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GOP strategist quits campaign over wife-beating accusations

August 8, 1997

NEW YORK (AP) _ A top Republican media consultant who helped make ``character″ a theme in two presidential races has resigned from a congressional campaign over allegations he beat his two ex-wives.

Don Sipple, 46, has denied the accusations of wife-beating, which were first made during a 1992 custody case and are detailed in the upcoming issue of Mother Jones magazine.

This week Sipple quit the congressional race of New York Republican Vito Fossella, telling the campaign in a letter that he did not ``wish this to be a distraction for Vito or the campaign.″ The letter was faxed to The Associated Press on Friday by Sipple’s Washington-based Sipple Strategic Communications.

Sipple worked on the presidential campaigns of Bob Dole and George Bush, and on three of California Gov. Pete Wilson’s campaigns. In Dole’s 1996 campaign, Sipple crafted ads declaring: ``It all comes down to values.″

Fossella’s press secretary, Patrick McCarthy, said in a statement that Sipple’s resignation had been accepted Wednesday. It did not elaborate.

New York State Democrats had demanded that the New York City councilman, who is running for Susan Molinari’s vacated House seat, drop Sipple.

``There should be zero tolerance of spousal abuse, starting with those who aspire to be leaders,″ Judith Hope, chairwoman of the New York State Democratic Committee, said in a statement. ``If Vito Fossella does not immediately sever his relationship with Don Sipple, then what does that say about him or his judgment?″

In the 1992 custody case, both of Sipple’s ex-wives testified that he beat them. The subject of the custody dispute, Sipple’s son Evan _ then 14 _ also said in a deposition that his father struck him. His father testified during the trial that he had swatted his son on the buttocks.

Sipple also denied under questioning during the trial that he had abused either of his wives.

Sipple divorced his first wife, Regina Sipple, in 1979, and his second wife, Deborah Steelman, in 1984. He has since remarried.

Neither of Sipple’s first two wives alleged during divorce proceedings that they were abused. Both said later that they didn’t want to slow down the divorce proceedings.

In 1991, when she learned her ex-husband was earning more money, Regina Sipple asked for increased child support. He responded with a counter-claim for custody of Evan.

Sipple’s friends and colleagues argued that abuse allegations made in a bitter custody fight aren’t credible. They noted that the judge in the Missouri case awarded Sipple custody of his son.

Dan Schnur, a spokesman for Sipple, said Sipple had no other clients this year.

George Gorton, a consultant to San Diego Mayor Susan Golding, had said earlier, however, that Golding planned to hire Sipple in her bid for the Senate next year. Mother Jones said Sipple also planned to work on campaigns for Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Missouri Sen. Christopher Bond.

``I’ve known Don for quite a while, and I’ve never known any jealousy or any anger, not even a little anger,″ Gorton said. ``There’s not anything in this (magazine) story that is recognizable as Don Sipple.″

Karen Hughes, press secretary for George W. Bush, said the campaign team had not been determined. ``Don has assured us the allegations are not true,″ she said.

Sipple drew press attention last year when, after creating ads calling Dole ``a better man for a better America,″ he quit the campaign in a power struggle two months before the election. Then, in a nationally published interview, he ridiculed Dole as a monosyllabic grunter without a vision.

He also quit President Bush’s re-election team in 1992.

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