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NSC Documents Show Concern About Dem Contributors

By Brooks Jackson/CNN

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Feb. 14) -- The White House has released new National Security Council documents it hopes will help clear the way for CIA Director nominee Anthony Lake's confirmation. But the memoranda also raise a slew of new questions about Asian donations to the Democrats.

The documents, released in connection with Lake's nomination, show some of President Clinton's Asian and Asian-American donors dabbled in U.S. international policy matters, sometimes to the dismay of the president's national security staff.

During a diplomatic crisis last year, after Clinton dispatched U.S. aircraft carriers to the Taiwan Strait, Clinton's old friend and Democratic fund-raiser Charles Trie wrote to him with a dire warning.

"It is highly possible for China to launch real war," Trie wrote, advising less aggressive action. Trie was seeking business deals with China at the time.


A month later, after the crisis subsided, the president replied personally, reassuring Trie that sending ships "was not intended as a threat" to the Chinese.

The president's national security aides were unable to head off self-appointed diplomatic mission by another big Democratic donor, Johnny Chung.

Seeking the release of human-rights activist Harry Wu, Chung planned to tell top officials in China that Clinton had personally sanctioned his trip. National Security aide Robert Suettinger said that was "very troubling," and that Chung could "conceivably do damage."

Wrote Suettinger: "No one in the administration has any idea of what he plans to say. I recommend that we be very careful about the kind of political favors he is granted."

Chung did get a letter of introduction from Democratic Party Chairman Don Fowler, but not from the president.

Earlier, Suettinger said of Chung, "My impression is that he's a hustler."

Chung wanted some White House photos from a Clinton radio address attended by Chung and some business associates.

Suettinger wrote, "I don't see any lasting damage to U.S. foreign policy ... And to the degree it motivates (Chung) to continue contributing to the DNC, who am I to complain?" No photos were delivered, however.

Suettinger also warned Vice President Al Gore's staff about Gore's plans to visit a Buddhist Temple near Los Angeles last year.

"This would clearly be a Taiwan event and would be seen as such," by the Chinese government, Suettinger said. "I guess my reaction would be one of great, great caution. This may have a hidden agenda."

Gore went ahead anyway. Aides now say they made sure no Taiwanese flags were showing to avoid angering the Chinese. Gore once claimed he did not know the temple event was a fund-raiser even though participants gave the Democratic Party $140,000.

But a memo to Suettinger from Gore aide John Norris refers to the event plainly as "a fund-raising lunch for about 150 people in the (vice president's) honor."

These documents don't prove that campaign contributors influenced policy. but they do show White House aides worried that they might.

The documents cut both ways. White House officials suggested they demonstrate that the National Security staff, which Lake headed, offered clear warnings about entangling policy and fund-raising.

Press Secretary Mike McCurry told The Associated Press: "The fundamental import of some of these documents is that we had a National Security Council, professional people, that gave when asked, I think, pretty good counsel that should have been more closely heeded."

But they also show that Gore's office was warned about the temple event and chose to go anyway.

In another development in the Democratic fund-raising controversy, the White House defended Clinton's continuing attendance at fund-raisers designed to raise so-called "soft money."

McCurry said attending such fund-raisers, like one sponsored by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), does not "violate all of the reforms that he (Clinton) laid down."

McCurry says unless the nation moves to public financing of campaigns, with taxpayers footing the bill, "there are going to be fund-raisers. Candidates will have to raise money."

When pressed by reporters over the inconsistency of decrying soft money but continuing to attend the fund-raisers, McCurry replied, "It would be better if we could do without soft money. The president has never said we're going to stop taking it, he said we're going to restrict the way in which we take it and we're going to see if we can work with the Republican Party to abolish it."

McCurry says the nation is in a climate where "you go to a fund-raiser, that's prima facie bad; any fund-raiser is bad."

McCurry criticized Ann McBride, president of the watchdog group Common Cause, saying "under the plan that she supports there are still going to be fund-raisers."

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