Gore Confidant Turns Over Debate Plans

ByABC News
September 14, 2000, 7:05 AM

W A S H I N G T O N, Sept. 14 -- The FBI is assessing a videotape and documents sent to a confidant of Al Gore that relate to George W. Bushs debate preparations.

Tom Downey, a former New York congressman who had been helping the vice president prepare for debates, received the mysterious package at his Washington office Tuesday morning. After viewing the enclosed VHS tape for less than a minute and looking through the half-inch thick stack of written documents, he contacted his lawyer Marc Miller, the attorney said. Miller than contacted the FBI which took possession of the package and its contents Wednesday afternoon.

When Mr. Downey determined what it was or what he thought it was, Miller told ABCNEWS, we decided we didnt want to have anything to do with it.

The Real Deal

A Democratic lawyer knowledgeable about the contents of the package told ABCNEWS that the videotape and papers are the real deal and appear to be actual material from the Bush campaigns debate preparations.

Clearly, this is something that should not have been sent to me, Downey said in a statement.

Downey told associates that the tape showed a mock-debate session between the Texas governor and New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg, the Bush camps stand-in for Gore, the Associated Press reported.

The package, according to Downeys attorney, was shipped via 2-Day Express Mail and has a postmark of Austin, Texas, where the Bush campaigns headquarters is located. Miller added that the package had a return address as well as a typed, but unsigned note addressed to Downey.

The bizarre incident occurred on the eve of a meeting between Bush and Gore campaign officials and the Commission on Presidential Debates to resolve a longstanding dispute over the date, venue and format for televised debates this fall.

The bipartisan commission, which has determined the details of presidential debates since the 1988 campaign, has scheduled three dates for 90-minute forums: Oct. 3, in Boston; Oct. 11, in Winston-Salem, N. C.; and Oct. 17 in St. Louis. The Gore campaign agreed to the plan, but on Sept. 3, Bush announced he was accepting only one of those forums and proposed two other 60-minute debates on TV talk-shows.