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Fund-Raising Questions Focus On Gore


Report: Vice president made personal phone calls to solicit campaign money

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, March 2) -- Al Gore became the latest focus of scrutiny into Democratic fund-raising efforts Sunday, when the Washington Post reported that the vice president was the administration's "solicitor-in-chief" during the 1996 re-election campaign.

The Post report said that according to records and interviews with more than 100 organizers, donors and officials, Gore requested large contributions for the Democratic National Committee, often in private phone calls.

The Sunday morning political talk shows took up the banner, providing forums for Republicans and Democrats alike to offer opinions about Gore's fund-raising activities.


"Vice President Gore was part of an effort to compete against the Republicans," said White House Special Counsel Lanny Davis on CNN's "Late Edition." "He did nothing wrong and nothing illegal. And the suggestion of anything illegal is completely baseless."

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott told CNN that making phone calls may not be illegal but questioned where Gore was when he made the phone calls.


"If that call is made on federal property, that would be illegal," Lott said. "I'm not saying that that is what occurred, but when you have that kind of activity going on, then you have to know exactly what did happen."

Republican strategist Mary Matlin, however, said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that what Gore did was "unethical, but it was not illegal." (76K WAV sound)

Democrats in Congress agreed that Gore's participation in DNC fund-raising was not illegal, but several said his actions were "inappropriate."


"I do not personally believe it is appropriate for the president or the vice president of the United States to directly solicit contributions through telephone calls," said Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-New Jersey).

"It's not an attractive way to live," said Sen. Patrick Moynihan of New York. "But it's the way we do things."

Campaign 'panicked' after GOP wins in '94

According to the Washington Post article, the Clinton-Gore campaign staff was "panicked" after Republicans swept Congress in the 1994 elections. Gore took the responsibilities of directly soliciting donations at the behest of then-Clinton strategist Dick Morris, after Clinton flatly refused to make such calls.

Morris said Sunday on the Fox network that he "was aware of it and I was tickled to death that he did it."

"Unless he got on the phone and actually asked people for money, we never would have had the money to be able to win the election," Morris said.

Morris said that such phone calls were legal, "because everything is basically allowed by these porous (campaign finance) laws."

"It takes real talent to do something illegal under these laws," he said.

While most of the politicians on the airwaves Sunday focused on the vice president -- and the host of other "inappropriate" fund-raising activities revealed by Democratic National Committee records -- some politicians agreed with Morris that the real problem was campaign finance laws.


"We need to change this system," said Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, who said he too thought Gore's participation was ethically questionable although not illegal.

Vice president 'heavy-handed'

The Washington Post's article, part of a four-part series examining the controversies over the DNC's fund-raising in the last presidential campaign, quoted some anonymous donors saying they felt pressured to donate by Gore's call.

"There were elements of a shakedown in the call," one businessman, who refused to be identified, told the Post.

Another, who also refused to allow his name to be used, said Gore's call was "revolting."

Other donors, who said they were not called by the vice president, said such phone calls would be inappropriate.

"I don't think anyone in political office should ask for money," said Jay Stein, head of Stein Mart Inc. and a longtime Gore friend, "particularly on a one-to-one basis."

A $36 million phone call?

In one solicitation under scrutiny, the vice president made a phone call in 1996 to James L. Donald, chairman of Texas telecommunications firm DSC Communications, thanking him for a $100,000 donation, the Post said.

Gore associates say Gore did not know that then-Commerce Department Secretary Ron Brown had assisted the company in obtaining a $36 million contract with Telmex, Mexico's national telecommunications company, nor that Donald acknowledged the donation was a "thank you" to the Clinton administration.

Donald, a conservative Republican who had not given substantially to Democrats in the past, also gave $20,000 to the Republican National Committee and $65,000 to Republican Senate and House campaign committees, according to Federal Election records.

'A matter of great concern'


Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch said that the Gore revelations were "a matter of great concern."

"I think all vice presidents have to rise money for their parties, but this one does seem to have gone quite far," he said. "And I think all donors probably feel like there's some heavy hands in politics too ... but I know Al Gore -- he's very aggressive."

The revelations have also intensified calls for a special prosecutor to investigate the DNC's fund-raising activities. Moynihan said that such an appointment "seems to be the growing judgment," and Lott said that with or without a special prosecutor, the Senate is "gonna have hearings."

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