London (CNSNews.com) - A Russian lawmaker is trying to obtain archived Soviet government documents he believes will prove that U.S. Vice-President Al Gore benefited early in his political career from communist party funds -- channeled through an American industrialist.
Occidental Petroleum Corporation chairman Armand Hammer, who died in 1990 at age 92, was suspected of being a lifelong Soviet agent. At the very least, he was an agent of influence for Moscow throughout the Soviet era, according to New York writer Ed Epstein in his investigative biography of Hammer, Dossier.
The book, based partly on some 5,000 pages of Kremlin records released after the fall of the Soviet Union, describes Hammer as a launderer of Soviet money. It says some of his profits went to Soviet espionage networks in the U.S.
According to a Russian radio report monitored and translated by the BBC, Aleksey Mitrofanov, a lawmaker in Russia's Liberal Democratic Party, applied last month to the federal state archive in Moscow for information about decisions made by the Soviet Politburo concerning "cooperation and relations" with Hammer and Gore's father.
The late Albert Gore Sr., a Tennessee Democrat, became a director of Occidental after he lost his U.S. Senate seat in 1970, in part because of his vigorous opposition to the Vietnam War.
Mitrofanov said the archive documents would throw light on "the mechanism of supporting Armand Hammer and former Senator Albert Gore Sr. by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union."
"I already have this information. My purpose is to get it officially," Mitrofanov told Ekho Moskvy radio, according to the BBC transcript.
The Communist Party of the Soviet Union had financed Gore's opposition to the Vietnam War, he charged, as well as steps taken by Gore to have an FBI investigation into Hammer closed.
"All this is very interesting, especially in connection with the ongoing presidential campaign in the United States," Mitrofanov said.
Not only did Vice-President Gore start his political career on "money given by Hammer or, in fact, on Soviet money," but in fact so did President Clinton, he claimed.
Mitrofanov is a lawmaker in the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party, headed by the controversial Vladimir Zhirinovsky. The largest party in the Duma in 1993, it has been in decline since, winning less than seven per cent of the vote in last December's parliamentary elections, although still attracting military personnel and disillusioned communists.
Hammer was the son of Julius Hammer, a Russian immigrant who was a founding member of the American Communist Party.
A successful businessman with interests in Russia early last century, he rubbed shoulders with Soviet leaders from Lenin to Gorbachev, various biographies attest.
"Everybody knows that Hammer got his most profitable contracts in the Soviet Union on Politburo decisions," Mitrofanov said last month.
In the U.S., Hammer became a wealthy industrialist and CEO of Occidental Petroleum, and sought to influence American politicians at all levels of public life.
In 1975 he pleaded guilty on charges of making illegal campaign contributions to President Richard Nixon, a misdemeanor for which he was later pardoned by President Bush.
Hammer was also obsessed with winning the Nobel peace prize, according to Epstein, and even made the shortlist in 1989, the year it was awarded to the Dalai Lama.
Neil Lyndon, a British journalist who worked as a personal political and media consultant for Hammer in the 1980s, has described how Vice-President Gore schmoozed with Hammer, regularly having meals with him in Washington and attending lavish functions hosted by the businessman.
"Separately and together, the Gores sometimes used Hammer's luxurious private Boeing 727 for their own journeys and jaunts. Tipper [Gore] once hitched a ride with us when Hammer was flying back to America from Europe," he wrote in a British newspaper two years ago.
"Like his father's before him, Al Gore Jr's political career was lavishly sponsored by Hammer from the moment it began until Hammer died, only two years before Gore joined Clinton in the 1992 race for the White House," said Lyndon.
In return, he continued, Gore did favors for the highly reputation-conscious Hammer, including securing him a conspicuous seat at presidential inaugurations.
When President Bush was inaugurated in 1989, said Lyndon, Gore ensured Hammer had the "best seat in the house," one which gave him the opportunity to shake hands with Presidents Reagan and Bush, Vice-President Quayle, the Chief Justice, and well as Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush.
According to other published reports, Hammer's relationship with Gore Sr. left a lucrative legacy to the vice-president. Hammer sold Gore Sr. some land near his Tennessee farm where Occidental ostensibly wanted to mine for zinc. The mining never got underway, but Occidental paid Gore $20,000 a year for the mining rights.
The land was later sold to Gore Jr, who has reportedly earned $450,000 in income over the years, according to reports in the U.S. and British press.
The London Observer earlier this year reported that Occidental loaned $100,000 to the Clinton-Gore inaugural committee in 1992, and donated around half a million dollars to the Democratic Party since Gore went onto the ticket.
Attempts to reach Mitrofanov for comment have been unsuccessful.
(Translation courtesy of BBC: Ekho Moskvy, Moscow, 0900 gmt 05 Oct 2000. BBC Monitoring ©BBC)