- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 6, 2000

Al Gore is about to have woman troubles: No, not that kind. Her name is Victoria Cummock. She alleges that Mr. Gore was in bed, not with a woman, but with the airline industry he was entrusted to investigate when TWA Flight 800 went down. In June last year she won a little-noted decision in the D.C. Court of Appeals that keeps her search for truth alive. The search continues, and Mr. Gore is about to learn that Mrs. Cummock is not a woman with whom to be trifled.
What brings her case to mind is the maxim of Washington journalism that if a politician champions a particular value, he deserves to be measured by that standard himself. So, when I see Mr. Gore repeatedly assume the heroic pose on behalf of the little guy against the powerful special interests, my thoughts turn to Victoria Cummock. Here's why.
In 1996, in the aftermath of the crash of TWA Flight 800, President Clinton personally called Mrs. Cummock to ask her to serve as a commissioner on The White House Commission on Aviation Safety, created to investigate the crash. He also appointed Mr. Gore to be its chairman. She was chosen because her husband had been killed in the Pan Am 103/Lockerbie crash. Since then, she had become a leading passenger-rights advocate, and Mr. Clinton had assured her he sincerely wanted to develop new, tough counter-terrorism procedures. He instructed Mr. Gore to make recommendations within 45 days.
The Gore Commission produced a tough preliminary report, and at a Sept. 9, 1996, press conference Mr. Gore publicly asserted the need for those changes. And then, all hell broke loose but for Mr. Gore, not for the terrorists. "Within ten days, the whole [airline] industry jumped all over Al Gore," Mrs. Cummock reported. On Sept. 19, Mr. Gore sent a letter to airline lobbyist Carol Hallett, promising that the commission's findings would not cause the airlines any loss of revenue. The next day the Democratic National Committee received a $40,000 contribution from TWA. In the next two weeks Northwest, United and American Airlines donated $55,000 more.
In the following two months (leading up to the November 1996 presidential elections) American Airlines donated a quarter of a million dollars to the Democrats. United Airlines donated $100,000 to the DNC. Northwestern upped its anty to $53,000. In all, Mr. Gore and the Democrats collected almost half a million dollars between the election and the day two months before that Mr. Gore assured the airlines his commission wouldn't cost them any money.
At the time, White House spokesperson Ginny Terzano refused either to confirm or deny that Mr. Gore personally solicited the airline contributions. But that is not what got Victoria Cummock's dander up.
In January 1997, Mr. Gore's staff circulated a draft final report that eliminated all security measures from their findings. Not only Mrs. Cummock, but CIA Director and fellow Commissioner John Deutch complained. So Mr. Gore pulled back the draft. In February Mr. Gore finally came up with the classic Washington ploy. The final report called for sensible new procedures that would cost the airlines millions of dollars: 450 high tech bomb detectors, more training for airport security, criminal background checks for security personnel, increased canine patrols. But Victoria Cummock noticed one thing was missing there was no timetable to accomplish these requirements. She informed the vice president that without timetables, the report was "toothless" and she couldn't support it, but instead would file a dissent.
It was a classic Washington victory. The policy wonks got their proposals noticed, the airlines got their bottom line protected and Mr. Gore got his party the money. The only losers were the passengers, who got no increased security from terrorism. So, when Mr. Gore actually had a chance to fight, rather than talk about, the powerful special interests on behalf of the little guy, he turned his money-stuffed coat and protected the interests that bought him.
In an open meeting on Feb. 12, Mr. Gore stated that he would leave room in the final report for Victoria Cummock's dissent. A few minutes later at the White House, as Mr. Gore presented the final report to President Clinton, the vice president announced that the report was unanimous. Both of those Gore lies are on video tape. NBC's Dateline has the tapes.
And so Mrs. Cummock went to court. Not on behalf of some conspiracy theory, but on the right to see commission files that were denied her and the right to file a dissent. She only wanted the commission's own findings to be enforced. After winning in the D.C. Court of Appeals last year, she is slowly gaining discovery of the commission's secret files.
She has already found one interesting document in the secret commission files: A letter to Mr. Gore from his now famous convicted felon fund-raiser Maria Hsia. In that note she talks about the successful fund-raiser at the Buddhist Temple and asks the vice president for help in getting government funding for her to be part of the Project Citizenship initiative. Now, however did that note end up in the secret Gore Commission files? More to come.
This column was researched with the assistance of John B. Roberts II who first reported many of these facts in the American Spectator.
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