Tuesday, June 13, 2000

Vice President Al Gore has broken yet another promise. When the Democratic National Committee (DNC) last week launched its 10-week, $25 million television advertising campaign to, in the DNC’s words, “redefine” Mr. Gore, it did so in violation of numerous pledges Mr. Gore made March 14 and March 15, after he had wrapped up his party’s presidential nomination.

In a desperate effort to shore up his bona fides as a campaign-finance reformer, Mr. Gore e-mailed presumptive Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush on the evening of March 14. “I challenge you to accept my proposal that we both reject the use of soft money to run issue ads,” Mr. Gore’s message said, adding, “I will take the first step by requesting the Democratic National Committee not run any issue ads paid for by soft money unless and until the Republican Party uses [soft] money for advertising.” In another March 14 statement, Mr. Gore flatly declared: “I have just asked the Democratic National Committee not to use any of this soft money until and unless the Republican Party definitely rejects the offer and goes first. And I hope they will hold back and do the right thing because then we can change democracy for the better forever.”

Mr. Gore could hardly have been more explicit in his commitment. The day after he e-mailed Mr. Bush, the vice president gave numerous television interviews. He told Charlie Gibson on ABC’s “Good Morning America”: “Last night, I asked the Democratic committee to set aside any soft money and don’t spend it on any issue ads unless and until the Republican Party does.” On CBS’s “Early Show,” Mr. Gore was equally clear, telling Jane Clayson: “I’m asking the Democratic National Committee not to spend any of the so-called soft money on TV ads or issue ads unless the Republicans do.” After Mr. Gore also repeated his commitment to ban soft money, Ms. Clayson asked him if it was “contradictory” for Mr. Gore to seek to ban soft money while his supporters were raising tens of millions of dollars in soft money. “No, not at all,” Mr. Gore replied. “What I have said is we’re going to set it aside and say you can’t touch that or spend it on these issue ads unless the other side does. So, it’s up to them.” Mr. Gore told CNN the Democratic Party would not finance TV ads using soft money “unless and until the Republican Party does.” Then, he went further than he had elsewhere. Mr. Gore, when asked on CNN if he would refrain from buying issue ads even if the Republicans did not, replied, “Oh, sure.”

Prior to the DNC’s $25 million campaign to “redefine” the party’s candidate yet again, the Republican Party had spent no soft money for ads. Thus emerged Mr. Gore’s latest broken promise and flip-flop. Mr. Gore broke his commitment because he has become increasingly desperate. It was telling that the first ad was about subsidized Medicare prescriptions drugs. That ad was aimed at seniors, who traditionally have voted for Democratic candidates except in recent elections. Moreover, that the DNC found it necessary to air these ads in traditional Democratic stronghold states such as Washington and Oregon confirms that Mr. Gore’s decision was borne in part out of desperation.

On the same day Mr. Gore was busily telling the media that the DNC would not use soft money to pay for issue ads “unless and until” Republicans did, Mr. Bush replied to Mr. Gore’s e-mail from the night before. “Both you and I have made a number of campaign-finance proposals. But before we debate these changes, it is important for Americans to know whether the current campaign-finance laws have been obeyed and enforced,” Mr. Bush wrote to the vice president on March 15. “I’m afraid your own record does not inspire confidence,” Mr. Bush appropriately lectured the vice president. And he concluded, “Thank you for your e-mail. This Internet of yours is a wonderful invention.”

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