Funding inquiry threatens Gore's future in doubt election funding to be reviewed

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The Independent Online
Clouds appeared to be gathering over Vice-President Al Gore's political future following a Justice Department decision to institute a formal review of his involvement in possibly illegal fund-raising during last year's presidential election campaign. The review, announced late on Wednesday, sets a 30-day period within which the Attorney General, Janet Reno, must decide whether to appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate the case.

Allegations have been mounting about illegal fund-raising by leading Democrats, up to and including President Bill Clinton. Until this week, however, Ms Reno had resisted pressure to appoint an independent counsel arguing that the evidence was insufficient. Congressional hearings on party funding, which resumed this week, have shown dubious fund-raising by both political parties.

In the past few days, however, evidence came to light about Al Gore's activities suggesting he may not only have broken the law, but tried to dissemble the fact. Newspapers published details of 47 phone calls he made from his office in the White House to solicit funds. The calls had been charged to the White House. Mr Gore had earlier said he `might have' made `a few' such calls and they had been charged to his credit card. It is against the rules to solicit party funds from federal property because this is seen as using state office for party political purposes.

It also emerged that at least $150,000 he personally raised went directly into election funds, which are subject to a limit of pounds 20,000 per person.

A review could have serious implications for Mr Gore, who, until now, has been regarded as virtually guaranteed the presidential nomination in 2000.