events were at courthouses, parks and Bush-Cheney campaign offices.

In Miami, Orlando and Tampa, Fla., and in Minneapolis, protestors pushed their way into the campaign offices, according to newspaper reports in those cities. The protesters were trying to deliver postcards. In some cases, there was shoving between protesters and Bush workers. Racicot said one Florida campaign worker had his arm broken as he tried to stop protesters from entering.

Racicot wrote a letter yesterday to AFL-CIO President John Sweeney asking him to call off any future protests.

"In addition to the injuries, property damage and disruption associated with these acts, these events have created a threatening and intimidating atmosphere abhorrent to our democratic process," Racicot wrote.

The AFL-CIO said the Oct. 5 demonstrations were part of an 18-month-long campaign to protest Bush's move to restrict overtime pay. Spokeswoman Lane Windham said protesters entered campaign offices only to deliver petitions and postcards protesting the move.

She said Racicot should not have included comments about break-ins, shootings or vandalism in a letter to the AFL-CIO about union protests.

"For him to link that with all these other things is really the height of irresponsibility," Windham said. "It's dirty politics."

Racicot said he was not trying to make that connection. And he said that other than the union protests, he has no evidence that any of the incidents were part of a coordinated, partisan plan.

"We would never make an allegation that we can't prove," he said.

State Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance has said he is convinced the Bellevue burglary was politically motivated.

In Spokane yesterday, workers arriving at the building that houses the Republican offices found a hole smashed through the wall from the vacant next-door office.

The computer had recently arrived at the offices from the Republican National Committee. It held the party's voter database and plans for the campaign's "72-hour plan" for a final three-day get-out-the-vote effort.

Police said the burglar forced open an alley door to the building that led to a storage area. Drywall separated the storage area from the Republican offices.

The equipment was found on the floor near the hole.

"They must have gotten spooked," said Bill Hyslop, the campaign's chairman for the 5th Congressional District.

Hyslop said a security guard checked the building at about 6 a.m. yesterday and did not report anything disturbed.

But when builders working on the adjacent office arrived about 30 minutes later, they noticed the back door had been pried open.

David Postman: 360-943-9882 or dpostman@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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