A donation from Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the number two Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives, to the campaign committee of Rep. Lynn Rivers was sharply criticized this week by Rivers” likely opponent in the August 2002 Democratic congressional primary, Rep. John Dingell. Dingell said it was unprecedented for a member of the House Democratic leadership to favor one candidate over another in a primary.

Dingell, who has represented parts of Wayne County since 1955, and Rivers, who has represented Washtenaw County and parts of Wayne County since 1995, saw both of their hometowns fused into the same new congressional district in a redistricting plan approved by Gov. John Engler last year. Unless the Michigan Democratic Party”s court challenge of the plan is successful, incumbents Dingell and Rivers will face off next August.

Dingell”s criticism, first reported in the Capitol Hill newsletter Roll Call, centered on a $10,000 donation from a political campaign committee operated by Pelosi (D-Calif.), House minority whip, to Rivers” campaign. Kori Bernard, spokeswoman for House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) said the leader had not endorsed either candidate in the primary, saying “the leadership stays out of campaign elections.”

Dingell told the newsletter he was perplexed as to why a member of the House Democratic leadership would want to show favoritism to one Democratic incumbent over another who has “been so helpful to the Democratic Party.”

Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly explained that the whip “gave the donation before she had seen the final (redistricting) map so she didn”t know” that there would likely be a primary.

The donation was made Sept. 10, one day before Engler signed the redistricting bill. It had been clear for some time, however, that the Republican governor would sign the bill, given that it was developed by the GOP-controlled Legislature. Pelosi did not take over as minority whip until last month, having been elected to the post one month after she made the donation to Rivers” campaign. Rivers had supported Pelosi for the promotion to minority whip, while Dingell had supported her opponent in the election among Democratic House members.

Rivers said she believes Dingell”s comments are “a warning to other people in Congress that they”re not supposed to give me money.”

Dingell”s campaign spokesman, Lon Johnson, was unavailable for comment.

Dingell will be giving an informal talk at the Foster Library in Lorch Hall at 1 p.m. today on congressional issues relating to students.

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