CHAPTER 23: Al Gore's Love Handles
If a tree falls in the woods and nobody hears it, does it still make a sound?
— Zen koan
On July 2, Vice President Al Gore came to San Diego for my fund-raiser, I raised over $100,000, and I got to ride in a vice presidential motorcade. I also got to watch Al Gore inhale a chocolate cake. All in all, it was a grand day and evening, but, like many things in life, it did not come easy.
In fact, the Gore event almost didn’t come off at all, because at one point my gracious host Chuck Davenport nearly pulled the plug. If you guessed that the problem was with Congressman Bob Filner — the Grand Canyon of assholes — you win a free, one-way trip with Bob to the Aleutian Islands.
As you may recall from an earlier chapter, in my initial negotiations with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (D-Triple-C) I had warned executive director Matt Angle and chairman Congressman Martin Frost that Filner would try to crash my party and raise money I would otherwise get. I got Angle and Frost to promise as part of our deal that they wouldn't let it happen.
Well, so much for a Washington, D.C., promise. When Filner heard about the event, he threatened to storm to the Democratic caucus and publicly accuse Frost and the D-Triple-C of playing favorites with challengers over sitting members of Congress. It took all of about 15 seconds for Frost and Angle to cave in to Hemorrhoid Bob.
When Chuck Davenport found out that Filner was muscling in, he got so mad that he threatened to pull the plug on the deal. Note that this would have cost the Democratic Party over a hundred thousand dollars in good, clean, Buddhist Temple-free donations. It would also have prevented me from raising another hundred thousand dollars myself. Crisis? What crisis?
Fortunately, after Chuck and I calmed down, we decided that to cancel an event with the vice president would be to shoot ourselves in the foot as well as to play into Filner’s destructive little hands. So the show went on.
What's the Price of an Al Gore, Redux
Besides Hemorrhoid Bob, the only other unpleasant thing about the Davenport event was that the White House opted to do their pre-fund-raising press event at Qualcomm Inc. rather than at Children’s Hospital. Whenever the White House does an evening fundraiser, they always schedule a press event during the day. This allows part of the bill for the travel to be charged to official business. It’s also good politics because it gets a front-page story that provides additional spin for the campaign’s issue du jour.
For months, I had lobbied the D-Triple-C and the White House to make that press event a visit by Gore to christen the new Healing Garden at Children’s Hospital. I wanted to make this happen because Darlyn Davenport was president of the Children's Hospital Auxiliary. She had played a key role raising funds to build it, and it would have meant a lot to this fine woman who is one of the sweetest and kindest people I know.
In making the case for Children’s Hospital, I told the White House schedulers that it would be great PR. It not only tapped into the theme of resentment against Gingrich for cutting funds to worthy places like Children’s, it also fit in with the personal tragedy that Gore had experienced when his son was hit by a car and spent months in a hospital recovering.
Despite my entreaties, the White House nixed the Children’s Hospital venue and instead chose a visit to the high-tech digital-phone manufacturer Qualcomm. Qualcomm is one of the most successful, most profitable, and fastest-growing companies in the country, and Gore’s visit would fit in nicely with the Clinton-Gore campaign theme of hurtling down the information superhighway. Nonetheless, I believe in my gut the real reason Gore’s staff chose Qualcomm over Children’s Hospital was because of Qualcomm CEO Irwin Jacobs and his $20,000 check.
In soliciting a donation from Jacobs — one of San Diego’s most well-heeled Democratic fat cats — the D-Triple-C’s representative Noah Mamet had gotten subtle but nonetheless strong signals that if Jacobs were to lay down 20 grand to sit at the head table with Gore, it might be a good idea if the Veep dropped by his company for a visit. And don’t get me wrong here. Irwin Jacobs is a class act with a great company and he, along with his trusty lieutenant Alan Viterbi, have been very kind to me in my political career.
But the entrepreneurial Jacobs also has a reputation for coming in at the eleventh hour and buying things up at bargain prices, and this is what I think he might have done with the Gore visit. And of course this irritated me to no end because here Chuck and Darlyn Davenport had ponied up five times what Jacobs was giving, but because the White House already had their money in the bank, Jacobs wound up with the press event.
Al Gore's Code Name
So it was that I began my Day of the Gore at Qualcomm’s headquarters watching Al give a speech that got laughs and applause. This is because Gore has not only developed a fine sense of comic timing, he has acquired a stable of good Hollywood comedy writers. Some Gore gems that day: “If you use a strobe light, it looks like Al Gore is moving." "Al Gore is so boring his code name is Al Gore.” “How can you tell Al Gore from his Secret Service agents? Al Gore is the stiff one.”
When it was over, I went outside and met my press secretary Lisa Ross in front of Gore’s stretch limo. Little Lisa had spent days insuring that I would ride to the Davenports’ with the Veep — one of my perquisites for setting up the event — and it was supposed to be a done deal. Nobody told the Secret Service agents, however, and the closest I got to the limo was a rough hand on my chest and some directions toward a waiting phalanx of vehicles. The next thing I knew I was being ushered into some cheesy Ford Aerostar minivan that would wind up playing the caboose in the motorcade.
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