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GOP Sets Its Sights on Little Victories

By Guy Gugliotta
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 16, 1997; Page A06

A small, soft-spoken woman named Juliana Utomo brought Republicans on the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee a small victory yesterday. As hearings on 1996 campaign finance abuses moved into their second week, small victories appeared to be the aim, and a careful, meticulous investigation the method.

The senatorial bombast that marked the opening week disappeared. Chairman Fred D. Thompson (R-Tenn.) scrapped the 10-minutes-a-side format and instead assigned a Republican senator to each witness and handed off much of the heavy lifting to committee lawyers.

"We're trying for a better narrative, and to make it easier to understand," said Paul Clark, spokesman for the committee's Republican majority.

And it worked. Though, as was the case last week, not all the answers went as the Republicans expected.

The Republicans spent the day methodically interrogating three nonpolitical, nonhostile witnesses about former Democratic National Committee fund-raiser John Huang's ties to the Indonesia-based Lippo Group and Lippo's ties to the Chinese government.

They were trying to build a case that Huang learned early how to "raise money and launder money," Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) said, and establish that Huang maintained ties to a China-infiltrated Lippo Group when he was an official at the Commerce Department and the DNC.

There were lots of documents and lots of charts. Thomas R. Hampson, head of a Chicago company that researches multinationals, said that Lippo's Chinese partner, the state-owned China Resources, was deep into espionage: "It's like a smiling tiger," he said. "It may look friendly, but it's very dangerous."

Not that dangerous, said Democratic counsel Alan Baron. Or why would Coca-Cola, Boeing, General Motors and other U.S. firms invest in China?

"Even Pat Robertson does business with Lippo" and China, he said, unveiling a picture of the smiling evangelist with arrows pointing to a Lippo logo and to a Chinese flag.

Utomo, who worked with Huang managing three insolvent holding companies, didn't know about Huang's political activism, and didn't even know what the DNC Victory Fund was when she signed the $50,000 contribution that Huang authorized in 1992. When Lippo Jakarta reimbursed the holding company, the GOP had its first solid evidence of foreign money in a U.S. political campaign.

Also largely ignorant of Huang's activities was former LippoBank CEO Harold Arthur, even though Huang, then Lippo's U.S. representative, had an office next door. "It was leased," Arthur said.

In fact, Arthur, an elderly man with a cane, was surprisingly quick off the mark in denying virtually any knowledge of Huang's comings and goings. He was surprised, he said, that Huang had gone to the White House 52 times in 1993, but only because "it was so many."

However, Arthur acknowledged, he developed a close professional relationship with Huang, and his wife thought Huang was "the most gentlemanly man she had ever known." And as far as allegations that Huang was guilty of espionage on China's behalf, Arthur replied: "Hogwash."

"You recognize the minority is unable to call witnesses of our own at this stage of the proceedings," said Sen. Robert G. Torricelli (D-N.J.). "Fortunately, the majority has been good enough to call witnesses that seem almost routinely to be helpful to the points we want to make. You have been no exception."

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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