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Senator Calls On Gore To Offer Hill Testimony

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Asian American Donors Feel Stigmatized (Washington Post, Sept. 8)
By Thomas B. Edsall
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 8, 1997; Page A04

A Republican on the Senate committee investigating campaign finance abuses yesterday called on Vice President Gore to voluntarily testify to the panel to restore his reputation for integrity and minimize damage to his prospective bid for the presidency in 2000.

"I think Vice President Gore may be able to save his own political standing if he does that," Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), a member of the Committee on Governmental Affairs, said on CBS's "Face the Nation."

Specter said the committee is not "prepared to call Vice President Gore at this stage." But, the senator added, the controversy over Gore's appearance at a fund-raiser at a Buddhist temple and over his solicitation of campaign funds using White House telephones "is reaching an apex as far as he [Gore] is concerned."

Ginny Terzano, a Gore spokeswoman, said the vice president has no plans to testify before Congress, and he has received no request to do so. Asked how Gore would respond to a committee request that he testify about his fund-raising activities, Terzano said she could not answer hypothetical questions.

Gore has consistently denied knowing that the April 29, 1996, temple event was a campaign fund-raiser, contending that he understood it to be "community outreach."

Gore has stated that the White House solicitations were legal because unregulated "soft money" – not federally regulated "hard money" – was raised. The Justice Department accepted that explanation, and Attorney General Janet Reno had cited the fact that only soft money was raised as a key reason in her decision not to recommend appointment of an independent counsel to investigate the matter.

But last week, after The Washington Post reported that more than $100,000 of the money Gore raised was placed in a hard-money account maintained by the Democratic National Committee, Reno ordered prosecutors to begin a review of the Gore phone calls in order to help her determine whether to seek appointment of an independent counsel.

Specter said yesterday he is "prepared to believe" Gore's assertion that he did not know the Buddhist temple event was a fund-raiser. But he warned that Gore could no longer "ignore the mounting evidence and what the attorney general did in starting the process, which I think is going to lead to [the appointment of an] independent counsel."

Specter said he did not believe Gore could adequately address questions about his fund-raising activities in a news conference, adding, "I think it really may well be [that] he has to come before the committee."

Appearing separately on "Fox News Sunday," another GOP committee member, Sen. Don Nickles (Okla.), was more critical of Gore. "I think he knew it [the Buddhist temple event] was a fund-raiser. . . . I really think we have enough evidence to say that anybody with a reasonable view of this would say he knew about it." Asked if his comments mean that Gore lied, Nickles said, "I try not to use that word."

Sen. Richard J. Durbin (Ill.), a Democratic member of the panel, sharply disputed Nickles. "If that is a fact, with all these witnesses, with subpoena power, with immunity, why in the world won't one person come forward and agree with you, senator? . . . To say he is not telling the truth and lying, that really is over the line."

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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