Dole Keeps Pressure on Clinton Over Campaign Fund-Raising
SOMERSET, Ky. (AP) _ Bob Dole claimed credit Saturday for putting Democrats on the defensive over their acceptance of foreign political contributions, saying ``the stonewall is beginning to crumble.″
The Republican challenger pressed his efforts to link President Clinton to contributions from Asian business interests during a town-square campaign rally and in his weekly radio address.
``The ethical vacuum at the heart of this administration has been filled with foreign money,″ Dole told his radio audience.
Dole was trying to energize Republicans with campaign stops Saturday in this south-central Kentucky community and in southern Virginia, both GOP-dominated areas of states where recent polls have put Clinton ahead.
The travel came as Dole aides said internal polls found the GOP nominee beginning to narrow the gap and even move ahead in some usually Republican states where he had been behind. But separate Newsweek and CNN-USA Today-gallup surveys released Saturday put the national polling gap at a broad 23 points.
Speaking from courthouse steps in the heart of Kentucky’s tobacco county, Dole told cheering supporters: ``I think my head is screwed on right. I think I’ve got a lot of common sense.″
``And we’re going to win. I forgot to tell you that,″ he said.
He continued his criticism of the Democrats over political contributions from foreign business interests. Citing news accounts of the questionable contributions, Dole drew laughter and cheers when he said: ``We’ve finally got foreign aid coming to America.″
``Its all going to the Democratic National Committee. India. Indonesia. Who knows what nation will be next to line up to give foreign aid to this administration,″ Dole said, adding:
``They’re going to need it to pay moving expenses come November 5.″
On Friday, a top Democratic Party fund-raiser was reassigned following days of attacks by Dole and other Republicans for what they say were improper and possibly illegal contributions.
The fund-raiser, John Huang, had raised an estimated $4 million to $5 million for the Democrats from Asian-Americans this year and organized a controversial fund-raiser at a Buddhist temple in California last April.
The party on Friday agreed to compensate the temple for expenses associated with the fund-raiser, which was attended by Vice President Al Gore.
``The stonewall is beginning to crumble,″ Dole said.
But his spokesman, Nelson Warfield, said of Huang’s reassignment: ``This half-step is nothing more than an admission of wrongdoing.″
House Speaker Newt Gingrich, campaigning in Georgia, suggested Gore had fueled a perception of dishonesty by attending the temple fund-raiser, saying, ``Al Gore went to an illegal event and accepted illegal contributions.″
Federal rules designed to keep foreigners from influencing America’s political system contain significant exceptions. Foreigners who are legal U.S. residents are allowed to make campaign donations, as are U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies if the money was earned in the United States.
Democrats have countered by citing instances in which Dole fund-raisers have been implicated in questionable money-raising schemes. ``Bob Dole should take time to concentrate on the ethical problems of his own campaign,″ Clinton campaign spokesman Joe Lockhart said on Saturday.
Asked if he thought he was benefiting politically from the attacks, Dole told reporters: ``They’re not attacks. They’re about the public trust.″
Still, Saturday’s Newsweek survey found that 48 percent of those surveyed thought Clinton had the better personal character to be president, compared to 36 percent for Dole and 10 percent who said it made no difference.
Dole campaign manager Scott Reed said ``this strategy is starting to hurt Clinton.″ He said that in two states where independent polls had shown Clinton ahead _ New Mexico and Colorado _ internal polls suggest Dole has claimed the lead. Dole visited both states on Friday.
Although recent polls show Clinton ahead in both Kentucky and Virginia, Republican strategists see both states as winnable. That’s why he was visiting GOP strongholds in central Kentucky and Norfolk, Va., on Saturday.
``Kentucky is very close and we need to gin up the Republican turnout,″ said senior campaign adviser Charlie Black. ``You’ve got to get them motivated.″ The same is true of southern Virginia, he said.
Black said New Hampshire, where Dole goes on Sunday, is a little more problematic. ``New Hampshire is tough,″ Black said.
The last-minute addition of a Sunday stop in Wilmington, Del., was partly driven by a desire to get TV coverage in Philadelphia and parts of southern New Jersey, Black said.