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Crashing the Party

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In an effort to give the impression that he loves New York almost as much as Hillary Clinton does, the vice-president opened a three-person branch office on West 45th Street back in February, and he and Tipper have dropped by the city twice in just the past two weeks. Last Wednesday, Al mingled with Internet entrepreneurs and invited ubiquitous Clinton fan Harvey Weinstein of Miramax and about 50 other CEOs to drop by NYU for an afternoon get-together. Tipper probably had more fun, hosting a gay-and-lesbian fund-raiser at the National Arts Club (a few protesters nothwithstanding).

But Al and his wife are simply not in a position to spend all their time making new friends these days, so campaign insiders are trying to stress all the other fun people you can meet if you join the Gore team. Fund-raisers, in other words, are good places to network. Indeed, the first New York meeting of GoreNet, a group for young professionals, took place at the Tribeca Film Center last week. Morton "Tim" Fry, a New York entertainment lawyer and an organizer of a lawyers' group for the vice-president, says, "The allure of campaign events is not just Gore but the quality of the people he's attracting. It's cool to be out at a dinner with many of these people."

A member of the Gore staff puts it this way: "No one's under the illusion that if they write a $1,000 check they'll spend quality time with the vice-president. But they might spend quality time with Orin Kramer or Steve Rattner." That might be more interesting than watching Al dance the Macarena, but Kramer sounds amused by the notion that people might want to curry favor with him. Still, he's well aware that many donors do have an angle. One money manager told him, "I'll get involved because I hope I'll meet a bunch of wealthy people who'll become investors for me." Kramer remains dubious. "That's a poor use of his time," he says. "People don't get investors through politics."

Kramer tasted White House power twenty years ago as a member of Jimmy Carter's domestic-policy staff, and he has no interest in going back, so now his motivation comes from a lifelong allegiance to the party and the sheer fun of being a player. At the Gore Wall Street rally on June 17, the lanky Kramer plucked whistles and a placard from protesters, throwing himself into the effort like an eager new volunteer.

Steve Rattner, who is stepping down as deputy chief executive at Lazard Frères to become the company's deputy chairman in September, is often portrayed as wanting to be the next Bob Rubin, but those who know Rattner well say that his reasons for getting involved in the Gore campaign are more complicated, reflecting a mixture of personal loyalty to the vice-president and fidelity to centrist Democratic politics. "I have no idea what I'm going to do next," says Rattner of his professional life. "I could do something else in the next eighteen months that would preclude Washington. And going to Washington is less intriguing after watching people like Dick Holbrooke get chewed up."

But all speculation about anyone's job prospects is academic at this point. First Gore has to win, and the job of calling around to ask for money is a thankless one, so the Gore campaign has tried to make it into a competitive game by creating detailed rules for keeping score. Gore's fund-raisers get credit in a kind of pyramid scheme for every check that can be linked back to them. As a result, people are fighting over checks, yelling at each other, "I brought that money in."

The system works this way: Zagat Guide's Tim Zagat and New Line's Robert Friedman both received calls this year from Jonathan Tisch asking them to give money to Gore and call their friends. "Jonathan asks me for something, I do it," says Zagat. Similarly, Friedman says, "I've called ten or twenty people." Under the Gore bookkeeping formula, Tisch will be credited with any checks these men bring in, since he made the initial calls. But Zagat and Friedman would also get their own gold stars in this double-entry system. The highly competitive Tisch declined to be interviewed. A spokeswoman said he turns down all requests to discuss his political activities. (His reticence is not surprising, given the Tisch family's ownership of Lorillard tobacco, makers of Newport and Kent cigarettes, and Gore's recent record as an anti-smoking crusader.)

The Bradley campaign has a less formal way of keeping track of who's doing the most work. "We don't do elaborate scorekeeping," scoffs Lou Susman. "Gore's donors are lobbyists and Washington-lawyer types, people who are looking for favors. A substantial number of our donors are independents, Republicans, people looking for something fresh."


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