Washington Bulletin

Washington Bulletin

Another Gore Headache?
Time magazine correspondent Michael Weisskopf reported yesterday on CNN about the proximity of a company's hefty contribution to an Al Gore cause and a big contract from the Energy Department.

According to Weisskopf, a foundation controlled by Molten Metal Technology head William Haney gave $50,000 to the University of Tennessee in March 1994 for the Nancy Gore Hunger Chair of Excellence in Environmental Studies, named after Al Gore's late sister. Two days after the gift, according to Weisskopf, the Energy Department contract was expanded from $1 million to $10 million. That same day Molten cut a $15,000 check to the DNC, and altogether gave $130,000 to the Democrats through 1996.

Weisskopf reports that Clinton–Gore campaign manager and longtime Gore associate Peter Knight solicited the University of Tennessee gift and Gore wrote to Haney thanking him. A handwritten note at the bottom of Gore's letter reads: "You will never know how much this means to me. You are a great friend."

In response to the Weisskopf report, White House scandal-control man Lanny Davis yesterday told CNN that the Energy Department contract wasn't awarded "on anything other than the merits." But House Commerce Committee Chairman Tom Bliley (R., Va.) today released a sheaf of documents suggesting that the Energy Department had doubts about Molten Metal:

—A Department of Energy (DOE) review team in 1992 reported that Molten's technology had the "potential of causing an explosion" and concluded that "there is not significant advantage offered by this particular technology over the others that would justify its preferred development over them."

—A January, 1994, DOE review raised questions about the department's ability to monitor Molten's work and concluded that "verification of their actual progress is lacking and needed."

—Another 1994 DOE memo, in February, warned that "no direct conclusions" can be made about the success of Molten's projects and noted Molten had "expended the entire government share for the present contract even though the proposed work is definitely not finished."

—In March 1994, the month the contract was actually expanded, a DOE report complains that "final technical data" from Molten "has not been received."

By now this kind of thing is a familiar Clinton Administration story, and it seems of course that nothing will hurt the political standing of President Clinton. It's not yet clear that the Vice President has developed the same resistance to scandal—although in coming months he may have to find out.

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Updated By:
Rich Lowry - National Political Reporter
Ramesh Ponnuru - National Reporter

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