FBI Focus on Bush Employee

Saturday, September 30th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — Despite her denials, an employee of George W. Bush's media consultant remains the focus of an FBI investigation into how a videotape of his debate preparations were sent to an Al Gore confidant, a federal law enforcement official said Friday.

The FBI was comparing Yvette Lozano's fingerprints with those found on the inside and outside of the package mailed from Austin, Texas, to Washington, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Forensic evidence developed by the FBI links Lozano to the package, The Washington Post reported in Saturday editions, citing unnamed sources.

The label on the Express Mail package received by Gore adviser Tom Downey on Sept. 13 also corresponds to the date and time Lozano was filmed by a security camera mailing a package in the Austin post office, the newspaper reported. Downey turned the package over to the FBI.

Lozano has denied mailing the debate materials. She and her boss, Bush media consultant Mark McKinnon, have said the package she mailed Sept. 11 contained Gap pants that she was returning to the company for exchange.

Bush spokesman Dan Bartlett said late Friday that the FBI has given the campaign no indication of forensic evidence linking Lozano to the package. ``We have every reason to believe that what Ms. Lozano stated are the facts,'' Bartlett said.

One federal investigator cautioned that fingerprints found on the package would not necessarily be conclusive since Lozano may have touched items in the normal course of business at the ad office and had nothing to do with sending the debate videotape and other documents.

On Thursday, Lozano told ABC News that FBI agents earlier that day had taken a second set of fingerprints from her and had seized her computer.

FBI and Justice Department's criminal division's Public Integrity section are trying to decide whether the facts they have amount to a violation of federal law. The most likely statute, officials said, would be one that makes it a crime to steal something from a federally funded activity. The Bush campaign has accepted federal funding. But it isn't a federal crime unless the item stolen is worth more than $5,000.

Lozano could be prosecuted for false statements to an FBI agent if the government decides or is prepared to show that her denials were false.

McKinnon's firm has been at the center of speculation in part because of his prior work for Democrats. The master copy of the Bush debate practice videotape was kept at his offices, as well as a briefing book, the contents of which were copied and sent to Downey with the tape.