Clinton: No Knowledge Of Trie Fund-raising -- Dec. 17, 1996
Gore, Huang Visited Taiwan Together In 1989 -- Dec. 13, 1996
Another Buddhist Fund-raising Connection
By Brooks Jackson/CNN
WASHINGTON (Dec. 17) -- There's a new and bizarre twist to the Asian money story. This time it's another Buddhist group, and envelopes stuffed with money.
Ching Hai is the latest player in Bill Clinton's Asian money affair -- and one of the strangest. She calls herself the supreme master of a world-wide Buddhist group. Some call it a cult.
She has thousands of followers, and pages devoted to her on the World Wide Web. Now CNN has learned Ching Hai personally asked followers to donate money to help pay Bill and Hillary Clinton's legal bills.
Charles Yah Lin Trie, Arkansas businessman and Democratic National Committee fund-raiser, delivered the money in manila envelopes last April, including money orders from Los Angeles, Houston, Washington, D.C., and other cities, all made out in identical handwriting and numbered in order.
Clinton's legal fund trustees were suspicious and hired a private investigator.
"The report which was received from the investigative group indicated that the donors appeared to be members of a Buddhist organization, and that there may have been encouragement from that organization to make the contributions," said Michael Cardoza, the attorney who oversees the president's legal fund.
Now CNN has learned that Ching Hai herself asked followers in the U.S. to donate, calling Bill Clinton "good for world peace."
Clinton's trustees returned the money -- $639,000 in all -- and the president says they did the right thing.
"In all these fund-raising endeavors, the rules should be that all the checks should be checked to make sure that not only the fact but any even appearance of wrongdoing should be removed," Clinton told reporters today.
Trie, said to be a follower of Ching Hai, is from Little Rock and has known Clinton for 20 years. As governor, Clinton ate often at Trie's restaurant near the State Capitol.
Trie also has business ties to Clinton's other Asian-money friends. Phone logs show he often contacted John Huang, the man who raised hundreds of thousands of illegal and questionable contributions that the Democratic Party had to return over the last two months.
And Trie has a long business relationship with Clinton's friend James Riady and the Indonesian Lippo Group. CNN has learned that in 1984, Trie's restaurant got a $60,000 loan from the Lippo Finance and Investment company in Little Rock.
Clinton's legal fund trustees say they know of nothing illegal about the Ching Hai money. They say none of it came from Huang or the Riady family or theother Buddhist group near Los Angeles where Huang raised money.
But the latest twist raises more questions: where did some of that money really come from? And why didn't the Clintons take more care about Asian contributions after Hillary Rodham Clinton was briefed about the suspicions surrounding it last April?
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