- The Washington Times - Monday, June 26, 2000

Trouble never seems to end for Al Gore. The explosion in gasoline prices throughout the politically crucial Midwest has put a damper on his "prosperity tour," and revelations of the vice president's investments on Occidental Petroleum suggested that he himself might prosper from the crisis. Meanwhile, important developments in long-brewing scandals have bubbled back into the media and the minds of voters. The campaign-finance scandal was especially cruel to Mr. Gore last week, as was the simmering controversy over the computer-savvy vice president's missing e-mail.

The Wall Street Journal revealed Thursday that two FBI agents and the chief of the Justice Department's campaign-finance task force spent four hours on April 18 grilling the vice president over his role in the scandal. For the first time ever, the task force got around to questioning Mr. Gore about his repeated public assertions that he did not know that the Buddhist temple luncheon he attended in April 1996 was in fact a fund-raiser and an illegal one at that. Mr. Gore initially insisted the event was for "community outreach." He later conceded it was "finance-related." But he has continued to insist that he did not know it was a fund-raiser despite the fact that he received numerous e-mails to that effect from then-White House Deputy Chief of Staff Harold Ickes and despite the fact that the affair was arranged by fund-raisers John Huang and Maria Hsia. Miss Hsia is a longtime Gore associate who subsequently pleaded guilty to multiple felonies related to the temple event.

All of this was enough, apparently, to convince yet another employee of Attorney General Janet Reno, no less than the chief of the task force handling the campaign finance probe, Charles J. Conrad Jr., to recommend to Miss Reno that she appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the scandal. Mr. Conrad's recommendation, which follows upon that of his predecessor Charles LaBella and FBI Director Louis Freeh, presents one more acute embarrassment for Miss Reno, master of the stonewall technique. Mr. Gore's office, for their part, responded with a classic Clinton maneuver, a giant document dump of the entire transcript of the FBI interview and much besides, in order to enable Mr. Gore to make the ludicrous assertion that he had certainly not been trying to hide anything.

On top of all of that, yet another felon, Pauline Kanchanalak, will plead guilty to serious campaign-finance abuses involving the funneling of hundreds of thousands of dollars in foreign money to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Democratic state parties during 1996, when the DNC and the Clinton-Gore re-election committee exhibited an insatiable appetite for contributions with utter indifference to the money's origins. Once again Janet Reno's Justice Department has portrayed the DNC and its state affiliates as hapless victims of conniving Asian-Americans and Asian immigrants determined to flood the supposedly unsuspecting party with foreign money. In exchange, the bamboozled Democratic Party just happened to provide the donors and their foreign business partners seemingly unlimited access to the president, the vice president, the first lady and senior White House officials, including members of the National Security Council (NSC).

Kanchanalak, readers may recall, attended 26 White House events, including three meetings with NSC officials, two events attended by Mr. Gore, and a particularly notorious June 18, 1996, White House "coffee" at which she and her foreign business partners discussed U.S.-China policy with President Clinton. Kanchanalak funneled nearly $500,000 to the DNC and several state parties for the privilege of discussing U.S. foreign policy with the president that day. And once again the felonies to which Kanchanalak pleaded guilty Friday are election-law violations violations that a federal appeals court had to revive after Judge Paul Friedman, a Clinton-appointed federal district judge, had earlier dismissed them. Kanchanalak will join fellow felons Charlie Trie, Johnny Chung, Huang and Hsia in the rogues gallery of Democratic Party victimizers.

On the e-mail front, Howard Sparks, a longtime and current White House computer network specialist, has testified in an affidavit filed recently with a federal court that a political aide to Mr. Gore essentially told him to "get lost" when he offered in 1993 to save the vice president's e-mails. "At this meeting, we carefully explained to [top Gore information expert Mike] Gill" who later earned the nickname "Mad Deleter" "the legal requirement that the Office of Vice President [OVP] manage its electronic records," Mr. Sparks testified. "Mr. Gill did not care about these legal requirements and essentially told us to get lost." Mr. Sparks added, "If our advice had been followed, the year's worth of OVP e-mail that was reported 'lost' last week by the Clinton-Gore White House would still be in existence." That period, March 1998-April 1999, is the one that would have included sensitive e-mail communications involving the campaign-finance investigation, the Monica Lewinsky affair and other scandals.

Amazingly, Mr. Gore, who once claimed to have played an indispensable role in the creation of the Internet, told reporters, "I don't know anything about why that happened or or how it happened. I'm not an expert on computers." Once again, as with everything else, Mr. Gore wants to have it both ways. Just another hapless, bamboozled victim. This does not exactly sound like presidential material.

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