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Gore Hires Lawyers For Fund-raising Probe

Al Gore

By John King/CNN

PALO ALTO, Calif. (AllPolitics, Sep. 19) - Al Gore has hired two private attorneys to represent him as Attorney General Janet Reno considers whether to seek an independent counsel to investigate the vice president's 1996 fund raising.

Gore has retained attorneys Jim Neal of Tennessee and George Frampton of Washington to represent him, according to sources. Both are longtime friends of the vice president; Frampton was assistant secretary of the Interior in the first Clinton administration.

Reno has launched a 30-day preliminary review to determine whether she should ask for an independent counsel to explore 46 fund-raising calls Gore made from the White House, as well as other 1996 fund-raising activities.

That preliminary review ends the first week of October, when Reno must decide whether to take the next step: a 90-day review that would end with a decision on whether to ask for an independent counsel.

Gore's decision to hire private counsel reflects his belief that Reno will proceed to this next step, according to several White House sources. His government lawyer, Charles Burson, cannot argue Gore's case before the Justice Department.

Neal and Frampton are charged with making the case to Justice Department lawyers that Gore did nothing wrong, and that he did not know the Democratic National Committee was taking the first $20,000 from money he raised on fund-raising calls and putting it in so-called hard federal accounts. Gore says he thought he was raising unregulated soft money.

Gore's office maintains the calls were legal, but some Justice lawyers believe there is a distinction between hard and soft money, and that raising hard money on federal property is illegal.

Even under that interpretation, Gore's lawyers assert he did nothing wrong because he did not know any of the money was going into hard money accounts. Campaign finance laws require willful activity to prove most violations.

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