Gore, Ventura to meet and talk campaign finance reform

By Rochelle Olson, Associated Press, 03/11/00

MINNEAPOLIS -- Vice President Al Gore and Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura spent an hour over breakfast today talking about changing campaign-finance laws and increasing money for special education.

The two, both wearing jeans and cowboy boots, spoke with reporters after the private meeting and made clear that Ventura was not endorsing Gore's candidacy to succeed President Clinton.

Gore said he didn't ask for an endorsement, and Ventura didn't give one.

"I'm here to voice my concerns with a potential president of the United States," Ventura said.

Gore praised the Minnesota governor's commitment to special education and said that as president, he would move swiftly toward having the government take over 40 percent of spending on educating disabled children.

Ventura said that would free up well over $200 million of state money.

The two also mentioned their support for campaign-finance reform, something Gore said he wants to elevate as a campaign issue.

Gore left immediately after the meeting to fly to Chicago for the St. Patrick's Day parade.

Friday night, Gore, the presumptive Democratic nominee, told a rally at a VFW Hall in Bloomington that he wants to take the presidential race "straight to the people."

He urged Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the GOP front-runner, to get rid of negative advertising and join him in frequent debates and open meetings with undecided voters, "instead of having the special interests determine these races."

"Let's make this a contest of ideas and not insults," Gore said.

Ventura, who left the Reform Party last month, has been a loud proponent of campaign-finance changes.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who suspended his campaign Thursday, put the campaign finance issue on the front burner this year. So did Gore's rival, Bill Bradley, who dropped out of the race.

Gore mentioned the issue during the early primaries, but he has made it even more of a point heading into the general election campaign. In 1996, he was caught up in Democratic party fund-raising scandals during the Clinton-Gore re-election campaign.

At the VFW event, Gore emphasized that he was a Vietnam War veteran before discussing a potpourri of issues, from Social Security to the environment. He drew his loudest applause when he called for an overhaul of federal farm policy.

Gore said he wants to restore the safety net that was removed as part of a 1996 law, which did away with some Depression-era subsidies.

"That Republican so-called Freedom to Farm bill is a catastrophe," he said.

The rally fell on the eve of the state's Democratic caucuses, and Gore pleaded with party faithful to turn out and support him.

Democrats will cast a binding vote for president. It's not a winner-take-all contest so delegates will be distributed in proportion to votes received.

Minnesota's elder Democratic statesman, former Vice President Walter Mondale, joined Gore and other party leaders at the rally.

Mondale called the vice president "solid and brilliant" and credited him for keeping the party together.

"Tonight, we're celebrating something very special in the Democratic Party - we're united," Mondale said. "And that doesn't happen very often." AP-ES-03-11-00 1034EST