Gore made fund-raising calls from office

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Al Gore, under fire for his aggressive role in campaign fund raising, acknowledged Monday he solicited donations from his White House office but insisted he did not do “anything wrong, much less illegal.” Yet, he said he would never do it again.
“Everything I did, I understood to be lawful,” Gore said, adding that he made only a few calls in search of contributions from his office, around the corner from the Oval Office. It is illegal for federal employees to solicit money in federal buildings, but Gore said he was not subject to that restriction.
He defended his actions in a high-stakes White House news conference, markedly different from his occasional appearances on behalf of administration initiatives. This time, Gore was trying to protect his political honor as he looks ahead to the presidential race in 2000.
Standing ramrod straight, he remained cool under sometimes-argumentative questioning.
His explanation came even as the White House released a 1995 memo from then-presidential counsel Abner Mikva instructing employees to avoid doing the very thing that Gore did. “No fund-raising phone calls or mail may emanate from the White House or any other federal building,” Mikva wrote.
Offering a lawyerly defense of his action, the vice president said several times, using almost exactly the same words:
“My counsel advises me that there is no controlling legal authority or case that says that there was any violation of law whatsoever in the manner in which I asked people to contribute to our re-election campaign.”
He added, “I am proud of what I did. I do not feel like I did anything wrong, much less illegal. I am proud to have done everything I possibly could to help support the re-election of the president.”
Gore’s deep involvement in raising money was the latest twist in the controversy about the fund-raising tactics of the Democratic National Committee and of Clinton, who approved White House coffees and sleepovers for big-money donors.
In related developments:
ù The White House announced that the Clinton-Gore election committee has refunded six campaign contributions — ranging from $200 to $1,000– from five individuals determined to be “inappropriate contributors.”
ù Rep. David Bonior of Michigan, the No. 2 Democrat in the House as minority whip, told a gathering in his home state that Clinton had degraded his office by turning access into a fund-raising device. “It demeans the White House. It demeans the office. That’s one of the reasons why we have to change the campaign finance laws in this country,” he said.
ù Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., said he had not decided whether to seek a vote this week on controversial funding legislation for a probe of campaign fund raising. He said he hoped the issue could be resolved “without a big fuss or a filibuster.”
Lott also said “we ought to take a look at” a proposal by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., to form a joint House-Senate investigative committee. But he quickly said he wasn’t endorsing the idea, however.
“On a few occasions,” Gore said, “I made some telephone calls from my office in the White House using a DNC credit card” — a reference to the Democratic National Committee. He said that as vice president, he was exempt from laws that generally prohibit people from fund-raising in public buildings.
He said he never asked any federal employee or anyone who was on federal property for a donation.