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Senate Probe Will Turn Focus To Huang's Ties to DNC, Lippo

By Guy Gugliotta
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 15, 1997; Page A04

Senators investigating campaign finance abuses today will begin examining former fund-raiser John Huang's rise to prominence in the Democratic Party and his connection to an Indonesian business consortium with ties to China, Senate sources said last night.

The sources did not describe any evidence directly linking Huang to the Chinese government, but a possible Chinese plot to subvert the U.S. electoral process remained a contentious issue between Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.

At the behest of Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.), eight committee senators met for more than three hours yesterday to resolve conflicting interpretations of Chinese intentions gathered by the FBI and intelligence sources.

Intelligence officials briefed the eight – five Democrats and three Republicans – about information obtained over two years from electronic intercepts.

The briefing covered the same ground as earlier intelligence presentations that last week led Sen. Fred D. Thompson (R-Tenn.), the committee chairman, to speak of an ongoing plot by high officials of the Chinese government to put money into U.S. political campaigns and otherwise influence the political process.

Ranking minority member Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio) touched off a prolonged quarrel with Thompson last week when he refused to endorse Thompson's statement, saying the intelligence information did not support such a bold interpretation.

After the briefing yesterday, the senators again deadlocked over how much credibility to give the information and ended the meeting without reaching agreement.

The second week of hearings will approach the China question obliquely as the committee begins to look at allegations that Huang, who quit a sensitive position at the Commerce Department to become a fund-raiser for the Democratic National Committee, retained ties to the Indonesia-based Lippo Group even as he obtained security clearances within the Clinton administration, committee sources said.

The committee will call as many as half a dozen witnesses with ties to Lippo, and will examine Lippo's own relationship with the Chinese government business consortium, the sources said. Among those on today's witness list are Julianna Utomo, whom committee sources describe as bookkeeper for Hip Hing Holdings, a real estate company run by Huang that was part of the Lippo Group, and two former executives of Lippo – James Alexander and Thomas Hampson.

The committee began hearings last week focusing on Huang as a central figure in its investigation of alleged foreign influence in the 1996 Clinton reelection campaign.

Huang, helpful in raising money for Clinton in 1992, joined the Commerce Department and subsequently moved to the DNC in an effort to help party outreach to Asian Americans.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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