Gavel To Gavel

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Gavel To Gavel: Fund-Raising Hearings

Spin Central

Senators Probe The Fund-Raising Paper Trail

John Huang's wife, Jane, takes the Fifth Amendment as well

By Brooks Jackson/CNN

WASHINGTON (July 21) -- At last week's campaign fund-raising hearings, there was Democratic indignation but also some damaging facts: charts put together by Republicans based on a paper trail of documents by the infamous John Huang.

There is still no direct evidence yet that Huang, a former Democratic National Committee fund-raiser, leaked any classified information. But there is ample evidence of possible campaign finance violations.

Evidence has emerged, for example, that Huang may have illegally solicited campaign contributions while on the federal payroll at the Department of Commerce.

Telephone records from May 1995 show four calls between Huang and a woman named Mi Ahn at a California company called Pan Metals.

Here's the timeline:

  • June 5 -- Mi Ahn calls Huang. Huang returns the call.

  • June 9 -- Four days later, there is a message to Huang from David Mercer, the second-ranking staff fund-raiser at the Democratic National Committee (DNC). His message: "Have talked to Mi. Thank you very much." Thank you for what?

  • June 15 -- The DNC gets a $10,000 check from Mi Ahn. On an internal DNC tracking sheet, Mercer lists the solicitor as Huang's wife, Jane.

In fact, DNC documents list Jane Huang as soliciting several contributions which the paper trail suggests were really attributable to her husband. But Senate investigators won't have the chance to question her either; like her husband, she has invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Democrats were quick to point out that telephone records are not transcripts. The ranking Democrat on the committee, Sen. John Glenn, asked of a Republican lawyer on the committee, "Do we know what was said on any of those calls? Do we know that any of those calls violated federal law in any way?"

"Senator, we do not know for sure one way or the other," Jack Cobb replied.

But the paper trail does suggest there is good reason Huang and others are refusing to testify on grounds of possible self-incrimination.

Noted committee chairman Fred Thompson of Tennessee, "I look over the chart, there seems to be many, if not most of the rest of them, who have either fled the country or taken the Fifth Amendment."

Among those no longer in the U.S. is Arief Wiriadinata. He's the so-called "Indonesian gardener" -- actually a wealthy landscape architect -- who with his wife gave $450,000 to the DNC, which later gave it all back.

The paper trail shows $500,000 was wired to their account from Indonesia just days before the money began flowing to the DNC. The money came from a founder of the Indonesian Lippo Group, Mrs. Wiriadninata's father, who later died.

The Senate hearings have suffered from a lack of witnesses willing to talk. But those silent pieces of paper have one big advantage to investigators; they don't change their story.

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