WASHINGTON, D.C.: The pressure must be on when Vice President Al Gore looks excited. Undoubtedly feeling a chill over his own presidential prospects next time around, Gore called a press conference today and confirmed to reporters that he had solicited campaign contributions over the phone from his White House office, but firmly denied that he had done anything wrong. "Everything I did, I understood to be lawful," he said. The phone calls, he explained, were charged to the Democratic National Committee, not to taxpayers. While stressing that he had never solicited federal employees for donations, Gore said that his status as Vice President means he is exempt from federal laws that prohibit fund-raising in public buildings. Brushing off a report in The Washington Post on Sunday that he had strong-armed contributors, the Vice President said that he had actually felt "uncomfortable" pressing DNC supporters for donations. But he added that faced with superior Republican campaign financing, he had played "by the rules as they exist" so that what he "believed in" — namely, the Administration's policies — could be carried out in a second Clinton term. Maybe so, but the President apparently was more cautious: he reportedly refused to solicit campaign contributions from the Oval Office.