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Gore says he's keeping Coehlo as campaign chairman

October 3, 1999
Web posted at: 4:55 p.m. EDT (2055 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Vice President Al Gore said Sunday that he will keep Tony Coehlo as his campaign chairman, despite allegations that Coehlo made questionable financial decisions while he directed the U.S. pavilion at the 1998 World's Fair in Portugal.

In this story:

USIA may have to pay for $300,000 sculpture
Government money used at Expo

"He's staying," Gore told CBS' Face the Nation.

The allegations about Coehlo are in an audit done by the United States Information Agency's inspector general's office. A copy of the report was obtained by CNN.

"I haven't seen this report," Gore told CBS, "but I know him and he's going to continue doing the terrific job he's been doing as my campaign chairman."

The Gore campaign released a statement late Saturday that made no reference to the report but said Coehlo "does a great job as General Chair of Gore 2000. Day in and day out he makes a tremendous contribution."

USIA may have to pay for $300,000 sculpture

The USIA report said that Coehlo obtained a $300,000 personal loan from a Lisbon-based bank to buy a blue tile sculpture called "The Wave." A private foundation was set up to repay the loan but as of December 1998, no money had been received. The USIA may now be responsible for repaying the loan.

Coehlo also reportedly hired two stepsons of the U.S. ambassador to Portugal, though USIA executives had raised the questions about a conflict of interest. The report suggests the two earned higher salaries than other people in the same jobs.

The report said officials hired Coehlo's niece as an assistant in violation of USIA regulations prohibiting contracts with relatives of agency employees.

Coehlo's attorney, Stan Brand, did not return phone calls. Calls to the USIA were referred to the State Department, which confirmed the authenticity of the report. State Department officials said they had not completed their review of the report.

Government money used at Expo

Coehlo headed the U.S. pavilion at Expo '98 in Lisbon, Portugal. His was hired, in part, because of his ability as a fund-raiser when Congress did not authorize money for the Expo.

The U.S. display at the Portuguese exposition was supposed to be funded entirely with private money. But the report said that when sufficient funds weren't forthcoming, $6.5 million of government money was used. The report concluded that USIA violated "the spirit if not the letter" of the law.

The report also said that Coehlo and Expo '98 staff mismanaged $210,000 worth of free airline tickets, some of which went to people who did not work for the U.S. pavilion.

At Coehlo's urging, the report said, a contractor who claimed $26,000 worth of travel and relocation expenses not covered by his contract was reimbursed for the full amount.

Coehlo is a former congressman from California who left the House in 1989 after questions were raised about his personal financial dealings. Specifically, Coehlo failed to reveal key details of a $100,000 junk-bond purchase in 1986, and failed to disclose $50,000 in services from a Texas savings-and-loan operator.


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Sunday, October 3, 1999

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