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Barbara Boxer serves as a fundraising foil for a GOP colleague

July 5, 2008 |  5:40 am

Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon, a potentially endangered Republican in November's election, raised many an eyebrow recently with an ad that included an unexpected cameo.

"Who says Gordon Smith helped lead the fight for better gas mileage and a cleaner environment?" asks a narrator. "Barack Obama."

TV viewers in the Beaver state then saw a flash of Obama's face and his campaign Web site as the ad went on to say the two lawmakers had teamed up "and broke through a 20-year deadlock to pass new laws that increase gas mileage for automobiles."

Liberal Sen. Barbara Boxer of California is targeted in a fundraising appeal by conservative Sen. John Cornyn of Texas Despite Smith's effort to scramble the partisan divide, it's comforting to know that in some cases, the old rules still apply -- such as a conservative Republican from Texas invoking a tried and true symbol of California liberalism, Sen. Barbara Boxer, as a way to raise money.

Boxer did her part to rate such a mention. On the Web site for a political action committee she set up, she recently conducted an online "Choose a Challenger" contest. Participants were given a list of various Democrats challengers trying to win GOP-held Senate seats this year and asked to vote on which one should be singled out for fundraising help by the PAC.

Down in the Lone Star State, Democrat Rick Noriega launched an effort to stack the deck. As part of his longshot bid to topple GOP Sen. John Cornyn, he urged backers to cast ballots for him in Boxer's tourney; a win, he said in an e-mail, could funnel "tens of thousands of dollars" into his coffers.

Not surprisingly, the Cornyn camp got wind of this and sought, in turn, to use it for its own financial advantage.

A solicitation to potential donors notified them that Noriega "is enlisting California Liberal (sic) Barbara Boxer’s help to raise money. The note continued:

"Barbara Boxer, the one who opposed Chief Justice Roberts' nomination to the Supreme Court and verbally assaulted Justice Alito during his confirmation process."

"But it gets worse. You know what Senator Boxer is up to now? To quote her own website: 'I want you to know that I won't give up in our fight to stop the drilling…'

"Gas is approaching $4.10 a gallon with no end in sight and Rick Noriega is asking for help from Barbara Boxer, who is leading the charge to stop domestic drilling making us even more dependent on foreign oil?"

"While Rick Noriega is counting on Californians to help his campaign, John Cornyn is counting on Texans just like you."

Sounds like Cornyn would be loathe to get caught in the same elevator with Boxer.

But here's another side of Washington. Cornyn is the vice chair of the Senate Ethics Committee that Boxer heads. And about a week after the missive excoriating her, Cornyn's Capitol Hill office issued a release touting an amendment they were jointly offering to require members of Congress to publicly disclose their residential mortgages (a touchy topic these days in the Senate).

The release included both of their names in its headline, provided quotes from each promoting their mutual cause and offered nary a hint of discord between the two.

Noriega, by the way, triumphed in Boxer's contest (for the results, go here).

--Don Frederick

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