TIME: Johnny Come Often (3/3/97)
Chung's Attorney Speaks Out
Nothing improper in donations, White House visits, he says
LOS ANGELES (AllPolitics, March 12) -- California businessman Johnny Chung, one of the key figures in the Democratic fund-raising controversy, remains an ardent admirer of Bill Clinton, but is "troubled" by how the Democratic National Committee (DNC) has handled the fund-raising flap.
In a live interview today with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Chung's attorney, Brian Sun, said Chung believes there was a rush to judgment by the DNC, which has returned $366,000 that Chung gave the party because officials were not sure of the money's true source.
But Sun insisted that they were proper contributions. Asked if any of the money came from the government of China, Sun said, "Absolutely not."
"The money that was donated by Mr. Chung and his business was money that was completely under his control and discretion," Sun said. "He is the one who decided how much to donate and when and for what particular event or what purpose.
"So the suggestion or notion that has been made in the press and from other quarters perhaps that Mr. Chung is a conduit for foreign money is absolutely untrue," Sun said.
Sun said the money came from investors and shareholders, income from a fax broadcast business, plus consulting fees paid to Chung by business interests seeking to do business in the United States.
And Sun insisted there was never any promise to Chung that if he gave money to the Democrats he would get something in return, including White House access. "Nothing like that happened in this case," the attorney said.
Chung turned over one $50,000 contribution to Margaret Williams, the first lady's chief of staff, at the White House.
Sun sought to minimize the circumstances of that donation, saying it was only a brief meeting. "In many respects, Mr. Chung wonders today why it's such a big deal now," he said.
Sun was also asked about a National Security Council memo that characterized Chung as a "hustler." National Security aide Robert Suettinger wrote, "I recommend that we be very careful about the kind of political favors he is granted."
Sun said Suettinger's comment was "not based on any familiarity with my client."
"He [Suettinger] may be entitled to his opinion, but I think he's wrong," Sun said.
Asked about Chung's reported 50 visits to the White House, Sun said many were brief stops to pick up photographs or for short conversations and the actual number of substantive visits were "far fewer than that."
Blitzer asked Sun if Chung himself would agree to be interviewed sometime. "We'll wait and see," the attorney said.
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