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Foreign Lobbies Took the Guise Of Nonprofits

Joel Johnson, a former senior adviser in the Clinton White House who ran Harbour Group at the time, said he was a subcontractor to Buckham's firm and thought of the work as lobbying for business interests behind the nonprofits.

Johnson said he relied on Buckham's assurance that the groups were proper. "This did not look like a fly-by-night operation, because it had very respected, prominent people on board," he said.

Doolittle spokeswoman Laura Blackann said last week that the congressman believed that his trip to Asia, in February 2005, was proper and that it had nothing to do with the earmarks. He said he paid out of his own pocket for some of the activities on Langkawi, such as the massages and watercraft rentals.

Other members of Congress said they did not know the source of funding for the nonprofits. Said Mike DeCesare, spokesman for McDermott, "Obviously if Congressman McDermott knew, he wouldn't have taken the trip."

Helping Chairman Kim

During its five years of existence, the Korea-U.S. Exchange Council described itself in its tax returns as an educational group that spent nothing on lobbying.

But its filings with the Justice Department contradicted those returns. The council registered with Justice as a foreign agent, saying that it was financed by Hanwha Group and that Kim chaired its board of directors. It filed a plan detailing Alexander Strategy's lobbying campaign for Kim, which promised him extensive contacts with Washington lawmakers and policymakers.

The plan stated that the purpose was "to define Chairman Kim of the Hanwha Group as the leading Korean business statesman in U.S.-Korea relations" and to strengthen "Hanwha's global position." A 2002 audit of the nonprofit by the accounting firm Gelman, Rosenberg and Freedman said "approximately 99.9 percent" of its revenue came from one organization.

While the Korea council was filing as a foreign agent with the Justice Department, its lobbyists were declaring in their filings to Congress that the nonprofit had no significant foreign ownership.

"What they were telling the Department of Justice and what they were telling the IRS suggests you can't trust either set of documents," said Marcus Owens, a Washington tax lawyer and former Internal Revenue Service nonprofit chief who reviewed hundreds of the group's records compiled by The Post. "The reality is the organization was designed to provide a conduit for influence."

Alexander Strategy and Harbour lobbyists directed a steady stream of U.S. lawmakers and staffers of both parties to Seoul, where Kim squired them to meetings with top government officials. Kim traveled several times to Washington, where, according to the reports to the Justice Department, he met with prominent politicians and lawmakers.

Former president Clinton traveled to Beijing and Seoul at the invitation of the Korea council in November 2003. He appeared with Kim at the opening of the Beijing office of Korea Life Insurance Co., a Hanwha subsidiary, then traveled to Seoul for golf with Kim and meetings with political leaders.

Clinton's representatives did not respond to requests for comment on the visit.


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