The FBI is investigating the suspected theft of about $350,000 from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in the midst of the 2004 campaign, officials said.
The committee's compliance division, which monitors donations, discovered in early October that about $350,000 in donor checks -- many made out to "DSCC" -- had been diverted to a private bank account for DSCAMPCO, according to officials familiar with the case. The contributions were supposed to go into the committee's general fund, officials said.
The committee immediately notified the U.S. Capitol Police, which launched a probe that soon included the FBI and U.S. attorney's office. All but about $10,000 of the money was recovered from the DSCAMPCO account, and that was insured, officials said.
Roger Chiang, the senatorial committee's director of constituency outreach, was the person who opened the DSCAMPCO account, according to bank records that included his Social Security number and home address, officials said.
Chiang's duties included fundraising. He assumed his post in June 2003 and was fired last month after the committee discovered that the money was missing, officials said.
Chiang, 32, a District resident, did not respond to several messages left on his home voice mail.
In response to inquiries, Brad Woodhouse, a committee spokesman, confirmed yesterday that the U.S. attorney's office is investigating the case, adding that the committee is cooperating fully.
"It is disappointing that while Democratic senators, candidates, staff and donors were working hard to build a better America in this election, an individual put greed and self-interest ahead of the efforts of so many others," Woodhouse said.
Most of the diverted funds "were recovered in time to be used on the campaign," Woodhouse added.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's Web site describes the organization as "a tremendous potential source of campaign funds." The site depicts the committee as "a nerve center" that tracks the latest information about political issues and trends. It provided funding this year for numerous Senate campaigns, including hotly contested races in South Dakota, Kentucky, North Carolina, Colorado and Florida.
During the Clinton administration, Chiang, a presidential appointee, was the highest-ranking Asian American at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
He joined the Democratic National Committee in June 2001 as director of Asian and Pacific Island American outreach before going to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Chiang waged a public campaign in 1999 to pressure D.C. police to fully investigate the death of his sister, Joyce Chiang, a government immigration lawyer. Joyce Chiang, 28, disappeared in January 1999 after being dropped off by a friend in Dupont Circle. Her body was found nearly three months later, washed up on the Potomac riverbank in Fairfax County. The body was too decomposed to determine the cause of death, officials said.
Investigators have raised the possibility that Joyce Chiang committed suicide, a theory that Roger Chiang has publicly rejected.
Staff researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.