Documents Detail Gore's Calls for DNCJohn F. Harris and Charles R. Babcock
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, August 27, 1997; Page A01
Between late November 1995 and early May 1996, Vice President Gore spoke by telephone with at least 46 people from his White House office, each time seeking a contribution of between $25,000 and $100,000 to the Democratic National Committee, according to documents in the possession of Senate investigators.
The names of the people Gore called, the amounts he asked them for, and a precise listing of the dates he called a total of 10 separate sessions are among the new details in documents made available by White House and DNC officials this month to the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.
A review of the contributions made by the 46 people contacted by Gore, conducted by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, showed they or their companies contributed almost $3.7 million in unregulated "soft money" to the DNC during the two-year election cycle. Not all of this money, however, can be attributed directly to Gore's phone calls.
At a news conference in March, Gore defended his solicitations as legal he repeatedly said there was "no controlling legal authority" prohibiting such calls from the White House. But he said he would halt the practice "because it's aroused a great deal of concern and comment." Gore said he placed fund-raising calls on a "few occasions," but he and his staff offered few other details.
Nearly six months later, the documents are bringing this once-blurry picture into focus, making clear that Gore's telephone solicitations were more extensive than he earlier implied.
The DNC prepared 140 "call sheets" targeting people for Gore to contact, along with short notes about the individuals and the issues in which they were interested. From the 140 call sheets, the documents show, Gore attempted to reach about 70 people on 10 occasions starting on Nov. 28, 1995, and ending on May 2, 1996. He reached 46 people, according to White House officials and records that Gore's office and the DNC gave the Senate. He left messages for 10 more.
In addition, Gore placed numerous calls from the White House thanking people for pledging to raise large sums for two events, one for the Clinton-Gore campaign and one for the DNC apparently to help ensure that the pledges came to fruition.
For the most part, the subjects of Gore's importunings were wealthy business executives, lawyers or heirs to family fortunes who had given large sums to the Democrats before.
On Feb. 2, 1996, Gore called lawyers Gary and Anita Robb and asked for $50,000. The call sheet noted that the husband-wife team "just settled two of the largest cases ever settled in Missouri, both for over $400 million." Later that day, Gore wrote a note thanking the Robbs for their $50,000 pledge.
The vice president had to do his share of hand-holding. A note scribbled by fund-raiser Peter Knight, later the manager of the Clinton-Gore campaign, said that Peter May, president of Triarc Cos. in New York, told Gore he was "mad he didn't get an invite to the re-elect Dec. 15th," referring to a campaign event. Knight's note to DNC finance director Richard Sullivan said the oversight was "your fault." Gore also scribbled notes on the call sheet, quoting May as saying "I will," and "Yes."
May, who had given $50,000 the month before, gave a total of $180,000 in soft money to the DNC during the election cycle.
A note about Houston lawyer John O'Quinn said he was representing women in breast implant cases and had been featured on the cover of Fortune magazine under the headline, "Lawyers from Hell." Gore was to ask for $100,000. O'Quinn gave $105,000 in soft money to Democratic Party committees, but none directly to the DNC.
A Nov. 27, 1995, call sheet prepared by DNC treasurer R. Scott Pastrick hinted that Gore's calls were aimed at helping the 1996 reelection campaign, not just to pay for the party ads attacking the Republicans over budget priorities. It noted that San Francisco meat-packing heir Jim Hormel, who had given $50,000 the month before, "agreed with you that if we win the media battle now, we are ahead of the game next fall." Hormel gave a total of $132,000 to the DNC. A note on Hormel's call sheet noted that he is "very happy about the administration's support for gay and lesbian anti-discrimination in the work place policy."
White House aides said yesterday that the information now coming to light does not contradict what Gore has said before about his fund-raising. But it does stand in contrast to his bland and imprecise descriptions last March of the calls.
This pattern has happened before. For several months last year, Gore insisted that a campaign appearance at a Buddhist temple in California that yielded hundreds of thousands of dollars for the DNC later returned as improper was not to raise funds. Last January, Gore acknowledged in an interview that "it was a mistake for the DNC to hold a finance-related event at a temple."
The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, chaired by Sen. Fred D. Thompson (R-Tenn.), will be examining Gore's fund-raising activities in detail when it begins a second round of hearings next month.
Frustrated by what Gore aides believe is a steady drip of leaks from the Senate panel, a White House official yesterday volunteered to answer questions about the material that has been handed over to the Senate.
Gore press secretary Ginny Terzano released a statement saying that the records given to the Senate were part of the internal review Gore promised at the time his calls were first publicized in The Washington Post, and that they represent a "much more complete set of documentation which supports the overall statement made by the Vice President in March.
"We want to reemphasize that everything the Vice President did was legal and appropriate," the statement said.
Attorney General Janet Reno has declined to recommend appointment of an independent counsel to examine the campaign fund-raising controversy, in part because the calls Gore made from the White House were only to solicit soft money, which is supposed to go for so-called party-building activities. President Clinton and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton have said they cannot recall having made similar calls but that if they did, it was to solicit similar soft money contributions.
In a letter earlier this year to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), Reno explained that the U.S. Criminal Code was amended by Congress in 1979, over the objections of the Justice Department, to make it legal for the president and vice president to solicit contributions from the White House as long as the money is used for party-building activities such as get-out-the-vote drives and voter registration. Had the law not been so amended, Reno said, she would have been obliged to recommend appointment of an independent counsel to investigate the calls made by Gore last year.
A notation on one call sheet prepared for Gore asks that he call Frederick W. Smith, the chairman of Federal Express, to "ask for his help" and suggests that Smith "can raise $25,000 especially if he wants to, and he will, but it will require that you ask him." The memo notes that the Clinton administration "has been very responsive to his company." The records given to the Senate show Gore never placed the call.
On Aug. 23, 1996, Smith met with Clinton in the Oval Office to press him to impose sanctions on Tokyo, which prohibits Federal Express from delivering cargo from Japan to other lucrative Asian markets. Smith estimated that the prohibition costs Federal Express $1 million a year. A top Clinton aide, Laura D'Andrea Tyson, had opposed the meeting with Smith, saying action against Japan could lead to a trade war between Washington and Tokyo.
But Thomas F. "Mack" McLarty, Clinton's first White House chief of staff and a liaison to the business community, arranged the meeting. The White House and Smith said the rare meeting, between the president and an executive of a single corporation, had nothing to do with $275,000 in contributions Smith and his company made to the DNC last year, both before and after the August meeting in the Oval Office.
Last March, Gore said he had charged his fund-raising calls on a DNC calling card. Aides later corrected that to say that he placed the calls on a Clinton-Gore card. The Clinton-Gore campaign by law is not allowed to raise soft money. The DNC later reimbursed the Clinton-Gore campaign for the calls.
Yesterday, White House officials said the DNC was reimbursing the U.S. Treasury $24.20, reflecting calls that Gore apparently made but which do not show up on his calling card receipts.
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