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CAMPAIGN 2000

Bush Asks Gore to Clarify Donation Role

Campaign: The GOP front-runner says the vice president needs to explain his involvement in raising funds from the White House in 1995.

March 11, 2000|ART PINE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — Texas Gov. George W. Bush called on Vice President Al Gore to "clear up what role he played in raising money from the White House" in the wake of a Los Angeles Times article Friday quoting a confidential report by a former Justice Department investigator urging an inquiry into Clinton administration fund-raising practices.

In a statement issued by his campaign headquarters Friday, Bush said The Times' story "raises troubling questions about whether the vice president misled federal investigators by testifying he did not recall fund-raising meetings, even though new evidence now shows he actively participated in those meetings.

"The vice president needs to clear up what role he played in raising money from the White House," Bush said. ". . . He should authorize release of all photos in this matter, and the Justice Department should release all parts of this report which will not compromise ongoing investigations or grand jury secrecy."

The Times' article, describing a report by Charles G. LaBella, the former Justice Department investigator, quoted an edited version of the 94-page document as citing questionable actions by Gore, the president and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, suggesting that they engaged in "a pattern of conduct worthy of investigation by an independent counsel."

The LaBella report also expressed skepticism about Gore's "failure of recollection" and other inconsistencies in the story he told investigators about a marathon fund-raising effort launched using White House telephones in 1995. It said the vice president "may have provided false testimony" with regard to the incident.

Gore told investigators that he believed that no "hard money" was raised or used in the media fund, but Democratic records later showed that some of the money that Gore raised did, in fact, end up in hard-money accounts. The term "hard money" refers to donations to political campaigns that can be spent directly on behalf of candidates.

LaBella's report, completed in 1998, was kept secret for two years by Atty. Gen. Janet Reno, who defied congressional pressure to release it, even under threat of contempt action, according to The Times article. A handful of lawmakers and aides was permitted to read the document. The Times was given access to an excised version and related documents.

Both the Gore campaign and the White House sought to deflect attention from the report Friday. White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart said the White House had not seen the document but that Reno made her decision not to appoint a special counsel "based on the facts, the evidence and the law" and the White House had "cooperated fully."

Gore did not respond directly to LaBella's allegations Friday but instead called on Bush to explain charges by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) concerning "possible illegal campaign spending" by the GOP front-runner "and other questions that have surfaced about Bush's fund-raising tactics."

Doug Hattaway, a Gore spokesman, said Bush also had "very specific questions to answer" about ads placed by the Wyly brothers, a pair of Texas businessmen, earlier this month. The ads accused McCain of being soft on environmental issues. "That is a live complaint before the Federal Election Commission that he [Bush] has not explained," Hattaway said.

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