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Gore Seeks Pro-Environment Business’ Campaign Donations

By Ceci Connolly

Eager to fatten its bank account before the third quarter ends next week, Vice President Al Gore’s campaign is promising pro-environment business leaders a special session with campaign Chairman Tony Coelho if they raise $5,000 by next Thursday.

The last-minute money press reflects twin challenges facing Gore: he needs to demonstrate as much fund-raising prowess as possible in his next campaign finance report and he wants to prove that last week’s endorsement of Bill Bradley by Friends of the Earth was an anomaly, not the start of a trend among environmental groups.

“It’s admittedly a reaction to” the Bradley endorsement, said Miami lawyer Mitchell Berger. “We wanted to make sure the vice president knew we appreciated his efforts for the environmental community over the years.”

One environmentalist said Gore was “personally wounded” by the decision of Friends of the Earth to back his rival for the Democratic nomination. Now his aides are eager to reassure Gore -- and the general public -- that he retains the support of other environmental activists.

Former Gore aides and administration officials working in the private sector in recent days launched a round of coast-to-coast telephone calls to a network that includes environmental engineers, protectors of the Everglades and Californians who care about the coast.

“I am calling people I know who have very strong environmental beliefs but are not necessarily connected to an organization,” said John Garamendi, a former Interior Department official who has reached 10 fund-raisers so far. “They believe Al Gore is solid and has proven himself in the last seven years.”

Initially, the Gore team planned an intimate soiree with the vice president and environmentalists at the home of fund-raiser Peter Knight. The gathering was described as a chance to exchange views with the vice president in a small, informal setting, said one invitee. The plans were changed to a session with Coelho -- and a later reception with Gore -- because of scheduling conflicts.

One environmental consultant who was solicited to raise the money said he was offended by the tactic of offering a meeting with Gore on the condition that he come with checks in hand.

“‘And by the way, it’s $5,000 a pop,’ ” this consultant said, describing the call.