Going After Gore

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: Fund-raising attack dog Fred Thompson wants immunity for 19 witnesses who may be able to connect Al Gore to a slew of illegal and improper donations. But Republicans need two more votes to achieve a two-thirds majority on the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee that must approve the immunity, and Senate Democrats say they are not ready to go along. "We're not getting any kind of cooperation on the things that we hold to be very important," said Tom Daschle. "We just think it's premature." Democrats may block Thompson's efforts to begin hearings next month. Several of his key witnesses have already left the country. These 19, Senate aides say, are smaller fish, mostly monks and nuns at a Buddhist temple who gave the DNC money after a notorious fund-raiser attended by Gore. Investigators are betting they acted as "straw donors" (foils) for wealthy foreign contributors. Meanwhile, some big fish may be falling. Rep. Gerald Solomon, chairman of the House Rules Committee, said Wednesday he has government intercepts that indicate John Huang "committed economic espionage" by passing trade secrets to his former employer, Lippo Group, while he worked in the Commerce department. And though the announcement may itself be a breach of federal law, Solomon may be betting that an FBI espionage charge is just the spark Republicans need.