Updated 7/1/97

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In Focus

The Democratic Fund-Raising Flap

Cast of Characters


Haley Barbour Former chairman of the Republican National Committee, Barbour led the GOP charge in mid-October that the DNC was attempting to cover up wrongdoing by refusing to release a pre-election spending report with the Federal Election Commission (which the DNC eventually did). Barbour's successor is Jim Nicholson, formerly the head of Colorado's Republican party.


Ron Brown The late Commerce Secretary was sued by Judicial Watch two years ago, over allegations Brown used overseas trade missions as a way to raise campaign funds for the Democrats from U.S. companies. Since this fall's disclosures of aggressive Democratic fund-raising by ex-Commerce Department staff member John Huang, the lawsuit has assumed greater importance. And, Sen. Fred Thompson's (R-Tenn.) committee investigating fund-raising abuses has subpoenaed Brown's phone logs.


Dan Burton -- Chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, this feisty Indiana Republican has taken over from former Rep. William Clinger (R-Penn.) as the principal House watchdog and has budgeted $3.8 million for an investigation of 1996 campaign fund-raising, though Congress approved as much as $6.5 million for the probe. A vocal and persistent White House critic, Burton is being investigated by the FBI after Pakistani lobbyist and longtime Democratic activist Mark Siegel accused him of shaking him down for campaign donations.


Johnny Chung -- Having donated $366,000 to the DNC, Chung was named "managing trustee." Documents show he visited the White House 49 times and pressured Clinton for a letter of introduction for a trip to Beijing on behalf of imprisoned Chinese-American human rights activist Harry Wu. National Security Council officials described Chung as a "hustler" whose activities were "very troubling" for U.S. diplomacy.


Bill Clinton When reports surfaced in February that foreign donations may have been coordinated from the Chinese Embassy, Clinton called for a "vigorous" and "thorough" investigation. Provoking a spat with the FBI, the president complained he should have been briefed about possible Chinese funding schemes. Regarding the torrent of revelation concerning Democratic fund-raising practices, Clinton conceded during a Jan. 28 news conference that "mistakes were made", though he carefully skirted any personal culpability. Soon, however, the White House admitted the president had himself erred, having approved a White House coffee guest list that included DNC officials, Comptroller of the Currency Eugene Ludwig, and several banking executives. As the most powerful Democrat in the country and the de facto leader of the party, Clinton's numerous meetings with former DNC fund-raiser John Huang, his ties to the Riady family, and the maze of Southeast Asian businesses anchored in Little Rock, Ark., may bear further scrutiny. Most damaging, if true, would be the finding that Clinton allowed U.S. foreign policy to be affected by Riady or other non-U.S. contributors. Clinton has vehemently denied the suggestion.


Lanny Davis -- Davis, an attorney, took over from Mark Fabiani as the White House's point man on questions concerning Democratic fund-raising, Whitewater and Travelgate.


Ching Hai -- Spiritual leader of a Taiwan-based Buddhist sect, Ching Hai urged her followers to contribute to President Clinton's Whitewater legal defense fund after meeting with Clinton associate Charles Yah Lin Trie, who is a follower of Ching Hai. Of some $600,000 in donations from Ching Hai's followers, most were returned because they did not meet the fund's guidelines.


Christopher Dodd Former co-chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Dodd defended the DNC from Republican National Committee chairman Haley Barbour's charges of corruption. Dodd's successor is Colorado Gov. Roy Romer.


Don Fowler Former co-chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Fowler appeared before reporters on Nov. 11, 1996 to defend the DNC's fund-raising practices. "Never has there been any desire, plan or intent to evade requirements of applicable laws and regulations," Fowler said. He said the DNC's "mistakes" were the result of the high volume of donations received during the election year. In February, he conceded that guests at White House coffees were routinely solicited for funds, raising some $27 million for the DNC. Fowler's successor is Colorado Gov. Roy Romer.


John Huang At the center of the fund-raising flap, former DNC fund-raiser Huang has seen some $3 million of the $4-5 million he raised for the Democrats returned to the donors. Huang, 46, has so far refused to cooperate with congressional investigators. He was born in China, but grew up in Taiwan and attended the University of Connecticut, becoming a U.S. citizen in 1976. Before joining the DNC, Huang was a deputy assistant secretary for trade in the Commerce Department and before that, he headed Lippo's U.S. affiliate. A longtime associate of Bill Clinton's, Huang's banking career also included a stint as vice president at the Worthen Bank in Little Rock, Ark. Records show that Huang has been a frequent visitor at the White House and has pressed Clinton on matters related to Indonesia. Huang arranged for a Chinese weapons dealer to attend a White House coffee, and his records show he also attended policy meetings at the Chinese Embassy in 1995.


Webster Hubbell Whitewater figure Webster Hubbell got work from the Riady empire just before he went to prison. Hubbell testified on those connections at a Senate Whitewater hearing last February: "The Lippo Group itself was not my client, but a representative of that group -- one of their affiliates -- was a client of mine." Republican investigators suggested that the job was meant to provide Hubbell with money to keep him quiet about Whitewater, a charge Hubbell denies.


Harold Ickes -- Former Deputy White House Chief Of Staff Ickes is being investigated after a memo surfaced indicating he coordinated a million-dollar loan from Democratic contributor Warren Meddoff. Once a close advisor to the president, Ickes was somewhat unceremoniously dumped from the administration on the urging of incoming Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles. On Feb. 12, Clinton appointed Ickes to serve as director of the 1997 G-7 Summit in Denver, Colo. Thousands of documents released by Ickes to investigators painted a picture of a White House consumed by fund-raising concerns, and detailed number perks offered to potential donors.


Judicial Watch/Larry Klayman Run by Klayman out of his Washington, D.C. law office, Judicial Watch filed suit against the Commerce Department, charging the late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown had used departmental trade missions to raise money for the DNC. Klayman sought and obtained a court order compelling John Huang, a former Commerce official, to testify about his knowledge of Brown's trade missions.


Mickey Kantor Former Commerce Secretary Kantor announced his department would investigate Huang's Commerce tenure, after telephone logs indicated numerous contacts between Huang and Lippo executives in Los Angeles, and calls to prominent Little Rock entrepreneurs and lawyers with extensive financial interests in Asia. Kantor denied claims by Rep. Ben Gilman, (R-N.Y.) that his department had intentionally withheld Huang's telephone logs until after the Nov. 5 presidential election. Kantor left the administration at the end of President Clinton's first term.


Bruce Lindsey -- A close, behind-the-scenes advisor to the president, Lindsey reportedly insisted on depicting meetings between Clinton and Indonesian billionaire James Riady as purely social calls, when in fact, policy matters were discussed. A longtime Arkansan Clinton associate, Lindsey was an unindicted co-conspirator in the unsuccessful Whitewater prosecution of bankers Herby Branscum and Robert Hill.


John McCain A Republican senator from Arizona, McCain has made repeated requests to Attorney General Janet Reno for the appointment of an independent prosecutor to investigate DNC fund-raising. McCain is at the forefront of congressional efforts to reform campaign finance laws. McCain's homepage.


Mike McCurry -- The White House press secretary, McCurry's credibility has come under fire for several inaccurate responses to questions about the Lippo Group's retention of Clinton associate Webster Hubbell.


Mark Middleton A former Clinton aide, Middleton has been subpoenaed by the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee. Middleton's meals at the White House mess hall raised suspicions he was using his access to promote his business interests. Reports also surfaced that Middleton, representing the DNC, accepted $15 million from Liu Tai-Ying, a Taiwanese official. Liu denied the account.


Janet Reno Attorney General Reno has turned down numerous requests for the appointment of an independent prosecutor to investigate DNC fund-raising practices. She has referred the matter to internal Justice Department attorneys and assigned 25 FBI agents to the case. Despite rumors Clinton wanted to dump her after his re-election, Reno held onto her job, but having referred investigations into Travelgate and the FBI File flap to independent prosecutor Kenneth Starr, she may be wary of antagonizing the president.


James Riady Son of Mochtar Riady, James met personally with President Clinton at the White House (six times, according to administration aides), meetings initially described as "social" visits, but later acknowledged as including discussions of policy issues related to Indonesia. White House logs show Riady visited the White House on at least 20 occasions, though administration officials say most occasions were for briefings, receptions and meetings with other officials. Riady met Clinton during a stint with the Worthen Bank in Little Rock, Ark. On a trip to Indonesia in 1994, Clinton stopped by a reception in Jakarta given by James Riady.


Mochtar Riady Founder and chief executive of a $5 billion Asian business empire, the Lippo Group, whose affiliates have donated heavily to the DNC. President Clinton met twice with Riady at the White House, and belatedly acknowledged receiving a detailed letter from him that pressed Clinton to establish formal relations with Vietnam and to renew most-favored-nation trading status with China, among other issues. The Lippo Group holds interests in insurance, banking, securities, real estate and electronics.


Charles Ruff -- Becoming President Clinton's fifth White House counsel in January, Ruff, a former Watergate prosecutor, took over the job from Jack Quinn who resigned in December 1996. Ruff has been threatened with a contempt of Congress citation unless he turns over certain documents under subpoena. He is also expected to argue before the Supreme Court that Hillary Clinton's Whitewater notes, taken by former White House deputy counsel Jane Sherburne, fall under the attorney-client privilege and should not be turned over to Whitewater counsel Kenneth Starr.


Ted Sioeng -- Los Angeles-based Asian businessman Sioeng has emerged as a suspect of espionage in the FBI's ongoing probe of campaign finance. Born and orphaned in Indonesia, Sioeng emigrated to the United States where he became prominent in California's Asian business community. He acquired the Chinese language International Daily News last year, giving it a pro-Beijing tilt. He also owns a variety of other businesses, one of which gave the Democratic National Committee $250,000 and California's Republican state treasurer $100,000. A friend of John Huang, Sioeng sat next to President Clinton at a July fund-raiser, and also attended the controversial Hsi Lai temple fund-raiser with the vice president in April 1996.


Fred Thompson -- Lawyer/actor-turned-senator, Tennessee Republican Sen. Thompson chairs the Senate inquiry into 1996 campaign fund-raising. He has promised to investigate Republicans as well as Democrats, and has issued some 50 subpoenas, but has complained Senate Democrats are being uncooperative. Thompson is viewed as a GOP presidential prospect for 2000.

Charles Yah Lin Trie A member of the DNC's national finance board of directors, Little Rock businessman and friend of Bill Clinton's for 14 years, Trie raised about $100,000 during the 1996 election, $15,000 of which was raised improperly and returned. His family has donated $141,500 to Democratic campaigns and his business $70,000 to the DNC since July 1994. He also delivered more than $640,000 in questionable checks and money orders to the Clintons' legal fund, which later were returned.


Arief Wiriadinata A wealthy son-in-law of a Riady business partner, Arief and Soraya Wiriadinata, former permanent U.S. residents with ties to the Lippo group, who had lived in a Virginia suburb, donated $450,000 to the DNC during 1995 and 1996, but did not file tax return in 1996.

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