WASHINGTON, December 14, 1999 — A man’s home might be his castle, but for Al Gore, the vice president’s official residence is more than that: It’s a tool to cultivate some of his biggest donors.
Since 1977, vice presidents have lived in a 33-room mansion on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Observatory, which sits atop a hill along Embassy Row in a tony section of Washington, D.C. Gore used the Vice President’s Residence Foundation – a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization created in 1991 to fund improvements to the residence – to cultivate relationships with some generous donors, many of whom are now supporting his bid for the presidency. The foundation fund-raising efforts provided benefits to all involved: Gore maintained contact with potential donors, and contributors were able to curry favor with a possible future president.
During Gore’s tenure as vice president, the foundation has raised $1,067,610, according to foundation documents released to the Center for Public Integrity. The total includes $300,000 transferred from the 1993 Presidential Inaugural Committee. The foundation accepted an additional $67,850 in non-cash contributions.
The foundation, according to incorporation papers, is charged with “preserving and furnishing the official Residence of the Vice President of the United States.” It’s also the foundation’s mission “to further the national policy for preserving for public use the historic buildings and the best specimens of American furniture, furnishings, and works of art for the benefit of the people of the United States.”
Almost none of the 21 donors contacted by the Center for Public Integrity (an additional 17 did not return telephone calls) cited “the people of the United States” in their decisions to give. In most cases, they said that they supported the vice president; giving money to the foundation was a particularly effective way of getting the vice president’s attention. Gifts to the foundation – whether in antique furniture, sculpture or cash – help the vice president live more comfortably in the mansion on Massachusetts Avenue.
In addition, contributions to the outfit are not subject to the $1,000 cap placed on donations to campaign committees, and the organization does not have to disclose the names of contributors to the public. (The foundation released to the Center for Public Integrity the names of contributors who made donations between 1993 and 1998).
Among the givers to the foundation under Gore’s watch is tobacco executive Bennett LeBow. Vice President Gore returned a contribution that LeBow made to his presidential campaign committee, citing his tobacco interests. Also on the list: Nathan Landow, a wealthy real-estate developer in Washington who was investigated by Congress for allegedly trying to influence the testimony of Kathleen Willey, the White House volunteer who alleged that President Clinton groped her in a corridor outside the Oval Office.
The list also includes a host of figures indicted for campaign finance irregularities during the 1996 election. They are Mark Jimenez, whom the United States Justice Department is trying to extradite from the Philippines; Howard Glicken, a Florida real-estate developer with two Jaguars bearing license plates “Gore 1” and “Gore 2,” who was convicted of funneling illegal campaign contributions to Democrats; and Franklin Haney, a Tennessee developer indicted on 42 counts of making illegal contributions to Tennessee politicians and investigated by Congress for financial irregularities in the lease of a Washington office building that is now home to the Federal Communications Commission. Haney was cleared on all charges.
Most of these donors gave their contributions in conjunction with a fund-raiser in held in Gore’s official residence in 1997. Donors paid $10,000 a head to attend. In return, contributors received a Jamie Wyeth print and an evening with the Gores. The foundation would not attempt to reproduce a list of attendees. In 1997, the foundation spent $12,769 on “fund-raising” activities. The foundation’s tax form shows $6,500 in payments for fund-raising consultants and $6,269 for “miscellaneous” fund-raising activities.
Then-Vice President Dan Quayle created the foundation in 1991 to fund improvements to the mansion without tapping public tax money. Quayle used the fund to, among other things, build a $130,000 swimming pool and pool house, a putting green and an exercise room. Gore’s improvements included a hot tub and steam shower in the master bathroom, refurbished hardwood floors and a $15,000 cherry cabinet for the family room. In fiscal 1998, the foundation spent $11,973 on fund-raising expenses and another $5,277 on meals and entertainment. A native plant garden, featuring trees and vegetation indigenous to Washington, D.C., cost the foundation $80,007 in 1998. As of September 1998, the fund stood at $292,803.
Here’s what the Center found about some of the most generous contributors to the foundation:
Peter S. Knight – $2,000
Peter S. Knight, Gore’s former chief of staff, managed Gore’s first bid for the presidency in 1988. In 1989, he began lobbying for the firm Wunder, Diefendorfer, Cannon and Thelan. Given his closeness to Gore and the rest of the Clinton administration, corporations now pay Knight upward of $10,000 a month to wield his influence with Gore. With the help of his new clients, Knight soon cemented a new role for himself as Gore’s “chief of fund raising.”
Since 1996, Knight’s various lobbying and fund-raising activity has been the subject of a Federal Election Commission investigation, a Justice Department inquiry and two House Commerce Committee probes.
Gore chose Knight to act as chairman of the foundation during Gore’s first vice presidential term. Three of Knight’s clients – millionaire publishing magnate Vance Opperman, Bell Atlantic and Fluor Corporation — showered the foundation with $10,000 each.
Knight also solicited $10,000 contributions from foundations run by Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO), Coca-Cola Company, MCI Communications (now MCI WorldCom, Inc.), Time Warner Inc. and Microsoft Corporation (Chairman Bill Gates also contributed a $30,000 glass sculpture). Under Gore’s supervision, the foundation pledged to take corporate money only through their foundations, not from corporations directly. The $10,000 paid by the Coca-Cola Company, however, came out of the corporate account.
Nathan Landow – $25,000
Nathan Landow became more recognizable after he allegedly tried to persuade Kathleen Willey not to publicize her story about the president groping her and then refused to appear before Congress on the matter. What most people don’t know is that he’s been at Gore’s side as a key fund-raiser for more than 10 years
In 1991, Regardie’s magazine listed Landow as one of Washington, D.C.‘s 75 richest people. It was Landow’s money that ultimately persuaded Gore to launch his first presidential campaign in 1988. Less than a year after they met, then-Sen. Gore celebrated his 40th birthday at Landow’s house. Landow invited some of his well-heeled friends and turned the event into a fund-raiser for Gore’s 1988 presidential campaign.
Landow is a longtime bankroller of Democratic presidential campaigns. His real-estate development company is based in the Washington suburb of Bethesda, Md. He helped bankroll Jimmy Carter’s campaign in 1976 and the Walter Mondale campaign in 1984. Carter nominated him for an ambassadorship, but withdrew Landow’s name after the Washington Post revealed that Landow attempted to hire Joe Nesline, a Washington illegal-gambling kingpin, as a consultant in building a casino in Atlantic City, N.J.
Gore has shown no hesitation in calling on Landow to bring in money when he needs it. The vice president called him from the White House, as part of his 1995 fund-raising phone-call campaign, to ask for $25,000. “You’ll have it in hand,” Landow replied, “in one hour.” He apparently kept his promise, because Gore later wrote him a thank-you note that said, “Thanks! One hour is a record!”
Howard Glicken – $6,000 billiards table
Howard Glicken has two Jaguars in the garage of his Miami home with license plates that read “Gore 1” and “Gore 2.” His ties to Gore reach back at least 10 years. He helped bankroll Gore’s 1988 presidential run. During the first term of the Clinton-Gore administration, Glicken was finance vice-chairman for the Democratic National Committee. During the 1996 presidential campaign, he raised $2 million for Clinton, Gore and other Democrats. He spent the night in the Lincoln Bedroom, attended some coffees and once flew with Gore on Air Force One.
On July 20, 1998, Glicken pleaded guilty to federal charges that he illegally raised $20,000 in foreign campaign contributions for Democratic Senate candidates in 1993. He pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act: first, that he solicited the $20,000 from Thomas Kramer, a rich Florida developer who happens to be a German citizen; second, that he then advised Kramer how to evade the law by funneling the contributions through Kramer’s secretary, a U.S. citizen.
Each count calls for a maximum of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine. Because Glicken agreed to help the Justice Department investigate other campaign fund-raising abuses, prosecutors recommended an $80,000 fine and 500 hours of community service (Glicken has also agreed to pay a $40,000 civil fine to the FEC).
Jonathan Tisch – $35,000
Jonathan Tisch is the chairman of the Loews Hotel chain, a position Tisch inherited from his father, Preston Tisch, who helped build the company. Jonathan sits on the board of trustees of the Residence Foundation. He’s been a fund-raiser and ally of Gore since 1992. Tisch was a vice-chairman of the 1993 inauguration, and he threw an inaugural party for Gore that year. In July 1996 he persuaded Gore to appear at a conference of hotel owners. Tisch also hosted an October 1996 fund-raiser featuring Gore that raised $200,000 for the DNC.
“My involvement with the foundation grew out of my association with the Vice President, as well as my belief that this country should provide an appropriate residence for the holder of that office,” he told the Center.
Mark Jimenez – $20,000
In 1998, a grand jury in Washington, D.C., indicted Mark Jimenez on 17 counts of making illegal political contributions. He’d allegedly laundered $39,500 through his employees at his company Future Tech International Inc., a Miami-based firm that exports computers to South America. After the indictment, Jimenez turned up in the Philippines, where he reportedly was an unpaid special adviser to Philippine President Joseph Estrada. Jimenez has since been indicted on additional charges of tax evasion and fraud. Now, the Justice Department is negotiating his extradition.
John and Diane Cooke – $15,000
John Cooke, an executive vice president in California for the Walt Disney Company, has been raising money for Gore for more than 10 years. His wife, Diane, sits on the board of trustees of the Residence Foundation.
John Cooke, who was on Gore’s executive committee during his 1988 presidential run, has willingly taken on the role of Gore’s fund-raiser in the Golden State. As early as 1997, he started organizing fund-raisers for the vice president. That year, he organized a fund-raiser for Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, featuring Gore, at the posh Regency Club in Los Angeles. Cooke also attended a White House coffee with Gore, a day after he gave $50,000 to the Democratic National Committee. He gave the maximum $5,000 to Gore’s 1998 political action committee, a fund-raising operation set up for Gore to raise money for fellow Democratic candidates.
Gore has included Cooke in a series of White House meetings on the implications of the information revolution. In 1995, he was also chosen to join the vice president and the late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown at a summit on the worldwide information society in Brussels, Belgium.
Steven Rattner – $10,000
Steven Rattner, who until recently was the deputy chief of the investment banking firm Lazard Freres in Manhattan, is Gore’s most effective fund-raiser on Wall Street. He’s organized friends in New York and arranged meetings for Gore to impress on Wall Street bankers that Gore is intent on following a path of economic growth.
Rattner gave money to the Clinton-Gore campaign in 1992. He participated in the coffee klatches of the 1996 campaign; he sipped coffee at an event hosted by Vice President Gore. He has showered the DNC with unregulated “soft money’ contributions — $234,606 to the DNC since 1991. Rattner’s investment firm, Lazard Freres, is number three on the list of top patrons of the Democratic Party since 1992
Rattner’s old boss at Lazard Freres, Felix Rohatyn, is now ambassador to France, appointed by President Clinton. If Gore becomes president, he might tap Rattner for a cabinet post. The Washington Post asked Orin Kramer, a former Carter administration official and friend of Rattner, if Rattner would be chosen. He said, “Steve Rattner has assumed more than anybody else the role that was once played by Bob Rubin and Arthur Krim.” Robert E. Rubin, former co-chairman of the Goldman Sachs investment bank, was Clinton’s treasury secretary. Arthur Krim was the head of United Artists and a loyal Democratic donor.
Israel Roizman – $5,000
On top of his $5,000 contribution to the Residence Foundation, Israel Roizman, a wealthy real-estate developer from the Philadelphia area, showered the Clinton-Gore ’96 campaign and the Democratic National Committee with more than $200,000 since 1994. This year, Roizman contributed the maximum allowable by law to the Gore campaign. In 1998, Roizman won a contract to develop a federal housing project in Buffalo, N.Y. He was expected to pocket about $7 million from the deal. Last February, Gore attended a dinner in Buffalo as the American Jewish Congress’ Humanitarian of the Year. Roizman was also on the short list of Gore’s core financial backers. Gore invited him to a June 6, 1995, fund-raiser organized to secure early money for the Clinton-Gore 1996 campaign.
Franklin Haney – $10,000
In 1998, Franklin Haney was indicted on 42 counts on charges that he made nearly $100,000 worth of illegal contributions to political campaigns. He was alleged to have funneled the money through straw donors to various Democratic Party candidates, including Clinton and Gore. Government prosecutors produced ledgers from Haney showing payoffs made to employees and friends, and indicating that they were reimbursements for political contributions.
In 1999 a jury acquitted Haney on all counts, accepting the argument that while Haney might have broken the law, he was not aware that he was doing so. “Nobody committed a crime because nobody thought they were doing anything wrong,” Ted Wells, Haney’s defense attorney, told the jury in his closing statement. Chris Lehane, a spokesman for Gore, announced that the vice president was “pleased for Franklin and his family.”
Vance Opperman – $10,000
This decades-old friend of Al Gore’s is now spearheading Gore’s fund-raising effort in Minnesota. He organized a 1996 fund-raiser for Gore that raised $150,000 and helped throw a July 1999 fund-raiser that aimed to net the Gore campaign $250,000. In 1996, while Opperman was president of Minnesota-based West Publishing Co., he reportedly asked President Clinton if he could get the Justice Department “off my back.” At the time, the department was planning to launch a Web site that would provide for free information that his company sells for a tidy profit. Eventually, Justice dropped its plans. Opperman denied that he made any such request. When the Center for Public Integrity faxed him questions about his relationship with Gore and the residence foundation, his secretary returned the call. “Mr. Opperman did see the fax and he chose to disregard it. He threw it away, so you won’t be hearing from him.”
Stan Chesley – $10,000
An attorney in Ohio, Chesley has been dubbed “the godfather” of class-action lawsuits. Despite his reputation, he told Forbes magazine in 1988 that he would not pursue lawsuits against the tobacco industry. He changed his mind in 1996 after evidence surfaced that tobacco-company executives hid knowledge about the addictive nature of cigarettes. Chesley has already raised money in Cincinnati for Gore’s 2000 campaign. In 1996, he hosted a Democratic National Committee dinner featuring Gore that raised $250,000.
Jess Hay – $2,500
A former DNC finance chair, Jess Hay helped bankroll Gore’s 1988 presidential campaign.
Bennett LeBow – $2,000
Bennett LeBow, CEO of the Brook Group Ltd., the parent of Liggett Group Inc., a tobacco company, gave the maximum allowable $2,000 to the Gore campaign. His wife gave $1,000. Gore, who made a policy not to accept money from the tobacco industry, returned the check. “Our policy is that we do not accept contributions from tobacco PACs, nor do we accept them from tobacco corporate entities,” said Roger Salazar, a spokesman for the Gore campaign.
Read more in Money and Democracy
“The history of the race, and each individual’s experience, are thick with evidence that a truth is not hard to kill and that a lie told well is immortal.” — Mark Twain
Process becomes twisted as candidates make contributions, not voters, first priority