Frame Game

Al Gore’s Fund-Raising Dictionary

Two months ago, a Justice Department investigator interrogated Vice President Al Gore for four hours about alleged fund-raising violations in the 1996 Clinton-Gore re-election campaign. Last weekend, in an effort to douse allegations that Attorney General Janet Reno was covering up Gore’s misdeeds, the vice president released the transcript of that deposition. “The truth is my friend,” said Gore. But is it? That depends upon what the meaning of “friend” is. In his deposition, Gore redefined that word and many others. Here’s a glossary of fund-raising terminology according to the transcript, complete with Gore’s preferred synonyms (syn) and related words (rel), the antonyms (ant) and contrasted words (con) that connote what Gore does not wish to convey, and examples of his usage of each word or phrase.

Support,n., money. Also vt., contribute money to. Syn: Join, be a part of, become active in politics, get involved in the political process. (“One of the principal purposes of the trip was to cultivate support for the DSCC.”) Con: tribute, ransom, booty. Ant: bribes.

Coffee,n., small gathering to cultivate high-dollar contributors. Rel: tool. Con: lap dance. Ant: fund-raiser. (“When I use the term ’coffee,’ in terms of raising the amount necessary for the DNC to succeed, I don’t mean it in terms of money being contributed at the event. I mean it in terms of the coffee being a tool by which those funds are raised.”)

Influential,adj., capable of making large financial contributions. (“I thought they [coffees] were events that allowed the president to spend time with influential people who wanted to talk about policy.”) Syn: politically active. Ant: rich, ripe, loaded.

Community,n., ethnic group capable of making large financial contributions. (“It’s not unusual to have events focused on a specific community. There are, for example, events with Jewish Americans, where a specific agenda is included in the briefing paper; events with Hispanic Americans; et cetera, et cetera.”) Rel: politically active community. Con: bloc, interest group, lobby. Ant: cash cow, gold mine.

Friend,n., high-dollar contributor. (“This [letter I wrote] is the kind of routine overstatement that is quite common, both in P.S.’s to letters of this sort, and in captions on pictures, et cetera. ‘You’re a great friend, thank you; you two are great friends, thank you; see you soon.’ It’s a typical expression from me in a context like this. Q: So, when you refer to them as great friends, you don’t necessarily mean that? A: I mean to use the phrase in the same way that I use it with a lot of people who have contributed to the campaign and have manifested a generous friendship in that way.”) Con: crony, paymaster. Ant: dupe, meal ticket, sugar daddy.

Relationship,n., financial supply line. (“My administrative assistant, Peter Knight, … informed me that there was, in his view, a great opportunity for me to form a strong relationship with an influential group of Asian-Americans who wanted to become active in politics.”) Rel: closeness, warmth, commitment. (“It’s a letter from Maria Hsia to The Honorable Al Gore. … She indicates in there, ‘I would also like to see you become one of the senators closest to the Asian Pacific community. But for that to occur, we need time and a special commitment from each other.’ “) Ant: teat, pipeline, gusher.

Reach out to,vi., seek financial contributions from. Syn: cultivate, spend time with, build a relationship with. (“It is, it was then and has for a long time been common practice to have meetings with people who are interested in various subjects, spend time with them, cultivate the relationship, show them the respect that the time signifies, and then, on the basis of the relationship that is built up then and in other ways, ask them to support the DNC.”) Con: hit up, shake down. Ant: butter up, suck up to, whore after.

Community outreach,n., cultivation of an ethnic group capable of making large financial contributions. (“If you are reaching outto acommunity that wants to be more involved in the political process, and one of the results of that outreach is going to be that they are going to be more likely to join the DNC Finance Council or make contributions at a later time to the Democratic National Committee, then it is both community outreach and finance-related, and that’s what I thought this event was.”) Ant: pandering, kowtowing, playing the race card.

Share thoughts with,vt., converse with in order to elicit financial contributions. Rel: communicate with, hear the views of, exchange ideas with. (“They [the coffees] were sessions for the exchange of ideas, during which … the president would cultivate a closer relationship with the individuals … and the relationship-building in turn, had an impact on the likelihood that they would become donors.”) Con: schmooze, chat up. Ant: indulge, humor, endure.

Honor,vt., project interest or admiration in order to elicit financial contributions. Also n., the interest or admiration projected. Syn: respect. (“I felt that this [Buddhist temple] visit was something they would be very pleased with because it showed honor to their community and to their place of worship.”) Ant: flattery, ego massage.

Expectation,n., understanding reached without prosecutable documentation. (“It wasn’t a fund-raiser. … It was an outreach to that community, with an expectation that there would be a greater likelihood at some future time that these individuals would get involved in financially supporting the DSCC or my campaigns.”) Rel: assumption, anticipation, contemplation. (“There was, as I’ve said before, an anticipation that the relationships built during these [coffees] might make some of those people more conducive to making financial contributions when they were solicited at a later time.”) Ant: deal, cost, price tag, quid pro quo, money attached. (“I never heard anyone say that a particular amount of money was attached to attendance. … I would be shocked if any of my colleagues who participated in the meetings I was at, or any other meetings at the White House that I was not at, thought of those coffees in that way.”)

Enhance the likelihood of,vt., cause without prosecutable documentation. (“There was an implicit assumption that the time spent, the honors shown, the communication that took place—all would create a warmer, friendlier relationship, a sense of closeness that would greatly enhance the likelihood that later on some of those who were present to see this visit would be more likely to say, ‘I want to be a part of what this person is doing politically and I want to support the DNC.’ “) Rel: make receptive, be conducive to. Ant: trigger, obligate, grease.

Finance-related event,adj., political gathering designed to raise money without prosecutable documentation. Rel: outreach, political event, relationship-building. (“You expressed the opinion earlier that community outreach and finance-related are two very different things. That is your opinion. That is not necessarily a fact. … The finance wing of the DNC had prepared the briefing. So, it was obviously related to … relationship-building and outreach to this particular community.”) Con: solicitation, money changing hands. (“There was no solicitation of money. I did not see any money or checks change hands.”) Ant: fund-raiser. (“I first met these people …[through] a community outreach effort by the DSCC that was also finance-related, but it wasn’t a fund-raiser.”)

On his side of the house,adv., the president’s responsibility. (“They [coffees] were for the president to meet with people who were interested in supporting his policies and his politics. But that was more or less on his side of the house and I’m not the best source of information about that. Q: In terms of a fund-raising tool, what was the purpose of the coffees? A: I don’t know. They were on his side of the house.”) Con: not traceable to me.

Wordsmith,vt., state precisely. (“I never heard them [coffees] described as fund-raising tools. Again, I’ve described what I felt that their role was. And as to whether I agree or disagree with somebody else’s label being placed on it, I hesitate to wordsmith it.”) Ant: admit, clarify, answer truthfully.