Gore's Scandals

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Two years ago, the conventional wisdom was that Al Gore was a squeaky clean, if dull policy wonk who would be a shoo-in to succeed Clinton in a country weary of Bill's various scandals. Now, after 2 years of almost continuous scandals of his own -- most concerning his relentless fundraising activities -- it was a major break for Prince Albert when his own party's Attorney General decided not to sic a special prosecutor on him. Here's the real question: is Al Gore corrupt compared to other politicians? Or is he just a run of the mill hack?

One thing is, like several of this year's candidates (notably George W. Bush), Gore has grown up in that protected, distorted world of wealth and privilege that makes it so difficult for him to understand normal people and normal life. That's not a "scandal", really, but it makes it hard to be sure how he will react ina crisis, and that is the most important role our president's have.

Click on the allegation of your choice:

-- Money Money Money
-- --- A Nasty Bunch of Characters
-- --- Illegal fundraising in a Buddhist temple (and weaseling about it)
-- ---Illegal fundraising phone calls from his office
-- Drug use
-- Hypocrisy on tobacco
-- Environmental Trendiness (and Hypocrisy)
-- Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire (Creating the Internet, etc.)
-- Tipper, the chipper rock 'n roll wife
-- Quotes
-- Sources


"He goes 'I'm a really big fan.' And I was like 'Yeah, right. Name a song, Al.' The answer came limply back: 'I can't name a song, I'm just a really big fan.'" - Courtney Love of the rock band "Hole"

"Throughout most of my life, I raised tobacco. I want you to know that with my own hands, all of my life, I put it in the plant beds and transferred it. I've hoed it. I've chopped it. I've shredded it, spiked it, put it in the barn and stripped it and sold it." -- Al Gore, 1988

"Sometimes, you never fully face up to things that you ought to face up to." -- Al Gore, discussing tobacco

-- Quote Sources

Tobacco Hypocrisy

At the Democratic national convention in 1996, Gore gaving a moving speech about his only sister's painful death from lung cancer. And since then he has pushed the administration's aggressive anti-smoking campaign.

What Gore didn't mention is that he grew up on a tobacco farm, worked on it, and continued to accept checks from that farm for years after his sister died. In 1988, while running for president, he defended tobacco farmers while campaigning in Southern tobacco states (and made the quote up above: 'I've raised tobacco ... I've shredded it, spiked it,... and sold it.') He accepted contributions from tobacco companies as late as 1990.

Gore claimed that "emotional numbness" led him to defend and profit from the tobacco industry. "Sometimes, you never fully face up to things that you ought to face up to."

Gore himself smoked during college. "Peer pressure played a factor," he said, "stress in college." We should have guessed that the guy who said "Tobacco addiction ... is just as powerful of an addiction as heroin or crack addiction" was an ex-smoker.

-- Tobacco Sources

Money, Money, Money

Fundraising Cronies: A Nasty Bunch of Characters

Even more than Bill Clinton, Al Gore has been a money raising machine (though nothing quite like George W. Bush). In one memo, Gore bragged "I did three events this week which were projected to raise $650,000 and ... actually raised $800,000. Tipper and I were supposed to do $1.1 million, and it looks like we will be closer to $1.3 million." Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward estimates that Gore and his network raised fully $40 million of the Democratic National Committee's $180 million total in 1995 and 1996.

In the process, Gore has been kissing up to a lot of characters with checkered pasts (and/or convictions.) Frankly, whether Gore made phone calls from his office is piddly business. But spending time with accused or convicted criminals if they have money to give is a much more serious concern for a potential president.

Here are some of Al's business associates:

convicted cocaine smuggler Jose Cabrera
Howard Glicken, who admitted soliciting and laundering foreign campaign contributions
Franklin Haney, indicted for illegal campaign contributions

Jose Cabrera, convicted cocaine smuggler

Jose "Gordito" Cabrera is serving 19 years in prison for smuggling cocaine; he was caught in January 1996 with 3 tons of Cali cartel cocaine and (maybe worse from Gore's point of view) boxes of smuggled Cuban cigars. Earlier, he pled guilty to conspiracy to bribe a witness in a drug investigation (in 1983) and to income tax evasion in connection with another drug investigation (in 1988). He served 3 and a half years in prison on the first charge, just a year on the second.

In 1995, in between these convictions and guilty pleas, Cabrera was getting his picture taken with Al Gore at a Florida campaign event, and posing with Hillary Clinton in front of the White House Christmas tree. White House visitors routinely get a background check, which should have turned up his record. When the Miami Herald broke the story of Cabrera's convictions, the Democratic National Committee returned Cabrera's $20,000 donation (made in 1995), but the Justice Department refused to release the photos of Gordito with Gore and Hillary -- found in the drug raid that yielded the coke and cigars -- until pressured by Republicans.

Howard Glicken, illegal campaign fundraiser

Howard Glicken, a long-time fundraiser for Al Gore, is awaiting sentencing on his negotiated plea bargain for illegal fund raising. He raised $2 million for Clinton-Gore and the DNC in 1996, and owns 2 Jaguars with the vanity plates "Gore1" and "Gore2."

Glicken owns a company that brokers deals between U.S. and Latin American companies, and is not shy to use his political connections to help his work. In 1996, Glicken showed up at a Florida fundraiser, muscled 4 South American clients into it and introduced them to President Clinton and Mack McLarty, Clinton's top adviser on Latin America. Party officials tried to keep them out, but according to the Wall Street Journal, Glicken "raised a stink", saying "I raised all this money; I can bring in anybody I want." Glicken was given a coveted seat on a Commerce Department trade mission to South America in 1994. He has been hosted by the U.S. ambassadors in Argentina and Chile, and received help from the Argentine Embassy even after he pled guilty to soliciting foreign campaign contributions.

Glicken had some rough patches in his pre-Gore career. He headed the precious-metals trading division of Capital Bank in Miami, but was forced to leave in 1983 after splitting a $90,000 commission that the bank considered a kickback with his friend, Harry Falk. The commission was for helping arrange Capital Bank financing of the sale of $900,000 in Piaget watches.

Glicken then founded his own precious-metals trading company in Miami with Falk. Falk and the 6-man company itself were indicted in 1991 for laundering drug money. Glicken was not charged, but his company agreed to pay $375,000 to settle the charges, and Glicken testified against Falk in 1995 under a grant of limited immunity.

Franklin Haney, indicted for illegal campaign contributions

This Tennessee real estate developer and longtime Gore fundraiser was trying to get the FCC to move its headquarters to a development of his called "The Portals." He was also a guest on Air Force One during 1995-6.

Haney was a generous donor. He was indicted in November 1998 for 42 counts of illegal campaign contributions to the Clinton-Gore campaign between 1992 and late 1995. More strikingly, he paid a $1 million fee to Peter Knight right before he became the Clinton-Gore campaign manager. Knight also ran Gore's House and Senate offices for years and helped finance his campaigns; Time calls him "the hub of Gore's political circle." Haney claims that the million bucks was a fee for "advice" on attracting the FCC to the Portals; that must have been some damn good advice. More likely, it was a contingency fee for delivering the FCC deal, using his Gore connections.

-- Fundraising Cronies Sources

Illegal Fundraising At a Buddhist Temple (and Weaseling About It Afterwards)

There were mountains of ink spilled about this episode, but the short story is this: Gore appeared at a Buddhist temple at what was obviously a fundraiser, though technically it was called something else for legal reasons. The criminal part is that the temple gave monks money to reimburse them for donations to Gore and the Democrats.

That is illegal of course for the temple, but not the politician unless you can prove that they knew about the reimbursement. No such evidence has popped up, though some of the players from the Clinton/Gore illegal foreign donations scandal are involved. These darker connections haven't been pinned down yet; given the relatively small amount of money involved, and severe risks of knowingly arranging for reimbursed donations, it seems unlikely that Gore campaign officials would take the risk..

The reason this scandal got so much attention was Gore's ridiculous weaseling about it. He claimed that he didn't know it was a fundraiser (when various memos showed that he clearly did) and then kept changing his story.

It is similar to Gore's illegal phone calls issue; not necessarily a huge deal by itself, but Gore's response under crisis shows that he learned one of Clinton's worst traits -- that "didn't inhale" kind of weaseling when he's under fire.

-- Buddhist Temple Sources

Illegal Fundraising Phone Calls

The other widely publicized Al Gore scandal has to do with the many fundraising phone calls he made from his official residence. The calls themselves are not that big a deal -- most congressman do the same, they just don't live in a government-owned building -- but two bad things are clear from all of this.

First, Gore has cheapened the vice presidency (as Clinton has cheapened the presidency) by taking relentless fundraising another step further, eroding another ethical standard. There's no reason to expect anything different if he's elected president.

Second, he once again showed his Clintonesque weaseling side, in his now famous statement that "There is no controlling legal authority" saying that the phone calls were illegal (in other words, different courts ruled differently, and the ones in his area didn't say it was illegal.) That evasive, self-excusing attitude seems to be his standard response under pressure, and that's not leadership. Worse yet, when pressed about a memo indicating that he was at a meeting where using the money as "hard money contributions" -- which is strictly illegal -- instead of soft money, he said that he didn't remember hearing that, and that he may have been in the bathroom because he drank a lot of iced tea at these meeting. Not only is this evasive, it's a really WEAK evasion.

-- Illegal Phone Calls Sources


Gore's tenants
Gore owns and rents out a trailer in Carthage, Tennessee for $400 a month. In the summer of 2000, Gore's property managers and family friends, Audrey and Charles Elrod, tried to evict tenant Tracy Mayberry (pictured above, with her husband) after she complained about a lack of repairs to overflowing toilets and backed up sinks. They claimed that Mayberry and family had run the place down and clogged up the septic system with toys and garbage.

After bad publicity, Gore overruled the Elrods, said the Mayberry's could stay, and -- claimed a Gore spokesman -- fixed the place up. But Mayberry was not impressed. "Right now, I still say he's a slumlord," she said. "In my opinion that's exactly what he is." She said that the work was never completed, it was sloppy and that one toilet still leaks. She moved out, and seven Republican activists drove her and her family up to a new home in Lima, Ohio.

Postscript: Police were called on the Mayberry family twice in their first two days in Lima. First, for parking on their lawn, and second, for a report of a fight. No arrests were made.

-- Slumlord Sources

Drug Use

Gore has long admitted that he smoked pot, both during his stint in Vietnam and for a "brief while" after his return. He claims that it was only a few times.

Here again he seems to be lying. Former drug buddies of Gore's have come forward to say that he was a heavy smoker, right up until his first run for Congress in 1976. In college, Gore was said to be hanging out in the basement of his dorm, getting high and watching TV most of the time. After his return from Vietnam, friends such as John Warnecke say that got high with Gore as often as 3 or 4 times a week, listening to Grateful Dead albums and talking about what they would do if they were president. "Al Gore stoned was a mix of expansiveness, melancholy and paranoia," Warnecke said.

-- Drug Use Sources

Environmental Trendiness (and Hypocrisy)

In the past, Al Gore has made his environmental positions a big part of his message, notably in his book "Earth in the Balance", which sold well. We don't critique candidates' policy positions, but some of that may come back to haunt him by making him look extreme, trendy or hypocritical.

Gore runs the risk of being shown up as a hypocrite, the way Mike Dukakis was in 1998 after Boston Harbor's pollution problem was exposed.

One example is the Pigeon River in North Carolina and east Tennesee. The Champion International paper mill has pumped tons of chemicals and byproducts into it for years, turning it the color of cofee and adding a sulfurish smell. Gore campaigned hard against this pollution and lobbied the EPA to crack down. But in 1987, as Gore started running for president the first time, he was pressured by 2 politicians whose support he craved for the North Carolina Super Tuesday primary. Terry Sanford (then a Senator) and Jamie Clarke (North Carolina congressmen) lobbied him hard to ease up on Champion. Gore did, writing to the EPA again and now asking for a more permissive water pollution standard. Sanford and Clarke endorsed him, and Gore won the state handily.

Another example is a Gore family property that has been mined for zinc and germanium for decades. The Vice-President and his dad, the late Senator Albert Gore, Sr., obtained the land in a very favorable deal with the late Armand Hammer of Occidental Petroleum. Gore, Sr. was heavily supported by Hammer financially, and carried his water in the U.S. Senate.

Back in 1972, when zinc was discovered across the river from the Gore family land in Carthage, TN, Hammer sent engineers out and offered $20,000 per year for a mineral rights lease on some property owned by a church that had been willed the land. Instead, they wanted to sell and Hammer won a bidding war to buy the land for $160,000. He then sold it to Gore Jr. and Sr. for the same amount, and immediately started leasing the land back from him for the same $20,000. Lynwood Burkhalter, who in the 70s was president of the company that assumed this lease from Occidental Petroleum, called the payments "extraordinarily large."

Mining is, of course, a very messy business environmentally. The mine itself hasn't been that bad. Republicans have claimed that it's polluting the local drinking water, but according to the Wall Street Journal those problems "are actually very minor." However, the Journal notes that the plant in Clarksville TN, which processes the Gore minerals, is a federal Superfund site contaminated with cadmium and mercury, posing "a threat to the human food chain."

There's also a damning quote about cutting down Yew trees to make a promising cancer treatment that we used to include in our Gore quotes section. Except that the really embarrassing part -- which we got from an editorial in the Austin, Texas American Statesman -- turns out to be distorted and out of context. The full quote, which is still a little odd, is:

"The Pacific Yew can be cut down and processed to produce a potent chemical, taxol, which offers some promise of curing certain forms of lung, breast and ovarian cancer in patients who would otherwise quickly die. It seems an easy choice -- sacrifice the tree for a human life -- until one learns that three trees must be destroyed for each patient treated, that only specimens more than a hundred years old contain the potent chemical in their bark, and that there are very few of these yews remaining on earth." - Gore, in "Earth in the Balance", p. 119

The distorted version puts a period after "for each patient treated," as if the ratio of trees to humans was what bothered Gore. In reality, his point is that treating all current cancer patients would destroy all of the trees, leaving none of the drug for future cancer patients.

-- Environmental Sources

Liar Liar Pants on Fire

Most people feel that all politicians lie, but all Gore has a particular way of stretching the truth. He's actually more of a braggart who consistently exaggerates his role in the successful things he does. There are actually two sides of his truth deficit; the highly publicized tendency to exaggerate, and (what we feel is) the more serious problem of evasion.

The most famous example of exaggerating, of course, is that he "took the initiative in creating the Internet", but this is hardly an isolated example. When the LINUX and open-source computing movements reached their maximum trendiness, hidden text in his web page -- visible to knowledge computer users with the "View Source" command -- proclaimed that his web page was an Open Source web page and invited users to contribute to it. For anyone knowledgeable on the subjects, and even for some boneheads like this editor, that is a ludicrous statement that combines bragging and idiot ignorance in equal measure.

Then there is Gore's claim to have uncovered the most famous toxic waste site in the country. As a young congressman in the late 1970s, he said, "I found a little place in upstate New York called Love Canal." (It's a neighborhood in upstate New York that was disastrously polluted by an old underground chemical dump.)

Now each of these claims has some element of truth to it, and his opponents -- and even the newspapers, in the Love Canal case -- have exaggerated or misquoted him. Gore did support the Internet early on as a congressman -- it's fair to say that he took the initiative *among congressmen* -- and even Vincent Cerf, the computer scientist who is in fact considered "the father of the Internet", says "It is entirely fitting that the Vice President take some credit for helping create an environment in which (the) Internet could thrive." And Gore did hold the first federal hearings on Love Canal. But both the Internet and the Love Canal scandal were established and well known before Gore ever heard of them.

Plus, the slips continue. Frankly, I can't understand the controversy over the family dog's medication price -- the dog does take it, and it costs less than it does for his mother in law. But Gore recently (on September 18, 2000) told a union meeting that his parents sung him to sleep with lullabies such as "Look for the union label" -- a song that was written as a jingle for a union ad in 1975, when Gore was 27.

Gore's consistent pattern of exaggeration highlights two of his worst traits. First, he is simply out of touch, swamped by that Washington culture that thinks it is the source of all new and good in America and unable to understand the real world outside. And second, you can hear the cocky arrogance in his voice in his statement about Love Canal. When he says the words "little place", you can feel him struggling to contain his pleasure with his good deeds.

But more troubling to us is Gore's tendency to evade questions about his ethical lapses. Some of these are legalisms where he is actually correct, but has such a tin ear for the way normal people talk that he sounds like a mafia don. For example, his infamous line about "no controlling legal authority" is the most accurate way of describing the law on the picky point of where fundraising phone calls are made from. But he's so out of touch with normal folk that he probably didn't realize how weaselly that sounded.

The more serious examples concern the Buddhist temple fundraising, where he repeatedly changed his story about whether that event was considered a fundraiser. Apparently what he was trying to say was that he knew it was a reward for people who had given money, but that technically the event itself was not a fundraiser. This is fairly typical in our current corrupt system. But when you can't answer a question directly, folks naturally wonder if there is more going on. No one has been able to prove anything yet, but neither can Gore explain himself.

Worst of all are his evasions that simply aren't credible, such as his statement that he didn't hear discussion about fundraising proceeds going illegally into a "hard money" fund because he drank a lot of iced tea and often had to go to the bathroom..

-- Liar Sources

Tipper, the chipper Rock 'N Roll Wife

Al Gore's wife Tipper upstaged her husband when she made her own political crusade, pushing for warning labels for warning labels for violent and drug oriented music. She may have been reflecting sincere Baby Boomer fear of that evil music (a fear based on remembering how evil their own music was growing up), but more likely this was a weak and very cynical political play.

Inevitably, bands with the warning label sell more records and those without (Hanson) have all the hipness of PG-13 movies. And they knew this would happen ahead of time. But more to the point, Tipper likes a bit of that rock 'n roll herself. She and Al are both fans of the notoriously drug-addled Grateful Dead; Tipper actually played bongos with a remnant band consisting of half of the Dead's surviving members. (Is Jerry Garcia grateful now?)

Best of all, Tipper herself played drums in an all-girl rock band called "The Wildcats" when she was in high school. Rowwrrrr! If anyone has verified recordings of this band, please email us at once. We will put them on the web site if possible.

-- Tipper Sources


"The Trouble With Al," by Daniel Klaidman and Karen Breslau, Newsweek, September 22, 1997 p39
"Gore Faces More Revelations About His Fundraising Involvement," Wall Street Journal, September 5, 1997 pA1 Washington Wire column
"Gore is Linked to John Huang on 1989 Trip," by Glenn Simpson, Wall Street Journal, December 13, 1996 pA16
"The Golden Gore Touch Turns to Velcro," Albert Hunt's editorial column, Wall Street Journal, March 13, 1997 pA15
"Gore Put at Center of Demos Soliciting,", by Bob Woodward, Washington Post News Service, in San Francisco Examiner, March 2, 1997 p A-7

Tobacco Hypocrisy

"Gore talks smoking with Sealth students", by Gloria Kruzner, West Seattle Herald, December 24, 1997
"'Numbness' Let Gore Accept Tobacco Help," San Francisco Chronicle, August 30, 1996


"From Al to Zinc: Story of a Mine Shows How a Fatherly Favor Still Haunts Gore", by Glenn Simpson, Wall Street Journal, November 1, 2000 pA28
"Gore's Pollution Problem", Newsweek, November 24, 1997
"Earth in the Balance," by Al Gore (Houghton Mifflin, 1992) p119 (Yew tree) and generally. "How Would Gore fare if he were called on to serve?," by David Ridenour, Austin American-Statesman, August 16, 1998


"GOP Labels Al Gore a 'Scrooge'", by Judith Havemann, Washington Post, April 17, 1998 p A04

Drug Use

"Magazine Watch", Media Research council, Tuesday February 8, 2000 (Vol. 2; No. 6)

Slumlord Sources

"GOP Helps Gore Tenants Move Out", Associated Press, (Washington Post), Saturday, July 8, 2000; Page A06

"GOP Helps Fed Up Gore Tenant Move Out", Nashville Newschannel 5 TV web site, July 7, 2000

"Tough Times For Gore's Ex-Tenants", by Jake Tapper, Salon Magazine, July 12, 2000

Quote Sources

--- Tobacco and Facing Up: "'Numbness' Let Gore Accept Tobacco Help", San Francisco Chronicle, August 30, 1996
Al Gore -- Stupid Statements Web Site, for these quotes:
--- Chopping, etc. tobacco quote --- Courtney Love: From Damian Whitworth in Washington, whoever that is.

Fundraising: Cronies

"Donor to Clinton, Gore Indicted", Dallas Morning News, November 5, 1998
"Gore's Ties to Hsia Cast Shadow on 2000 Race", by Judith Havemann, Washington Post, February 23, 1998 p A01
"Al Gore Money Man's Unsavory Past", Robert Novak's syndicated editorial column, San Francisco Chronicle,December 1, 1998 pA23
"Justice bares photo of felon with Gore, first lady", (Scripps Howard News Service), Houston Chronicle, October 25, 1996
"The Veep Treatment," by Michael Weisskopf, Time Magazine, June 9, 1997 p32
"A Fund-Raiser for Gore Retools His Career With an Aura of Clout," by Phil Kuntz and Jill Abramson, Wall Street Journal, April 29, 1997 pA1
"The President's Air Force One Guests, 1995-96", CNN/Time AllPolitics Web Site, April 15, 1997

Fundraising: Illegal Phone Calls

"Fund Pleas By Gore From White House", San Francisco Chronicle, August 27, 1997 pA9
"Reno won't Order Probe of Gore", LA Times News Service, November 25, 1998
"Al Gore Made Fund-Raising Calls," Knoxville News-Sentinel quoted by Associated Press on America Online, March 11, 1997
"Gore Made 48 Illegal Calls From Office," San Francisco Chronicle, August 6, 1997
"The Pendleton Act (what say?): How Al Gore Broke the Law," editorial by Michael Kelly, San Francisco Examiner, March 9, 1997 p C-17
FBI Transcript of Interview with Gore, August 12, 1998, File 58A-HQ-1193317 (iced tea defense is on page 3 and 6)

Fundraising: Buddhist Temple Sources

"Gore Says He Erred Attending Fund-Raiser," (from AP), San Francisco Chronicle, January 25, 1997 pA6
"Gore Says he Realized Gathering at Temple Was 'Finance-Related'", Boston Globe news service, San Francisco Chronicle,January 15, 1997 pA2
"Gore Saw Sect Leader, Memo Says," (from AP), San Francisco Chronicle, December 24, 1996
"Donors: Warnings", Los Angeles Times, February 15, 1997 pA19
"Former Top Aide Defends Gore,", by Los Angeles Times News Service, San Francisco Chronicle, September 6, 1997 pA4
"Was Gore an Innocent Victim in Temple Affair?" Robert Novak's syndicated editorial column, San Francisco Chronicle, August 13, 1997 pA21

Liar, Liar Sources

"Back on the Slippery Slope", by Bill Turque, Newsweek, December 13, 1999 p45

"Examples of Gore's most criticized statements", USA Today, September 19, 2000

FBI Transcript of Interview with Gore, August 12, 1998, File 58A-HQ-1193317 (iced tea defense is on page 3 and 6)

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