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Gore-Bush Education Debate Mulled

June 14, 2000

NEW YORK (AP) _ A billionaire financier is offering Al Gore and George W. Bush $500,000 each for their favorite children’s charities. The hitch: participate in an education debate.

``The idea is, Gee whiz, you guys spend huge percentages of your time raising money for your campaigns and here’s a chance to do what you should anyhow while raising money for charity,″ Ted Forstmann said Tuesday in a telephone interview.

Forstmann is co-founder of the Children’s Scholarship Fund, a philanthropic organization that recently offered $50 million in new, partial scholarships to underprivileged children this fall. He is on a campaign against what he calls the ``government monopoly″ in elementary and secondary education.

In a letter sent to both campaigns Wednesday, Forstmann proposed a 90-minute education debate between the two major-party candidates.

``Instead of raising money for TV commercials and consultants, you can make sure that $1 million will be devoted to needy children,″ he wrote.

A bipartisan commission has proposed three fall debates, none of which are dedicated to a single topic. Gore, who has challenged Bush to twice-weekly debates, said he knew nothing about Forstmann’s proposal but added that that ``it wouldn’t take money″ to get him to debate the Texas governor and presumptive GOP nominee.

Bush spokeswoman Mindy Tucker said Wednesday, ``Governor Bush looks forward to debating Al Gore in the fall on education. It’s his top domestic priority. And he also hopes that Ted Forstmann will continue to use his resources to help children who are trapped in failed schools find alternative places to receive an education.″

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