Guilty plea in Clinton coffee scandal

A new brew of corruption chatter clouds Gore's race.

By Alicia Montgomery

Published June 22, 2000 7:01PM (EDT)

Al Gore got another unpleasant reminder of Clinton-scandal ghosts. The Associated reports that Democratic fundraiser Pauline Kanchanalak has agreed to plead guilty to pouring more than half a million dollars in illegal contributions into the Democrats' coffers. Kanchanalak committed the crime shortly after attending one of the infamous White House fundraising coffee klatches in 1996. As a Thai citizen, Kanchanalak could not legally contribute the money on her own, so she funneled contributions to the Democratic National Committee through the accounts of close relatives. Her actions raised the hackles of Clinton administration enemies, causing widespread speculation that the White House had fallen under the power of foreign donors. Kanchanalak, who is cooperating with Department of Justice investigators, could face up to six years in prison.

Poll pounding for Gore
Trust ranked among the priorities of voters surveyed by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, and was one reason why Gore trailed Bush 41 percent to 49 percent in that poll. Bush led Gore for being trustworthy by a margin of 37 percent to 29 percent. Results further suggested that neither of the major candidates has much to gain from a four-way race. Ralph Nader picked up 7 percent support, while Pat Buchanan scored 4 percent. Overall, when factoring in the third-party players, the race between the major party candidates tightens to 43 percent Bush and 38 percent Gore. This smaller gap still falls outside the poll's 2.2 percent margin of error.

Oil companies too slick for Gore
The vice president attacked "price gouging" by oil companies during a campaign trip through Iowa, according to Reuters. "Oil companies' profits have just gone up 500 percent in the first part of this year at the same time they were raising these prices by such an extraordinary amount, particularly in the Midwest," Gore said. The issue has heated up as summer gas prices climb well past $2 a gallon in some states and the Federal Trade Commission probes the industry for possible unfair practices. Responding to the misconduct charges, the American Petroleum Institute denied wrongdoing and accused industry critics of playing politics. API president Red Cavaney said in a prepared statement: "Those allegations do a disservice to the American taxpayer by encouraging competing investigations that focus attention and resources away from solving very real regulatory problems."

Black gold for Bush
The Texas governor used the price surge to take a swing at the current administration. While supporting the probe, Bush blamed Clinton and Gore for the problem. "I want to remind people that this administration is devoid of an energy policy," he said. The Washington Post reports that Democratic leaders were quick to point out that Bush can afford to be generous to the oil and gas industry. "That's where he's getting all his money," said Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, "from the oil companies, his friends." According to the Center for Responsive Politics, oil and gas companies have donated more than $1.4 million to Bush's campaign, compared with less than $100,000 to Gore's.

Shrugging off California catcalls
Bush endured another day of heckling by death penalty foes as Gary Graham's execution drew near. ABC News reports that protesters disguised as deep-pocket donors have infiltrated Bush fundraisers, shouting "Don't execute an innocent man!" and demanding that Bush grant Graham a reprieve. Thus far, Bush has been unwavering in his insistence that the Texas death penalty system is perfectly fair. "As far as I'm concerned, there has not been one innocent person executed since I've been the governor," said Bush, who has presided over 134 executions as governor. Bush has refused to impose an Illinois-style moratorium on executions while the state's justice system is reviewed. "I thought about it," he said, "but we don't need a moratorium."

Debate rules snub third parties
The Commission on Presidential Debates stuck to standards requiring candidates to have at least 15 percent support in the polls to qualify to join the fall contests, Reuters reports. That's a high hurdle for presidential aspirants Pat Buchanan and Ralph Nader, who hover in the single digits in national polls. Both have criticized this requirement, and Nader filed a lawsuit earlier this week challenging the commission's fundraising tactics. But commission co-chairman Paul Kirk shrugged off the complaints. "Our role is not to jump-start a campaign and all of a sudden make a candidate competitive," he said.

There may yet be some good news for Nader this week. He and Teamsters leader James Hoffa are scheduled to make a joint announcement, one that could give the Green Party candidate a big boost with the labor vote.

Cops rock convention plans
Los Angeles officials, eager to soothe Democratic worries about possible convention chaos in August, were dealt a serious blow on the home front. Reuters reports that barely a day after Lakers-related riots in the city, the Los Angeles Police Protective League announced that it plans to join protesters at the Democratic National Convention. The L.A. cops will join police from New York, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and Texas to protest federal government intervention in their work. "Our common concerns have reached a critical mass of frustration," said league president Ted Hunt. "Politicians use cops as backdrops to show law enforcement support, yet their policies continue to harm working-class police officers."

Poll positions
Presidential race:

  • Bush 49 to Gore 41 (NBC/Wall Street Journal June 14-18).
  • Bush 49 to Gore 45 (CNN/Time June 14-15).
  • Bush 50 to Gore 40 (Los Angeles Times June 8-13).
  • Bush 47 to Gore 39 (Zogby June 9-12).
  • Bush 49 to Gore 45 (ABC News/Washington Post June 8-11).

    On the trail
    Buchanan: To be announced.
    Bush: Texas.
    Gore: Minnesota and Colorado.
    Nader: Washington.

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  • Alicia Montgomery

    Alicia Montgomery is an associate editor in Salon's Washington bureau.

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