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Democrats Target California Rep. Miller for 2008

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The New York Times, March 27, 2007

Republican Rep. Gary G. Miller, who represents California's 42nd District, does not stand out as particularly vulnerable to defeat. Miller represents a strongly Republican-leaning district in the suburbs of Los Angeles in which the Democrats did not even bother to field a candidate in 2006, when Miller won a fifth term.

But Democratic campaign officials are vowing to target Miller in the 2008 campaign, brandishing what they claim are "ethical questions" about the congressman and his real estate transactions.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), which oversees campaign strategy and candidate recruitment for the House Democrats, on Tuesday made public a seven-year-old video of Miller that shows him repeatedly asking the city council in Monrovia, Calif., to purchase property that he owned.

The committee says the video footage directly contradicts Miller's claim that he was "forced to sell" his property under eminent domain - a government power to seize private property for public use.

The Democrats' video is the latest iteration of the strategy the party employed in the 2006 election of portraying Republican lawmakers of having fostered a "culture of corruption" during the 12-year period of House Republican rule that the Democrats reversed last November.

"One of the objectives of the video is to jog Congressman Miller's memory," DCCC spokesman Doug Thornell said. "To remind him that he's in Washington to represent constituent interests instead of fatten his own wallet."

The Los Angeles Times and other media outlets have reported that Miller, a real estate developer, is under investigation by the FBI for land deals in Monrovia - which is located in the 26th Congressional District, represented by Republican David Dreier, not in Miller's own 42nd District - and in Fontana, another southern California city, and specifically for evading taxes by claiming he was forced to sell his property under the threat of eminent domain.

But Miller, in an interview with CQPolitics.com on Tuesday, described as "bogus" the claim that he is under FBI investigation.

"This is nothing but a political hit piece started by the L.A. Times," Miller said.

Miller also said the video clip circulated by the DCCC was "incredibly edited" such that it was misleading.

Miller said that one of his responses was to a Monrovia council member who had asked him to donate his property to the city. Miller is shown arguing that the city should buy his property instead of forcing him to hand it over.

"But they didn't show the part where I said, 'I'm not giving you my property,'" Miller said of the DCCC video.

Democrats say that what they regard as Miller's ethical problems have already helped them attract candidates to run against the congressman in 2008.

A campaign in California's 42nd is not an easy sell to top-flight Democratic candidates. California's 42nd, which takes in Mission Viejo, Chino and part of Anaheim, backed President Bush in 2004 with 62 percent of the vote - one of his best showings in the state. The same year, Miller won a fourth House term with 68 percent of the vote, which was a career high until he ran unopposed last year - one of a small handful of Republicans who did not face political opposition from the Democrats.

"I've represented my district well," Miller said, adding that Democrats would face a very tough fight in his district. "If the DCCC wants to waste a whole lot of money, welcome to Orange County, and L.A. and San Bernardino County, because you'd better bring a bucket load of gold."


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