The FBI was asked Wednesday to investigate the mysterious delivery of a package containing a videotape and a half-inch stack of documents relating to Texas Gov. George W. Bush's preparation for this fall's presidential debates to a close friend and adviser to Vice President Gore.
The bizarre episode came a day before representatives of the Bush and Gore campaigns are scheduled to meet with the Commission on Presidential Debates to begin negotiations for the forums between the candidates.
The package, carrying a postmark of Austin, Texas, arrived at the lobbying firm of former House member Tom Downey, who had been tapped by Gore to play the role of Bush in the vice president's debate training sessions. After briefly viewing the videotape and scanning the documents, Downey called his lawyer and asked him to turn them over to the FBI.
FBI spokesman John Collingwood said the bureau was determining which, if any, statutes are applicable.
Cheney: Coverage "trivial'
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. _ Republican vice presidential candidate Dick Cheney lashed out at news organizations Wednesday, saying they focus too much on "absolutely trivial issues" during election campaigns.
Cheney said intense competition among news outlets apparently has changed the way that campaigns are covered, even when compared with election coverage done only a few years ago.
The need to produce stories for a growing number of Internet-based news sites and 24-hour cable television news channels may be partially responsible for changing the way journalists cover campaigns, Cheney said in response to a question from the audience.
"So you end up with absolutely trivial issues dominating an entire (news) cycle . . . that really have nothing to do with the election," he said. "The way that works serves to distract everybody and to take the focus off the basic issues that we ought to be concerned about."
Cheney said many complex issues such as taxes, the Social Security system, Medicare and military readiness are difficult and time-consuming for journalists to report on.
While acknowledging the importance of press freedom, Cheney said there should "be some degree of accountability with respect to how they perform during the course of an election."
Judge declares Buchanan Reform Party nominee
LONG BEACH, Calif. _ A California judge declared Pat Buchanan the true Reform Party presidential nominee on Wednesday, dealing another setback to rival John Hagelin.
Superior Court Judge James L. Wright ordered Hagelin not to campaign as the party's nominee, and Hagelin said he would honor that ruling, both in California and nationwide. His lawyer said he would seek to delay the force of the ruling while appealing it.
Hagelin said he would continue to campaign as the Natural Law Party candidate and also would seek broader support.
"We're moving ahead dynamically with what we hope will be a very high-profile campaign," he said in a telephone interview.
Forbes in dead heat
A 71-year-old former librarian who spent a paltry $40,000 on her campaign battled Republican-turned-Democrat Rep. Michael Forbes to a dead heat in their New York primary.
Unofficial returns Wednesday showed Regina "Reggie" Seltzer leading by 39 votes out of more than 11,000 cast. Election officials estimate 600 absentee ballots were sent out, and the ones that are returned won't be counted before next Tuesday's deadline. A full recount also is planned.
Despite the uncertainty, Seltzer said: "I really can't believe that I won. It says anybody, anybody in this country, can still have a shot at running for government."
Forbes, a three-term congressman who switched parties last year, amassed a $1.4-million war chest, some of that coming from a fundraiser last April that featured President Clinton.