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Gore's Fund-Raising Practices Again the Subject of Justice Department Scrutiny

Aired September 14, 2000 - 1:09 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Fund-raising practices in the 1996 presidential race are again the subject of Justice Department scrutiny. At issue: the wording of a single phone call that may or may not have been placed.

CNN senior White House correspondent John King has been unraveling details of this.

John, what's it all about?

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, Republicans trying to make the case today about another controversy, 1996 Clinton-Gore campaign Democratic fund-raising, trying to make the case that documents show the vice president was perhaps discussing a quid pro quo or was to discuss a quid pro quo when he was asked by the Democratic Party to call a Texas attorney by the name of Walter Umphrey back in late 1995.

Gore was told to make the call by the party, asked to ask for a $100,000 contribution. The sheet given to the vice president's office noted that this lawyer was closely following the debate over tort reform. That was a bill ultimately vetoed by President Clinton that would have limited the financial awards that go to trial lawyers in big cases.

Now the vice president's office says their records show he never made this call, and they say they can't be held to blame for any other improper activity by the Democratic National Committee.

What we do know from looking at the records, the Senate for Responsive Government, a critic of campaign finance practices, shows that these attorneys certainly became more generous. Before the may 1996 veto, they had given about $747,000 to the Democratic National Committee. Since that 1996 veto, more than $4 million.

Again, though, as he campaigned in New Hampshire today, the vice president's aides making the case he never placed the phone call the Republicans are complaining about, that he is not responsible for any documents suggesting that perhaps DNC officials word these calls to suggest a quid pro quo. And they are also noting significantly, all these documents were turned over to Congress and to the Justice Department almost three years ago, back in October, 1997. They say it is curious that Republicans are faxing them around Washington now to reporters, and calling on the Justice Department to launch a new investigation.

At the Justice Department today, the attorney general said: Be careful here. She made reference to the timing being so close to the election.

But, as campaigned today, Governor Bush, who has been having a couple of rough weeks, he turned his focus squarely to the vice president's ethics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Just today there are new revelations about the potential misuse of the White House for fund-raising purposes. New evidence that my opponent may have crossed a serious line, solicitation of campaign contributions linked to a presidential veto.

The appearance is really disturbing. Americans are tired of investigations and scandal. And the best way to get rid of them is to elect a new president, who will bring a new administration, who will restore honor and dignity to the White House.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, again, the Gore campaign here suggesting mischief by Republicans so close to the election. Look for even more criticism of the vice president's fund-raising tonight. However, he will be in New York, Radio City Music Hall, a $5 million party fund-raiser.

Many entertainment industry people helping raise that money. That, of course, at a time when the vice president and his running mate, Joe Lieberman, criticizing the marketing of violent movies and video games to children. Republicans will say that's hypocrisy.

John King, CNN, reporting live from Washington.

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