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Alabama GOP Disputes Former Campaign Worker's Claims on CBS Show

Washingotn, D.C. – A former Republican campaign volunteer in Alabama told CBS's "60 Minutes" of what she viewed as a secret five-year campaign to ruin former Democratic Gov. Don Siegelman, a claim airing tonight that was denounced as a fabrication by the state GOP.

Party officials say Jill Simpson, a Rainsville lawyer who has now left the Republican Party, was no more than a low-level volunteer for individual campaigns, if anything, and would not have had access to the kind of information she alleged on Sunday's "60 Minutes" episode.

In the program, Simpson made claims that she had not previously raised publicly, either in an affidavit that drew wide attention last summer or later in sworn congressional testimony.

She said then-White House political strategist Karl Rove asked her in 2001 to find evidence that Siegelman was cheating on his wife.

Simpson said it wasn't the first time that Rove, who was active in Alabama politics before going to the White House, had asked her to find damaging information about opposing campaigns.

Rove declined to be interviewed by "60 Minutes" and by The Associated Press. But his attorney, Robert Luskin, denied Simpson's allegations, saying the show "owes Mr. Rove an apology for circulating this false and foolish story."

Simpson had not mentioned Rove directly speaking to her previously. In her earlier sworn statements, she said she heard party operatives running Republican Bob Riley's campaign for governor discuss political influence behind Siegelman's prosecution on corruption charges.

She describes conversations in 2002 and 2005 in which she claims Riley campaign officials suggested that Rove was pushing the Justice Department to pursue charges against the former governor to keep him off the ballot.

Siegelman, who narrowly lost to Riley in 2002, was convicted on federal bribery and obstruction charges in June 2006. He is serving a sentence of more than seven years.

Alabama Republican Party officials said Simpson was fabricating her stories. State GOP chairman Mike Hubbard, in a written statement, says the party staffers ``can find not one instance'' of Simpson volunteering or working on behalf of the Alabama Republican Party.

Also, he says, no one within the Republican Party leadership in Alabama has ever so much as heard of Simpson until she made her first wave of accusations.

Simpson's attorney, Priscilla Duncan, disputed that account and said Simpson could provide details of fundraisers and other activities she helped arrange. Duncan denies that Simpson is changing her story as she raises new allegations.

Simpson says she is a lifelong Republican, volunteering for state and national campaigns dating back to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Duncan says Simpson has decided to leave the party because "she's just so disgusted with their reaction."

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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