Cover Story

The power of The purse

"The power of The purse" Continued...

Issue: "Follow the Greenback Road," Jan. 25, 1997

**red_square** Mr. Huang and Maria Hsia, a Taiwanese-American businesswoman in Los Angeles, organized a fundraiser at Hsi Lai Buddhist temple held last April in the Hacienda Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles. Vice President Al Gore was the featured speaker at the lunch, and DNC chairman Don Fowler was in the audience that consisted of monks and nuns. Notwithstanding vows of poverty and stipends of $40 a month, this Buddhist assemblage contributed $140,000. In October, one of the nuns, Man Ya Shih, told The Wall Street Journal that the $5,000 she gave belonged to someone else who did not wish to be identified. Later, in a submission to the Federal Election Commission, she said the money was hers, explaining that because she was nervous and wanted to end her conversation with the Journal reporter, she offered the most innocent explanation she could think of. The DNC returned &quother" money but has not returned any of the other contributions. As recently as last week, Mr. Gore continued to deny that he knew the event was a fundraiser. It is as illegal to raise funds for a political party in a Buddhist temple as in a Baptist church.

**red_square** In May 1996, a fundraising dinner organized by Mr. Huang was held at the Sheraton Carlton Hotel in Washington, D.C. Yogesh Gandhi, a distant relative of Mahatma Gandhi, paid for his ticket and that of a friend, Dr. Hogen Fukunaga, with a $325,000 contribution. (At the dinner, Mr. Gandhi and Mr. Fukunaga presented Mr. Clinton the 1996 &quotMahatma Gandhi World Peace Award.") Mr. Fukunaga, leader of a Japanese religious sect known as Ho no Hana Sanpogyo, is a multimillionaire, while Mr. Gandhi, a naturalized American, is a man of little means, indeed a &quotpauper," according to papers filed in his recent divorce case. After The Los Angeles Times reported in October the details of Mr. Gandhi's lowly economic status, the DNC concluded that the $325,000 he had donated probably never belonged to him and returned &quothis" money.

**red_square** During Mr. Clinton's first term, Pauline Kanchanalak, a Thai businesswoman who is a permanent resident, visited the White House at least 26 times, often to attend lunches, dinners, and coffees for major donors. On June 18, 1996, Ms. Kanchanalak, who gave a total of $253,000 to the DNC, all of which the committee returned after she said the money belonged to her mother-in-law, brought five of her associates to meet with Mr. Clinton. They included officials from the U.S.-Thai Business Counsel and the Charoen Pokaphand Group, a Thai-based conglomerate said to be the largest foreign investor in China. The DNC's Mr. Fowler and the ever-present Mr. Huang also attended, as did Marvin Rosen, the DNC's finance chairman and head of the soft-money fundraising effort. Though DNC officials now deny it, the committee's records identify the meeting as a fundraiser.

The same day as this meeting, Ms. Kanchanalak contributed the bulk of the amount she gave the DNC that was later returned--$185,000. According to The Wall Street Journal, the topic of the meeting was &quotU.S. policy toward China." While there is no evidence that U.S. policy toward China was affected by the meeting, Common Cause has asked the Justice Department to investigate whether an illegal &quotsale of a meeting" with the president occurred.

The premise of the Common Cause request is that the meeting itself might have been of value to the foreigners who participated in it, since a picture with the president of the United States is a business asset back home. According to Common Cause, it was the value of the photograph, if nothing else, that should be enough to interest the Justice Department.

The Democratic National Committee has had to return $1.5 million of the funds it raised. Nor is it the only entity close to the president that has had to do that. The president's legal defense fund returned $639,000 to Charlie Yah Lin Trie, whom Mr. Clinton first knew when he ran a restaurant in Little Rock. The money came in the form of checks and money orders that had sequential serial numbers and were filled out by the same hand.

Attorney General Janet Reno has already rejected requests for the appointment of an independent counsel to probe the fundraising matters. The task force within the Justice Department to which she instead gave the assignment has blanketed the White House and the DNC with subpoenas that are now in the process of being answered. Through its hearings this winter and spring the Congress may unearth new information. As could a snarling press: In late December The Los Angeles Times published an unusual story criticizing the White House for misleading reporters and declining to release important details before the election.


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