Second acts and new attacks

Hillary and Gore under fire, Bradley and McCain refrain from open anger, Bush starts a new attack and a portrait of Giuliani places him in the Third Reich. [UPDATED]


Max Garrone
March 10, 2000 6:00PM (UTC)

A still confidential report by the Justice Department's former chief campaign
investigator, Charles G. LaBella, is raising hackles across the
presidential and
New York Senate campaigns. The 1998 report alleges
that Attorney General Janet Reno and senior Justice Department officials gave
Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Harold M. Ickes and Bill Clinton preferential
treatment
by avoiding the appointment of an independent counsel to investigate alleged
campaign finance improprieties in the 1996 presidential campaign.

The strongest rebuke is reserved for Gore who "may have provided false testimony." According to an Los
Angeles Times article
the LaBella report spends considerable space
attacking
current campaign finance laws and enforcement, "The fact is that the so-called
campaign enforcement system is nothing more than a bad joke."

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George W. Bush has already issued a press
release
on the subject, and is beginning to hammer away on Gore's record of fundraising abuses. Rudy Giuliani's has also seized on the report. Campaign spokesperson Kim
Serafin
said "For months we've been sounding the alarm bells about the funny-money
fundraising schemes that Mrs. Clinton has imported to New York from
Arkansas and
Washington, and this appears to be just the tip of the iceberg." Hillary Clinton
campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson responded "We will not be lectured to by a man who has
repeatedly broken campaign finance
laws and received the second largest fine in New York City history."

The report didn't accuse the Clintons, Gore or Ickes with any specific
crime but
cited a "pattern of conduct worthy of investigation" and referred to the
adminstration's dealings with Yah Lin "Charlie" Trie who pled guilty
to campaign finance violations last May and the "calculated use of access"
to the
White House.

Bradley and McCain bow out

Bill Bradley withdrew from the presidential race Thursday morning, and John McCain suspended his campaign. Both refused to relinquish their delegates and remained vague about future plans, but you can be sure they'll appear at the national conventions in August to push for media time and some presence in the platform. McCain wished George W. Bush's family "well" but pointedly didn't endorse him. McCain can continue to collect donations and federal matching funds -- and what he'll do with the money and the delegates must leave Bush uncertain.

South Carolina Democrats took their cue from Bradley's withdrawal to vote overwhelmingly for Al Gore in Thursday's Democratic caucus.

Bush and Gore get down to it

Bush wasted no time in attacking Gore Thursday. In a Denver appearance he lambasted Gore's continued efforts to raise soft money for the Democratic Party and evoked the memory of the Buddhist temple fund-raising scandal. "We're not going to be fooled by somebody who says one thing and absolutely does something else." said Bush.

Gore was in Washington Thursday, where he highlighted the power of incumbency and gained some free media exposure. He was called to the capital just in case his vote was needed to approve the long-stalled nomination of Richard A. Paez to the federal bench. Republicans had already agreed to approve the nomination, but Gore couldn't pass up the opportunity to chastise them for stalling numerous Clinton administration judicial appointees, especially those "qualified judicial nominees who happen to be women and minorities."

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GOP still divided

The GOP remains split over what strategy Bush should follow in the presidential campaign. Bush's campaign director, Karl Rove, thinks that the campaign already has a winning strategy, but other voices are urging Bush to distinguish himself from the religious right and more actively woo socially moderate swing voters. GOP consultant Tony Fabrizio thinks Bush should "pull his own Sister Souljah. He needs to do something symbolically saying, 'I am not hostage to them [religious conservatives].'" It's not as if Bush needs a reason: Pat Robertson once referred to former President George Bush as a "tool of Satan."

McCain's invisible hand already at work

In perhaps the first legacy of McCain's run, New York legislators have begun fighting to make primary ballots easier to understand and to simplify the application process for appearing on the ballot. McCain made the high entry barriers and Byzantine rules governing New York's Republican ballots into a hot issue, forcing Gov. George Pataki to relent and put him on the ballot statewide. Pataki is still stonewalling, so legislators who closed arms during the primary season are now bringing their fight into the open.

Bob Jones University redux

According to Slate, BJU administrators "croaked" when they saw the AP's report that the university would allow interracial dating only when the interested parties had notes from their parents permitting the liaison. Why? BJU communications manager Jonathan W. Pait claims the AP didn't verify the information that its reporter had gleaned by sneaking into a chapel address. "When we saw the headline we croaked! We knew that what she reported was not the official statement. We would have been more than happy to help her get the whole story and not just base the entire article on a statement that was not the final official statement." So, despite "spinning like Clinton," BJU either just doesn't like its policies publicized or subsequently softened the tone of its policy because of the AP report.

Giuliani as a Nazi

A new painting to be displayed in New York's Whitney Museum's biennial opening March 23 called "Sanitation" shows Rudy Giuliani in the company of Nazis and is accompanied by a soundtrack of marching troops. It's an obvious dig at Giuliani's opposition to last year's "Sensation" show at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Anyone for another round of culture wars?

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Giuliani's shadowy finances

Back when he was a corruption-busting U.S. attorney, Giuliani was a strong advocate of good-government reform.

But the mayor's U.S. Senate campaign committee is doing a poor job of making sure its contributors comply with federal rules disclosing whom they work for -- and thus what industries and companies are backing him, according to a study released Thursday. The study, by the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics, found that Giuliani's campaign disclosed employment information for only 77 percent of its contributors, compared with 94 percent by Hillary Rodham Clinton's camp.

"It's very bad," said Larry Makinson, the center's executive director, who noted that most Senate campaigns identify the occupations of at least 90 percent of their donors. (Campaigns are required to make a good-faith effort to find out whom their donors work for.) "We try to monitor all the money going into the campaigns, and see who they owe favors to. If they don't tell you who they're indebted to, there's no way you can track that."

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The study revealed that at least $86,000 was donated to Giuliani's campaign by employees of a web of companies connected to New Jersey developer Charles Kushner. But nearly all the contributors listed obscure corporate entities as their employers, concealing their connection to Kushner, who held a large fund-raiser for Giuliani last year.

Clinton got her biggest chunk of money, $666,879, from lawyers and law firms, while employees at securities and investment firms were Giuliani's biggest givers, donating $781,098. Raising further questions about her bona fides within the state she just moved to, Clinton collected the most money, 55.8 percent of her donations, from donors outside New York. Giuliani, by comparison, collected 43.6 percent from non-New Yorkers.

(By Jesse Drucker)

Poll positions

NBC News poll on presidential matchups:

Gore 43 percent, Bush 40 percent, if they run unopposed.

Gore 34 percent, Bush 32 percent, McCain 23 percent, if McCain jumps into the race.

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Talking heads

All times EST

  • CNN's Evans, Novak, Hunt and Shields:

    Saturday 5:30 p.m. -- Campaign 2000 Senate agenda with Senator Trent Lott.

    Sunday: 11:00 a.m. -- rebroadcast
  • CNN's Reliable Sources:

    Saturday 6:30 p.m. -- 20th anniversary of ABC's Nightline and Campaign 2000 coverage with Ted Koppel.

    Sunday 11:30 a.m. -- rebroadcast
  • CNN's Capital Gang:

    Saturday 7:30 and 10:30 p.m. -- McCain and Bradley leave presidential race open for Gore and Bush: A look back at the primary process with Rudy Giuliani.
  • CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer:

    Sunday 12:00 p.m. -- Super Tuesday fallout with Pat Robertson, Jack Kemp, Gov. Frank Keating, Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson and J.D. Hayworth.
  • CNN's Both Sides with Jesse Jackson:

    Sunday 5:00 p.m. -- Topic: George W. Bush, how compassionate conservatism impacts minorities with Texas state senator Rodney Ellis and Colorado Lt. Governor Joe Rogers.

    On the trail

    Bush: resting at home in Texas.

    Gore: campaigning in New York and Minnesota.

    Sound off

    E-mail me with your comments, suggestions and tips at max@salon.com.


  • Max Garrone

    Max Garrone is Salon's Vice President for Operations.

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