Perot endorses Bush for president

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The Independent US

Reform Party founder Ross Perot endorsed George W. Bush for president, eight years after his own White House bid helped turn Bush's father out of office.

Reform Party founder Ross Perot endorsed George W. Bush for president, eight years after his own White House bid helped turn Bush's father out of office.

"Here is a man that I have never heard anybody criticize once for improper conduct as governor, for improper taking of political funds for payoffs for impropriety in the governor's mansion or at any time," Perot, who hails from Bush's home state of Texas, said on CNN's "Larry King Live."

His endorsement was a clear swipe at the political fund-raising tactics of the Clinton-Gore administration, which had been criticized for invited campaign donors for overnight stays at the White House. He specifically cited Vice President Al Gore's attendance of an event at a California Buddhist temple, where robed priests later made donations. Gore has said he did not regard the temple event as a fund-raiser.

The Texas billionaire's endorsement came the same night that Bush was forced to admit he was arrested and pleaded guilty nearly 25 years ago to driving under the influence of alcohol near his family's summer home in Maine. News organizations had received copies of the 1976 police report.

Of the arrest, Perot said: "It should not have occurred. There's no excuse."

The interview was Perot's first about presidential politics since he last addressed the topic during a July 1999 Reform Party convention in Dearborn, Michigan.

Perot used "Larry King Live" as the vehicle to launch his first presidential candidacy as an independent in February 1992. He received 19 per cent of the vote that year, prompting many Republicans to blame him for President George Bush's loss to Bill Clinton.

Perot made a second presidential run in 1996 but failed to match his previous benchmark. He received only 8.5 per cent of the vote, but the showing was strong enough to earn his newly formed Reform Party about $12.6 million in federal campaign funds for this year's election.

Conservative Pat Buchanan claimed the rights to that money after a legal battle over who the party's rightful presidential candidate was - him or Iowa physicist John Hagelin. The Federal Election Commission made that decision in September, awarding Buchanan the money.

Despite pleas by supporters, Perot stayed out of the public battle over his party. He declined to respond when Buchanan accused him of masterminding a "sabotage effort" to destroy the Buchanan campaign.

Perot did submit an affidavit affirming his support for Hagelin.

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