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Gore's Misstatement Could Worsen His Woes

By Wolf Blitzer/CNN

gore

WASHINGTON (March 5) -- Vice President Al Gore gave out bad information Monday when he said he used a Democratic National Committee credit card to make fund-raising telephone calls from his White House office.

It now turns out that he used a Clinton-Gore campaign credit card, which could create additional legal and political problems. For one thing, it blurs the distinction the president has tried to make between campaign and party fund-raising.

Since Gore was raising money for the party, the party will now have to reimburse the campaign. But there's an added legal wrinkle: the campaign received matching public funds that are not supposed to be used for party fund-raising.

This latest embarrassment comes as Gore toured the Midwest floods and escaped temporarily the swirl of allegations that he broke the law when he solicited campaign funds last year on federal property.

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The vice president's aides are worried, especially about the possibility that an independent counsel could be named to investigate. Republicans are pressing for one, but the president won't talk about it.

"Well I think there is a law on that," he told reporters today. "It's a legal question; it shouldn't be a political one."

For Gore, all this compounds his long-term political headaches and tends to encourage some of his Democratic rivals.

Said Mark Siegel, a Democratic strategist, "If there's anything that even suggests the possibility that there might be a race in the year 2000, of course some people -- possibly Congressman [Richard] Gephardt, Senator Kerry -- both Senator Kerrys [Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.)] -- former Sen. [Bill] Bradley -- these people might see any opportunity developing."

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Worrying about all of this is Gore's inner circle of outside advisers, a group that includes former aides Roy Neel, now a telecommunications lobbyist in Washington, and Peter Knight, another Washington lobbyist who chaired the Clinton-Gore re-election campaign, as well as Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo, former New York congressman Tom Downey, Democratic Party media strategist Bob Squier, and former Tennessee Gov. Ned McWherter.

Some of them believe New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Torricelli's criticism of Gore's fund-raising on a Sunday talk show was a not-so-subtle effort to bolster House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.).

So far, Gephardt has avoided discussing Gore's problems. The vice president's aides don't believe that will always be the case.


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