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Campaign Finance Key Player:
John Huang

This profile was compiled from Washington Post and washingtonpost.com staff reports. Click on linked names to read other profiles, or see the full list of key players.

At the heart of the Senate investigation into fund-raising improprieties sits John Huang.

From The Post:
A Fund-Raiser's Rise and Fall, May 13, 1997
The Curious Cast of Asian Donors, Jan. 27, 1997
While a mid-level Commerce Department official, Huang (pronounced "Wong") enjoyed extraordinary access to President Clinton. He also attended dozens of briefings involving classified information, even as he maintained ties to the Lippo Group, the Indonesian conglomerate for which he had been head of U.S. operations.

As a fund-raiser for the Democratic National Committee in 1996, Huang raised $3.4 million for the party and its campaign, mostly from the Asian American community. The DNC has since returned nearly half of the money, determining that it was improperly raised or came from questionable donors, some of them from overseas.

Among the donors: John K.H. Lee, Pauline Kanchanalak , and Arief and Soraya Wiriadinata, the son-in-law and daughter of a top Lippo Group executive.

Huang organized the fund-raiser at the Hsi Lai Temple outside Los Angeles, where Vice President Al Gore helped collect $140,000 – most of which has since been returned.

Investigators are also exploring whether Huang may have served as an "agent of influence" of the People's Republic of China, perhaps funneling money from Beijing into American political campaigns.

Jian-Nan Huang was born April 14, 1945, in Fujian, China. He and his family fled across the Taiwan Strait to Taipei four years later as Chinese Nationalists fell to the Communists.

Huang came to the United States in 1969. In 1972, after earning his MBA, he moved to the Washington area. Huang was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1976.

Huang worked for several American banks, always making the most of his language skills and familiarity with Asian markets. He traveled widely – to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan and China.

He first met Mochtar Riady, who along with his son, James, heads the Lippo Group, at a financial seminar in Little Rock in 1980. A featured speaker was Bill Clinton, then in his first term as governor. Huang was later hired by James Riady's Worthen Banking Group in Little Rock.

Huang worked and socialized with a number of friends and associates of Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton. In October 1985, he escorted the Clintons and an Arkansas group at a seminal Asia trade mission.

Huang's next move was to Los Angeles to run the Bank of Trade, later renamed Lippo Bank, U.S.A. He became active in Democratic politics, and his growing influence among ethnic groups made him a potent fund-raiser.

Within weeks of Clinton's 1992 victory, Huang began lobbying for an administration job. In December 1993, Clinton named Huang deputy assistant secretary for international economic affairs at Commerce, responsible for Asian trade matters. Huang took a 50 percent pay cut from his Lippo salary, but the blow was softened by a severance package worth more than $750,000.

In 1995, after Clinton made inquiries on his behalf, Huang moved to a fund-raising job at the Democratic National Committee.

Some DNC records appear to suggest Huang may have started fund-raising before he left his government job, which would have been a violation of the Hatch Act.

In October 1996, the Democratic National Committee removed Huang from his duties gathering political contributions for the party. Following the election, the party laid him off.

Last updated July 24, 1997

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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