- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 4, 2000

Top White House talent employed by the taxpayers is helping Vice President Al Gore write his campaign speeches, work up attacks against Republican rival George W. Bush's budget and develop everything from crime-fighting proposals to health and education reforms.

Gene Sperling, head of President Clinton's National Economic Council; Bruce Reed, chief White House domestic-policy adviser; and scores of lower-level aides are lending their expertise legally, Mr. Gore's presidential campaign claims on their own free time.

Good-government watchdogs wince at the overlap.

"These guys are dropping any pretense of a separation between campaign and government. The problem here is of perception, and the average American does not expect his or her taxpayer money to go toward Al Gore's campaign," said Charles Lewis, executive director of the Center for Public Integrity.

• As Mr. Gore flew to Atlanta Tuesday for an address on crime, campaign aides referred reporters' questions on the meat of that speech a $500 million rehabilitation program for prisoners and parolees to Mr. Reed and helpfully distributed his telephone number at the White House.

• Mr. Sperling and his White House staff crunched numbers for a 15-page indictment of Mr. Gore's Republican opponent's tax-cut and spending plans that concluded, on Page 6, that Texas Gov. "Bush would need to make [spending] cuts of nearly 40 percent to balance the budget."

• Mr. Sperling, along with former Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin and former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, reviewed drafts and gave Mr. Gore input on his major economic address last week in New York, where he assailed Mr. Bush's agenda as reckless.

• Sarah Bianchi, who transferred to the Nashville, Tenn.-based campaign last month, worked during the past year on Mr. Gore's health and Medicare proposals from her desk at the White House.

• On a campaign trip in February, reporters were handed "Gore 2000" press releases bearing the stamp of the official fax machine in Mr. Gore's White House communications office. Campaign spokesman Chris Lehane later called it "an inadvertent mistake by a junior staffer."

"There's a lot of this that goes on in politics. But these folks take it to a whole new level the Lincoln Bedroom comes to mind in using public property for campaign ends," said Mr. Lewis.

Gore campaign spokesman Doug Hattaway underscored that official aides may free-lance legally as long as they clock 40 hours of work on official business each week and do not use government resources, such as computers and phones.

"Anyone who helps out works strictly according to the rules, and we're grateful for them," Mr. Hattaway said.

Ari Fleischer, campaign spokesman for Mr. Bush, who has his gubernatorial staff at his disposal, declined to make an issue of the muddied line between Mr. Gore's official and campaign resources.

"The issue raised is not who writes the vice president's material, but what the vice president is saying … negative attacks that are part and parcel of old-style politics," said Mr. Fleischer.

Mr. Bush sometimes calls on state officials to do his political bidding. Last week, his campaign dispatched Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander to a Gore appearance in Dallas, where she defended the governor's education record to reporters traveling with the vice president.

Mr. Gore has begun to move a number of his White House aides, like Miss Bianchi and communications director Laura Quinn, to campaign or Democratic National Committee payrolls, freeing them to work full time on politics.

Among other legal perks of incumbency, Mr. Gore uses the White House travel office to handle the massive logistics of hotel, plane and rental-car arrangements for his campaign trips.

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