The warfare between Vice President Gore's campaign and rival Bill Bradley's campaign over campaign finance continues to escalate.
After Bradley delivered his reform speech on Thursday, Gore campaign chairman Tony Coelho dismissed the former senator as someone who "never championed" the issue during 18 years representing New Jersey and warned that Bradley's proposals would leave all Democratic candidates "to fend for themselves" without the help of so-called soft money from the national party.
On Friday, Doug Berman, Bradley's campaign chairman, sent Coelho a letter demanding a clarification of the record, saying Bradley long had supported campaign finance reform legislation. He also urged the vice president's campaign to join Bradley in challenging the Republicans to forgo the use of soft money in the 2000 campaign.
Berman attached an appendix to his letter outlining Bradley's record of sponsorship of campaign reform measures while in the Senate, including legislation to ban political action committees and soft money, restrict contributions from lobbyists and provide voluntary spending limits for congressional campaigns.
On the issue of soft money, Berman noted that Bradley and Gore are both on record calling for the elimination of soft money. "Rather than working at cross-purposes on an issue on which our candidates appear to agree, why not work together?" he wrote. "Nothing prevents us from acting now, without delay, to create a soft-money free election in the year 2000."
Coelho issued a statement condemning Bradley. "Al Gore long ago issued the call to end soft money and kept working for real reform long after Bill Bradley abandoned the Senate for private life and $2 million in special-interest speaking and consulting fees," Coelho said. He also charged that Bradley, not Gore, is the candidate of big money, claiming the average contribution to Bradley's presidential campaign is more than $600, compared with $143 for Gore.
4 Billion Gallons for a Photo Op
Bradley's speech on campaign finance reform came on the day Gore flew to New Hampshire for a canoe trip down the Connecticut River. The scenic photo op on a sunny, summer day was designed to display the vice president's commitment to clean water -- but apparently not to water conservation.
After the long hot summer, the mighty Connecticut -- "New England's Main Street," as they like to call it -- was running a little low. The Secret Service and the Connecticut River Joint Commission looked at the river in advance of Gore's arrival and decided it needed an infusion of water, lest the vice presidential armada run aground near the photographers' perch along the river banks.
As a result, the local utility was ordered to release 4 billion gallons of water into the river, which raised the water level about eight inches and allowed the vice president, accompanied by New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D), some local river buffs and the news media, to paddle safely along the four-mile stretch of the Connecticut.
Gore's campaign said the vice president never asked for the extra water. But John Kassel, director of the Vermont Department of Natural Resources, told the Washington Times, which first reported the story, "They won't release the water for the fish when we ask them to, but somehow they find themselves able to release it for a politician."
The Republican National Committee helpfully calculated that at existing water rates in the region, the 4 billion gallons were worth about $7.1 million.
Top Democrats: Still Best Friends
Gore has struggled this year over what to say about President Clinton's relationship with Monica S. Lewinsky.
At the height of the impeachment battle, Gore called Clinton one of history's greatest presidents. At the time he launched his presidential campaign, however, Gore gave interviews criticizing the president.
But campaigning in New Hampshire on Thursday, Gore was confronted by a voter angry with him for dissing the president, and the vice president quickly capitulated.
"I've always supported you," Dick McGaw of Hanover, N.H., told Gore. "But I would be much prouder of you if you still came across as a friend of Bill Clinton. I would prefer you figuratively to put your arm around him and say, `This man is my friend.' "
"He is my friend," Gore said, barely letting McGaw finish his comment. "And I've said that. And I say it again. He's a close friend, and I have a closer working relationship with him than any president's ever had with any vice president."
Gore said his philosophy is to "hate the sin but love the sinner," adding, "If you have a friend who makes a mistake, then that doesn't destroy the friendship. You move on."
McGaw was pleased with the answer. "Now if he'll just keep his mouth shut about him, he'll go on and win," he said.