Gore, Bush trade e-mail barbs over funds

Challenge on soft money draws rebuff

By Globe Staff and Wires, 3/16/2000

NEW YORK - Following are an e-mail message sent by Vice President Al Gore to Governor George W. Bush of Texas, and a Bush reply:

Dear Governor Bush,

Congratulations on securing your party's nomination. I think tonight's mutual victories give us a rare chance to change the way campaigns are run and restore voters' trust in our electoral process.

Therefore, I challenge you to accept my proposal that we both reject the use of soft money to run issue ads. I will take the first step by requesting the Democratic National Committee not to run any issue ads paid for by soft money unless and until the Republican Party uses money for advertising. This agreement would also cover loopholes which other organizations and individuals, like the Republican Leadership Council and the Wyly brothers, have used to raise and spend unlimited soft money to run issue ads without any disclosure of donors. John McCain described this scheme as ''perverting the political process'' and I call on you to publicly renounce such ads and insist they not be run on your behalf.

Thus, it's up to you and your party whether you want to start the ad war arms race; you have the power to join me in banning soft money. If you are willing to do the right thing, we can change politics forever.

I also challenge you to take a further step. Let's agree to forgo all campaign advertising and instead agree to a regular series of debates on the major issues facing the country. These proposals, as you know, would not only help drive special interest money out of politics, but would give the voters a chance to hear our ideas in detail and depth. Let's also agree to hold joint Open Meetings before genuinely undecided voters chosen by agreement of the two campaigns and have these dialogues with the voters in locations all over the country.

Finally, let's debate within the next two weeks on the specific issue of the interconnection between the economy, tax cuts, Social Security and Medicare, which is before the Congress this year and cannot necessarily wait until the election. I am concerned that your proposed tax cut, which spends a trillion dollars more than the non-Social Security surplus, leaving no money for health care or education or the environment, would mean that you would have to raid the Social Security surplus, make drastic cuts in existing health, education and environment programs and/or return to the huge deficits of the Bush/Quayle years. This issue surely deserves the attention a national debate would bring.

These are reforms that really would have results for our democracy. Think about this. And get back to me.


Al Gore

Dear Mr. Vice President,

Thank you for your e-mail and your congratulations. I congratulate you as well, and look forward to a campaign that raises the important issues of our time - reforming education, rebuilding our military and returning high standards to government.

Both you and I have made a number of campaign finance reform proposals. But before we debate these changes, it is important for Americans to know whether the current campaign finance laws have been obeyed and enforced. So I challenge you to clear the air on some serious charges. I hope you will encourage the White House and the Department of Justice to release all records and photographs relating to the investigation of fund-raising abuses by you and your administration.

In your e-mail, you spoke of restoring ''trust in our electoral process.'' And that is the heart of the matter. New campaign finance laws are needed. What is even more important is the duty of public officials to obey the existing laws, and I'm afraid your own record does not inspire confidence.

In your note, you did not mention the matter of compulsory union dues being used to support political candidates - a violation of worker rights. And I see that you did not mention this today, when you spoke to the AFL-CIO. This would have been an ideal setting to display your sudden interest in campaign finance reform, and to demonstrate your own seriousness on the issue. Your silence was not encouraging, because any campaign finance reform must be broad and fair.

Thank you for your e-mail. This Internet of yours is a wonderful invention.