06/28/2000 -- Gore's Confederate Donation Uncovers Secret Account
WASHINGTON, D.C. June 28, 2000 -- When Fox Television News revealed that a political committee known as the "Friends of Al Gore, Jr." made a $40 contribution to the Confederate Memorial Committee, they commented that it was ironic. The irony was heightened by the fact that Al Gore has often made it clear that he opposes the official display of the Confederate flag, such as having it fly over the South Carolina Capitol Building, and has suggested that its unofficial display is insensitive.
John Edward Hurley, president of the Confederate Memorial Association and the subject of the Fox interview, said that the Confederate Memorial Committee listed in the Federal Election Commission's 1992 records was not connected with his organization. Hurley said it was set up as a separate Confederate operation which he had long suspected of financing legal action against his organization using a secret political account of at least $100,000.
A Freedom of Information Act request by Hurley uncovered that a $15,000 counter check from this secret account was made out to the National Park Service and given to John Metzler, Superintendent of Arlington National Cemetery. Court records show that Richard Hines, whose address in Alexandria, Virginia, appears on the FEC records for the Confederate Memorial Committee, wired funds to the Metrolina Bank of Charlotte which was owned by political allies of Senator Jesse Helms. These funds were then wired the next day to the First American Bank, which was embroiled in the BCCI banking scandal. Subsequently the fund was transferred to the Mid-Atlantic Credit Union in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
Hines appointed Vicki Heilig to succeed him as chairman of the Confederate Memorial Committee. Heilig, who has a security clearance for sensitive computer information as a subcontractor for a number of government agencies including the U.S. Department of Energy, had been working with Stephen Page Smith, a DOE attorney. Hines is a $550,000 lobbyist for Cambodia.
Hurley said that Judge John H. Bayly, Jr. of the D.C. Superior Court had attempted to cut off discovery in his 12-year court case by quashing a subpoena for the bank records. Hurley said that Judge Bayly had instead frozen the funds of his Confederate Memorial Association in the obvious hope that the matter would not be pursued.
"This is a political funding scandal of major proportions," Hurley said, "and before this is over we are going to find out a lot more about illegal campaign contributions."