- The Washington Times - Friday, September 15, 2000

George W. Bush said yesterday Vice President Al Gore "may have crossed a serious line" in soliciting a campaign donation from a Texas lawyer in exchange for a presidential veto.
"The appearance is really disturbing," Mr. Bush said. "Americans are tired of investigations and scandal. The best way to get rid of it is to elect a new president, who will bring a new administration, who will restore honor and dignity to the White House.
"I will restore the bond of trust between the president and all Americans," Mr. Bush told the National Guard Association's annual convention in Atlantic City, N.J., via satellite.
His audience interrupted Mr. Bush with lengthy applause.
Mr. Gore's aides scrambled yesterday to explain away front-page stories that he and the chairman of the Democratic National Committee sought a $100,000 donation from a wealthy Texas lawyer in 1995 after promising President Clinton would veto a bill limiting damage awards in product-liability cases.
"It sounds like desperate words from a desperate candidate looking at declining poll numbers," Gore spokesman Chris Lehane said as reporters crowded around him in a classroom at Parkside Middle School in Manchester, N.H. "What this really represents is recycled Republican attacks.
"What happened to his promise to talk about his tax cut every day? What happened to his real plans for real people?
"Everyone who looked at this has agreed that Al Gore did not make that call," Mr. Lehane told reporters at Parkside Middle School as Mr. Gore spoke in the school gym, promoting a plan he said would help localities recruit and help fund the hiring of 100,000 new teachers.
"George Bush has become desperate," said Gore spokeswoman Kym Spell. "Instead of talking about the issues, Bush is dredging up ancient allegations that have nothing to do with this election, tired old personal attacks."
According to documents obtained by The Washington Times, the requests came in separate telephone calls by Mr. Gore on Nov. 30, 1995, and by DNC Chairman Donald L. Fowler on Dec. 13, 1995, to lawyer Walter Umphrey, senior partner at the Beaumont, Texas, law firm of Provost & Umphrey.
In a telephone call sheet prepared for the vice president by the DNC, Mr. Gore was instructed to ask Mr. Umphrey for $100,000 for the DNC's media fund. A call sheet prepared by the DNC two weeks later for Mr. Fowler suggests the vice president did not reach his intended target.
Two weeks later, the DNC chairman received a similar directive to ask Mr. Umphrey for cash. "Sorry you missed the Vice President. I know [you] will give $100k when the President vetoes tort reform, but we really need it now. Please send ASAP if possible," the sheet says under "reason for call."
Mr. Lehane refused to say whether the Fowler call if made was appropriate.
"I haven't talked to the vice president about what he thinks about what Fowler did," Mr. Lehane said. Despite publication of the story in every major newspaper across the country, Mr. Lehane said: "You're asking me to comment on stuff that came out of the DNC that I'm just not that familiar with."
The vice president, who has not given a news conference since mid-July, was determined to ignore the story. His aides said he had no intention of talking with reporters yesterday. But it was clear Mr. Gore's aides had huddled with the vice president to discuss the issue.
"I never discuss my private discussions with the vice president," Mr. Lehane said.
Mr. Fowler told the New York Times in an interview published yesterday that he would not have used the language on the call sheet, written by Erica Payne, a Democratic Party aide.
Mr. Fowler told the newspaper he did not remember speaking with Mr. Umphrey but a conversation with the lawyer was "possible, even probable."
"I don't know why that language was on the call sheet," said Mr. Fowler, who is now chairman of Fowler Communications, a South Carolina firm. "I'm sure I never said anything like that to him or anybody else. It's unwise."
Thomas Dwyer, Erica Payne's attorney, told the New York Times that his client knew Mr. Umphrey was "a major giver."
"At the time this memo was written," Mr. Dwyer told the paper, "she was aware from the grapevine that the president was most likely going to veto this bill," Mr. Dwyer said.
"At no time did she get inside information from the White House or anyone about this piece of legislation," he told the New York Times.
Mr. Lehane sought to dismiss the appearance of a quid pro quo.
"I think it's [been] pretty clear for years that the administration was going to oppose tort reform," Mr. Lehane said.
The campaign finance-reform scandal continues to dog the vice president this week as he sprints from Illinois to Ohio, New Jersey, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New York.
In Chicago Monday, Mr. Gore faced soft questions from talk show host Oprah Winfrey, but faced a grilling from a man in the audience. The audience member asked Mr. Gore to promise he would not sell sleepovers in the Lincoln bedroom, hold fund-raising coffees at the White House and attend events like the infamous Buddhist temple fund-raiser in California.
Mr. Gore first reiterated his support of McCain-Feingold campaign finance legislation. He then said "of course" he would make such a pledge.
Mr. Cain, traveling with Mr. Gore, reported from New Hampshire; Mr. Boyer, traveling with Mr. Bush, reported from California.

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