Al Gore's Pathetic Way with the Truth
Call it another great moment in the history of Clinton-Gore ethics. Today, immunized Buddhist nuns appear before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee investigating widespread campaign finance abuses. Perhaps at last a modicum of truth will be forthcoming about the notorious fund-raiser Vice President Gore attended at a California Buddhist temple in April 1996. Anyone who has been listening to Mr. Gore's shifting accounts of what happened has been subjected to one pathetically implausible story after another.
On October 13, 1996, shortly after the scandal surfaced, Mr. Gore appeared on "Meet the Press" to brazenly assert, "No. 1, we have strictly abided by all of the campaign-finance laws, strictly. There've been no violations." One week later, interviewed by National Public Radio as the fund-raising scandal threatened to implode two weeks before the presidential election, Mr. Gore characterized the Buddhist luncheon as nothing more than a "community outreach event," even though more than $140,000 was raised for the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Subsequently, evidence confirmed that the luncheon itself represented an illegal campaign contribution by the religious outpost, forcing the DNC to refund $15,000 to the temple, which represented the cost of the fund-raiser. Compounding Mr. Gore's problems, it soon became clear that the event included a shakedown operation, in which several monks and nuns were each pressured to make $5,000 contributions, totalling nearly $60,000, for which they were later reimbursed by the temple - which represented yet another illegal violation.
Once the extent of the fundraising and money-laundering operations became clear, Mr. Gore lamented holding a "finance-related" event at the temple. Yet, he and his spokesmen continued to deny that the event was an explicit fund-raiser. Soon, this implausible explanation went the same way as the "community outreach" dodge. Evidence has a way of exploding lies that are built upon lies, as the vice president has been learning. Several highly inconvenient memos identifying the Buddhist event specifically as a fund-raiser have been uncovered. About two weeks before the April 29 luncheon, for example, John Huang, the Fifth Amendment-asserting former DNC golden boy who organized the temple event, wrote to Mr. Gore's director of scheduling and advance reminding her of "the fund-raising lunch for Vice President Gore" at the "proposed location: Hsi Lai Temple." Four days later National Security Council staff members began circulating memos discussing the international implications of "a fund-raising lunch for about 150 people in the VP's honor."
Five days before the luncheon, an electronic message outlining Mr. Gore's schedule circulated in the White House and identified the event as a "DNC funder for lunch." Even a schedule prepared by a Gore aide explicitly described the function this way: "DNC Luncheon in LA/Hacienda Heights: 1000-5000 head." Any guesses what "1000-5000 head" meant? In the face of the avalanche of incriminating memos, Mr. Gore further reduces his shrinking credibility by asserting that he was out of the memo loop and nobody who was in the loop bothered to tell him.
Far more problematic for the vice president, however, are the recent revelations about his White House dialing-for-dollars activity. Once again, the vice president distinguished himself by his penchant for prevarication. In March, for example, he admitted, "On a few occasions I made some [fund-raising] telephone calls from the White House," although he strenuously maintained "no controlling legal authority" pointed to any impropriety. …