Archive for Saturday, September 23, 2000

New controversy brews over coffees, fund-raisers

Vice president’s reconstructed e-mails detail events at Buddhist temple, White House

September 23, 2000

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— Vice President Al Gore's staff described an event he attended at a Buddhist temple as a fund-raiser, and an e-mail suggested he bring $20 as "an offering," according to reconstructed White House computer messages belatedly turned over Friday to Congress.

The long-missing messages, provided to the House Government Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., also show that Gore's office was informed of an offer from a businessman to raise $250,000 if a White House coffee were arranged with President Clinton.

The newly disclosed e-mails further support the assertion of Gore's political opponents that the temple event and the coffees, 21 of which had the vice president as host, were fund-raising events. The White House has always denied that they were fund-raisers.

Gore spokesman Jim Kennedy said the material in the e-mails contains "nothing of significance." Kennedy added that the Gore staffer who referred to the temple event as a fund-raiser was questioned about it in Congress three years ago.

"There is nothing in this material that sheds any new light on this old debate," said Kennedy.

Bush campaign spokeswoman Karen Hughes said the newly disclosed e-mail material is "yet another piece of evidence that calls into question the vice president's credibility when he says he didn't know that a fund-raising event was a fund-raising event."

The messages are some of more than 100,000 e-mails the White House never properly archived.

As a result, they weren't reviewed to determine whether they should have been sent under subpoena to investigators on topics ranging from fund raising to Whitewater and impeachment.

They were reconstructed recently from backup tapes and are being turned over to Congress. They were provided this summer to Independent Counsel Robert Ray and the Justice Department, which had subpoenaed them.

One e-mail urged the vice president to take $20 on the trip to the Buddhist temple in California. "The VP will need to have some cash on hand (Ladon recommended $20) to offer as an offering at the

Buddhist temple in LA," the message said.

The e-mails show the Gore staff considered the April 1996 event at the Hsi Lai Buddhist temple near Los Angeles a fund-raiser. Gore originally claimed it was a community outreach. He later said he knew it was "donor-related."

Another message details an apparent offer from Taiwanese-American businessman George Chang in Virginia to raise $250,000 if the Democratic National Committee would arrange his request for a White House coffee and a Clinton interview with a Taiwanese reporter.

The offer of $250,000 came through Democratic fund-raiser John Huang, a key figure in the 1996 political money controversy.

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