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Election 2000, Four Days to Go: Democratic Activist Behind Bush DUI Leak Denies Connection to Gore Campaign

Aired November 3, 2000 - 2:04 p.m. ET

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

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Just four days before Americans choose a new president, the Bush campaign is on the defensive today over an offense the governor committed 24 years ago. George W. Bush, rallying supporters in Michigan this hour, had to acknowledge last night he was arrested for driving under the influence in 1976. It occurred near Bush's parents' home in Maine.

At an earlier rally in Michigan today, the governor alluded briefly to his brush with the law.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And a leader's responsibility is to understand that if he happens to hold the highest office of the land, there is an important responsibility with the office. It's so important in our lives to learn.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: A Democratic activist in Maine says he directed a television reporter to the story. Tom Connolly denies any connection to the Gore campaign.

CNN's Bill Delaney talked with Connolly today. Bill joins us from Portland, Maine -- Bill.

BILL DELANEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Natalie. We talked just a couple of hours ago. Tom Connolly has been an attorney here in Portland, Maine for the past 20 years, specializing, interestingly enough, in operating under the influence cases, exactly what George W. Bush was charged with 24 years ago.

Now, Connolly did run for governor as a Democrat in 1998, but he says he has no connection whatsoever to the Gore campaign. He put the information about the drunken driving charge out there, he says, because it was just the right thing to do.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM CONNOLLY (D), FMR. MAINE GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: This struck me as a true thing, an important thing and relevant, and my obligation is to bring it out and let you people process it and let the American people become aware, I think, that the truth will set us free that way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DELANEY: Natalie, let me say again, he continues to stress he has no connection to the Gore campaign.

Let me take you through how he says he got this information yesterday. It's a pretty wild story. An elderly man is on a chiropractor's table here in Portland, Maine. The elderly man says, you know, 24 years ago or so, I was in a courtroom with George W. Bush. We were both there on drunken driving convictions. The old --- elderly man said, I never brought it up, never thought it was that big a deal.

The chiropractor thought it was a big enough deal to call a Democratic public official here in Portland. He's been unnamed. This Democratic public official called Tom Connolly, the lawyer. Tom Connolly the lawyer got this information at the Cumberland County courthouse in Portland, Maine. He ran into the courthouse and immediately started talking to some other lawyers about this: Did you hear that George W. Bush had a drunken driving conviction. A local TV reporter overheard Connolly talking about. That's how the story broke a couple of hours later.

Again, Tom Connolly says he's just put it out there because he thinks it's important information just these few days before electing the next president -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Bill Delaney from Portland, Maine. Thanks, Bill.

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