Campaign Finance Key Player:
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Veteran Democratic fund-raiser Maria Hsia was indicted Feb. 18 on federal charges of laundering campaign contributions by a Buddhist temple in California that held a controversial 1996 event attended by Vice President Gore.
Hsia and unnamed temple personnel are charged in the indictment with soliciting $55,000 for the Democratic National Committee the day after the Gore event. All of the contributors were allegedly reimbursed later with temple funds. Nonprofit religious organizations are not allowed to make such donations.
The daughter of a politically well-connected family in Taiwan, Hsia, 47, came to the United States as a student in 1973. Two years later, she received a permanent resident visa and settled in Los Angeles. Although not an attorney herself, Hsia found a lucrative niche in immigration law firms in Los Angeles, bringing in new clients from the rapidly growing Asian community.
By 1982 Hsia's business was thriving, according to documents obtained by investigators, and she had started raising money for Democrats in state and local races.
By 1988 Hsia was working closely with James Riady and John Huang. Riady saw contributions to U.S. campaigns as a means of advancing his family's business interests in Asia, Huang served as Riady's lieutenant for political matters, Hsia provided Riady and Huang with access to Democratic politicians and the Buddhist temple offered a ready source of funds.
The Republican report of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, which investigated campaign finance matters in 1997, singles out Hsia as "an agent of the Chinese government," although it cites no specific actions taken in support of this alleged role.
Hsia has pleaded not guilty to the campaign finance charges, and her lawyer has denied allegations that she was an agent of the Chinese government.
Last updated March 4, 1998
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