TEMPLE AMNESIA

Vice President Al Gore still isn’t out of the woods regarding his controversial visit to Hsi Lai Buddhist Temple in southern California in April 1996. He has said he thought the event was “community outreach,” not a fund-raiser, and that the $55,000 the visit netted was raised without his knowledge. In a press release from the Republican National Committee, its chairman, Jim Nicholson, diagnosed the Vice President as having “Buddhist temple amnesia,” adding, “He desecrated a place of worship by shaking down monks and nuns.”

Maria Hsia, a Democratic fund-raiser who organized Gore’s Hsi Lai visit, has been convicted on five felony counts of disguising political contributions by using Hsi Lai monks and nuns as “straw donors.” She could face up to 25 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

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Gore was strongly criticized by Bill Bradley during the Democratic primaries regarding the Hsi Lai visit and other questionable fund-raising incidents. Gore supporters fear that the Vice President is vulnerable to similar attacks by George W. Bush during the upcoming Presidential campaign. Gore is now pressuring Bush to agree to end “soft money” contributions such as the Hsi Lai money, saying in a Washington Post article, “I know firsthand what is wrong with the way we fund our political campaigns.” Bush has refused to come to the table so far.

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