CNN/TIME AllPolitics Vote '96

Democrats Promise New Donor Scrutiny


WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Nov. 2) -- Democratic Party leaders, trying to limit the political damage they have caused President Bill Clinton, admitted they have been lax in reviewing political contributions. And finally on Friday, they also filed their last pre-election campaign finance report, more than a week late.

"We've made some mistakes and we take it very seriously," Democratic National Committee executive director B.J. Thornberry told The Washington Post.

DNC officials said that after the 1994 elections, as the staff decreased in size, they abandoned some of the checking they had done to monitor for questionable or illegal campaign contributions. Now, they say, they are more closely checking the backgrounds of anyone who gives more than $10,000 to the party.

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The DNC's tardy financial report, filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), showed the party on Oct. 16 returned an improper $10,000 contribution from a South Korean businessman, Kyung Hoon Lee, chairman of Cheong Am America Inc. The money was raised by embattled Democratic fund-raiser John Huang.

Lee, however, is not a citizen nor legal resident of the U.S. and so is ineligible to contribute. Earlier, the party had returned a $250,000 contribution from Cheong Am America.

DNC officials came under fierce criticism for balking at filing the final, pre-election report. They first said they were not legally required to file because they had no expenditures that would trigger the report. But in the face of pressure and a Republican lawsuit, the party released data on recent contributors and then filed the report.

A DNC spokeswoman told The Associated Press the initial decision not to file was made by Thornberry. That was reversed by party chairmen Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) and Don Fowler.


One highlight in the report was a $500,000 contribution from from Arnold Hiatt, who heads the Stride Rite Foundation of Boston. Hiatt told AP he contributed in hopes that Democrats would regain control of Congress and outlaw "the kind of contribution I made."

In another development in the continuing fund-raising controversy, the White House has refused to say who Democratic fund-raiser Huang met with when he visited the White House. Last week, it was reported that Huang had visited the White House repeatedly during 1995 and 1996, although some of the visits recorded in Secret Service logs were by a second John Huang, not the Democratic fund-raiser.

CBS Radio interviewed the second Huang, who said he was with the IRS and had been at the White House between 12 and 24 times.

Congressional Republicans wanted the information on fund-raiser Huang's visits by noon Friday, but the administration said it could not provide the information that quickly.

In a statement, Rep. William Clinger (R-Pa.), chair of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, said: "President Clinton's lawyers are hiding documents from Congress and the American people about Mr. Huang's frequent White House meetings even though these documents are readily available."

In a letter, White House counsel Jack Quinn accused Clinger of "using your office for partisan electoral purposes" and said the White House needed more time because of the need to retrieve and check many records."

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