Cover Story

Burton's five most wanted

Following the money

Issue: "Motel 1600," Sept. 6, 1997

Johnny Chung Documentary evidence is piling up against the Clinton Administration, but what the Burton Committee really wants is some firsthand testimony from the players involved. Here are five of the committee's "most-wanted" witnesses, along with the donations that bought them that dubious distinction. A rather obscure California businessman, Mr. Chung managed to make some 50 visits to the White House thanks to the $400,000 in donations he lined up for the Democrats. One of those donations was a check for $50,000 that Mr. Chung says was solicited by a member of the First Lady's staff. Although Margaret Williams, Mrs. Clinton's former chief of staff, admits that she took the check and forwarded it to the DNC, she denies asking for the donation, a request that would have been a clear violation of the Hatch Act. Mr. Chung claims the money bought a VIP visit with the President and First Lady for a group of Chinese businessmen. Mr. Chung, who seems to be one of the few Clinton friends without the financial wherewithal to leave the country, has been talking freely to the press in an apparent attempt to convince the Burton Committee that he should be granted immunity in exchange for his testimony. In his most recent bombshell, he announced that former Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary demanded a $25,000 donation to her favorite charity before she'd meet with a Chinese petrochemical official. In light of his unprecedented access to the White House, Mr. Chung has started referring to the Clinton White House as "a subway-you have to put in coins to open the gates." Status: Taking the Fifth Amendment. James Riady A member of the family that controls the $12 billion Lippo Group conglomerate in Indonesia, Mr. Riady made as many as 20 trips to the White House from 1993 to 1996. An Administration spokesman initially insisted those visits were purely social, since Mr. Riady was an old friend from the President's Arkansas days. Investigators discovered, however, that the Riady family had donated more than $1 million to the Democratic Party, and that Lippo's financial solvency hinged on continued friendly relations between the United States and China. Status: Fled to Indonesia. John Huang Almost no one had ever heard of this mid-level Commerce Department bureaucrat until it was revealed that he'd made 67 visits to the White House and a half-dozen to the Chinese embassy. The reason for such access soon became clear: Mr. Huang channeled some $3 million to the DNC, most of it from illegal foreign sources. Investigators allege that in 1992 he laundered a single donation of $50,000 from his erstwhile employer-none other than Mr. Riady's Lippo Group Holdings. Status: Taking the Fifth. Pauline Kanchanalak The Thai-born Ms. Kanchanalak, who also goes by the name Pornpimol Parrichattkul, was a member of the Democratic National Committee who gave more than $230,000 to Democratic campaigns and visited the White House at least 10 times. On one occasion, she escorted three representatives of a Sino-Thai business conglomerate to a White House "coffee," then made an $85,000 contribution to the DNC the same day. Status: Fled to Thailand. Charlie Trie The long-time Friend of Bill and Little Rock restaurateur once showed up at the offices of the President's legal defense fund carrying a brown envelope stuffed with $1,000 contributions totalling $460,000. Many of the donations were sequentially numbered money orders written by the same hand under different names. Over a two-year period, Mr. Trie received more than $900,000 in wire transfers from his Macao-based business partner, Ng Lap Seng. Much of that money seems to have ended up in DNC coffers, and Mr. Ng ended up in the White House-at least 12 times. Status: Fled to China.

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