Gavel To Gavel

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Gavel To Gavel: Fund-Raising Hearings

Lippo, Commerce Officials To Testify

This week's hearings will focus on John Huang, Indonesian conglomerate

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, July 15) -- The spotlight will be on ex- Democratic fund-raiser John Huang as Senate hearings into campaign finance abuses resume this morning.

With testimony expected to begin at 10 a.m. EDT, members of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee will hear from former Lippo Group executives, including ones from Lippo Bank U.S., the California bank owned by James Riady and once headed by Huang.

Senators are expected to explore the reasons for a substantial severance bonus Huang got from Lippo when he left. They also want to know more about the calls he made to Lippo later while he was working at the Commerce Department, as well as the classified briefings Huang received while a Commerce Department employee.

The expected witnesses today include Hip Hing Holdings employee Juliana Utomo; former Lippo executives James A. Alexander and Harold Arthur; former White House official Gary Christopherson; and Commerce Department official Paul Buskirk. Hip Hing Holdings, a real estate company, was run by Huang and part of the Lippo Group.

On Wednesday, senators will hear from current or former Commerce Department officials Jeffrey Garten, William Ginsberg, Robert Gallagher and Timothy Hauser, along with CIA official John Dickerson, who is expected to testify from behind a screen to keep his appearance hidden.

Whether the panel will hear from Huang himself remains in doubt. Through his attorney, Huang has offered to testify in exchange for limited immunity for any election law violations he may have committed. But Sen. Fred Thompson, the chairman, says he does not believe the committee can legally offer anything short of full immunity.

Partisan jousting continues between Republicans and Democrats on the committee over whether Thompson went too far in his opening statement on an alleged Chinese government plan to influence U.S. elections. Sen. John Glenn, the committee's ranking Democrat, argued the information did not support Thompson's interpretation.

Eight senators on the committee met Monday to try to sort out the dispute, without success.

The committee is looking at abuses and the role of overseas contributions during the 1996 elections, and also at larger questions of how the U.S. finances its political campaigns.

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