Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Republican Senators Say Memos Incriminate Gore ; He Should Have Known Calls Were Illegal, Lawmakers Say

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Republican Senators Say Memos Incriminate Gore ; He Should Have Known Calls Were Illegal, Lawmakers Say

Article excerpt

Senate Republicans disclosed memos Wednesday that they said indicated that Vice President Al Gore should have known some money he solicited was covered by a law barring such calls on federal property.

Democrats and the White House argued that the memos were not specific enough to raise warnings for Gore, who faces the possibility of a special prosecutor being appointed to investigate his calls.

The documents showed that Harold Ickes, then White House deputy chief of staff, advised both Gore and President Bill Clinton that the Democratic Party media fund - for which Gore solicited money - was using "hard money" donations.

A memo of February 1996 indicated that the party was allocating the first $20,000 of large donations to "hard money" accounts. The term refers to donations used directly to support federal candidates. Such contributions are covered under a law that outlaws fund-raising solicitations on federal property.

Gore has steadfastly maintained that the calls from his White House office were legal. The White House says the vice president believed he was asking for "soft money" - donations exempt from federal limits and not used to support candidates - when he made the solicitations in late 1995 and early 1996 for the media fund.

But Republicans at a Senate Governmental Affairs Committee hearing into campaign fund-raising challenged Gore's explanation.

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said the memos raised the possibility that Gore "knew that a solicitation for $20,000 would be a solicitation for hard money in violation of the federal statute."

With Gore's future as a presidential candidate at stake, Steve Grossman, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, angrily accused the panel's Republicans of trying to "undermine, paralyze and potentially destroy the Democratic Party."

Despite the "steady diet of partisan warfare, the vice president is in perfectly fine shape," Grossman said.

The White House and Democratic Party general counsel Joseph Sandler, who was shown the memos at Wednesday's hearing, insisted that Gore had no way of knowing that $120,000 of the money he solicited would eventually end up in the party's hard money coffers.

The recent disclosure about the hard money prompted Attorney General Janet Reno to review whether to seek an independent counsel to investigate Gore's fund raising.

"The vice president understood the telephone calls he was making to be for nonfederal accounts or soft money," said Lanny Davis, the White House special counsel.

The memo references to "hard money-soft money allocations were merely statements of the law and not inconsistent with the vice president's understanding of these telephone calls," Davis said.

Gore's spokeswoman, Lorraine Voles, said he "may have seen it" but "has no recollection of the memo and he certainly would not have related that memo to phone calls. …

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