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Gore, Bradley Campaigns Spar

July 24, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The rival campaigns of Bill Bradley and Al Gore traded personal barbs for the first time Friday _ over the issue of campaign finance.

The Bradley camp poked at the vice president’s woes after his 1996 fund-raising tactics _ soliciting campaign contributions on official White House phones and wooing donors inside a Buddhist temple _ nearly led to an independent counsel investigation.

``From all the accounts that I have read, your candidate’s personal experiences with raising ‘soft money’ in the 1996 election would have led us to believe he would wholeheartedly join with Sen. Bradley in his call for a campaign purged″ of such unlimited and unregulated money, Bradley campaign chairman Douglas Berman wrote to Gore’s general campaign chairman, Tony Coehlo.

In turn, Coehlo accused the former New Jersey senator of having dropped the fight for campaign finance reform when he ``abandoned the Senate for private life and two million dollars in special interest speaking and consulting fees.″

Before the letters were exchanged between Berman and Coehlo, the two camps vying for the Democratic presidential nomination appeared to operate on parallel planes, only rarely engaging each other and, even then, in polite policy-focused statements.

Bradley has said he is committed to a positive campaign, while it was Gore’s strategy to target Republican front runner George W. Bush and act as if competition from the Democratic side didn’t exist.

The back-and-forth spat began Thursday, when Bradley unveiled details of a campaign finance overhaul and accused Gore of speaking out against unregulated contributions to political parties even as he plotted how to use the so-called ``soft money.″

That prompted Coehlo to release a letter that afternoon questioning Bradley’s record on the issue, and led to Friday’s increasingly testy volley of accusations.

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