Former Gore Aide Questioned By Lawmakers
Lawmakers suggest a connection between government contracts and political donations
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Nov. 5) -- A powerful lobbyist and close associate of Vice President Al Gore was questioned by House lawmakers today about payments he received from Democratic donors who received lucrative government contracts.
"How does a $1.2 million contract become a $33 million contract?" asked Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.) at the hearing.
Peter Knight, former Clinton-Gore campaign manager and a major Democratic fund-raiser, told members of the House Commerce Committee's investigative panel that there was no connection between $33 million in Energy Department contracts won by Molten Metal Technologies from 1993 and 1996, and several donations from Molten executives to the Democratic Party.
Investigators were expected to examine Knight's contacts with Thomas Grumbly, deputy energy secretary and formerly a congressional aide to Gore, for a possible conflict of interest with regards to Molten.
"There appears to be a remarkable relationship between the timing of Molten Metal's political contributions -- many of which were apparently solicited or facilitated by Mr. Knight -- and favorable contract actions by the department," said Texas Republican Joe Barton.
But Grumbly, appearing before the panel, said, "Such contributions had no influence on my decisions because I didn't know about them." He left Energy earlier this year after the department began an internal investigation of his ties to Molten.
The company gave Knight's son a $20,000 stock option in May 1996, just before Knight joined the Clinton-Gore campaign. Knight said it was nothing more than a gift.
That same month, another donor with longtime ties to Gore, Tennessee businessman Franklin Haney, who benefited from a Federal Communications Commission decision, paid Knight $1 million.
Lawmakers have suggested the donations were linked to favorable action from government agencies, a charge Knight has vehemently denied. Though many of the individuals involved have ties to Gore, no evidence has been produced indicating the vice president pressured government agencies on behalf of Knight's clients.
Panel Democrats complained Republicans were on a witch hunt. Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) called it "a partisan attempt to do a hatchet job on the vice president" and "smear tactics."
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Wednesday Nov. 5, 1997
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