Casey: Gore's Pot Use Irrelevant To Presidency

Posted: December 15, 1987

HARRISBURG — Gov. Casey met yesterday with Tennessee Sen. Albert Gore Jr. and later told reporters that he felt Gore's recent admission that he had smoked marijuana in his youth was not relevant to his qualifications as a candidate for president.

Two weeks ago when Otto F. Hofmann, Casey's nominee for the Public Utility

Commission, withdrew because of the disclosure that he had used marijuana before 1980, Casey took a stern line on drug use. He said that although he would not arbitrarily exclude anyone because of past drug use, "once that surfaces, there's a very strong presumption that that person has got to overcome, in my judgment."

Yesterday, asked about that statement and Gore's admission last month that he had smoked marijuana in college and in the Army, Casey indicated that he did not see the issue as important.

"I think in the case of Sen. Gore, that happened a long time ago," said

Casey. "I'm not aware of that issue having had any measurable impact whatsoever on his campaign thus far, and I would think that that issue, as

applied to Sen. Gore, would almost approach irrelevance in terms of his qualification to be president."

Gore, 39, did not discuss the issue. He disclosed his past marijuana use in the wake of the marijuana-smoking controversy that killed President Reagan's nomination of Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg to the U.S. Supreme Court. Gore also disclosed that his wife, Tipper, had used marijuana in college. Tipper Gore has been the organizer of a national campaign against rock-music lyrics that celebrate the use of drugs or casual sex.

Casey said yesterday that he was not prepared to endorse any candidate. The governor praised Gore as "one of the dynamic new leaders of the Democratic Party."

In a matter related to the Hofmann case, Sen. David J. Brightbill (R., Lebanon), who provided the governor with the report of Hofmann's drug use, accused Peter J. Smith, Casey's inspector general, of misrepresenting an important discussion that Brightbill and Smith had about the case. Brightbill complained that Smith's report, made public last week, made it appear that he was withholding information.

Brightbill supports supervising the movement of executive-branch nominations through the Senate. On Nov. 24, he furnished Casey administration officials with a private detective's report that purported to show that Hofmann had used marijuana when he was a legal services lawyer in Crawford County in the 1970s.

Brightbill said the report had turned up anonymously in the office of Sen. Edwin G. Holl (R., Montgomery), who had turned it over to him.

Hofmann withdrew the next day after confirming to Casey's aides that he had occasionally used marijuana before 1980.

Casey, who said Hofmann had removed himself from consideration before he had an opportunity to decide whether to keep him, ordered Smith to investigate the source of the charges. Smith reported that he had traced the investigation to a detective agency in Erie, Assured Investigations, but said the agency's owners refused to identify their client.

In his report, Smith said he talked with Brightbill on Dec. 2. He said Brightbill told him that seeking to find the source of the report "would hurt the working relationship between the governor's office and the Senate majority."

Brightbill said Smith had "deliberately misrepresented" their conversation. "What I said was in this case we had given them all the information we had, but in this case, it became a very sensitive matter to ask a member of the General Assembly to turn over his sources."

Brightbill said that Smith agreed with him.

Smith said yesterday that he did not think his report misrepresented what Brightbill had said, but he declined to discuss the matter in detail.

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