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Taipei Office Handled Gift to GOP Think Tank, Papers Show

By Guy Gugliotta
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 22, 1997; Page A04

The Taiwanese government served as the intermediary for a $25,000 contribution from a foreign foundation to a think tank run by the Republican Party, according to documents examined by The Washington Post.

Haley Barbour, writing in his capacity as board chairman of the National Policy Forum, sent a letter to Taiwan's chief government representative in Washington, thanking him for the 1996 contribution from the Pacific Cultural Foundation.

Receipt of the contribution has been acknowledged by Barbour's office, but documents examined by The Post show the transaction was handled by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, the Taiwan government's official presence in the United States.

Barbour's office said yesterday that Barbour was unsure how the contribution came about.

Barbour, who served as chairman of both the Republican National Committee and the NPF during the 1996 campaign, will appear this week before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, which is investigating campaign fund-raising practices.

Democrats have alleged that the RNC used the NPF as little more than a laundry for illegal foreign contributions to the GOP. Republicans say that as an educational nonprofit organization, the NPF did nothing wrong in obtaining foreign contributions.

The investigators said the committee will hear evidence about the Pacific Cultural Foundation contribution, described by Barbour in a memo early this month as the "only" contribution ever received by the NPF from a "foreign entity."

Correspondence regarding the contribution was initiated on Aug. 5, 1996, when Michael Hsu, identified as the special assistant to the representative in the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States, sent a memo to NPF President John R. Bolton, saying he was "pleased to forward" the foundation's check for $25,000 "as a donation" to a trade seminar hosted by the NPF the previous week.

The Representative Office is the de facto Taiwanese embassy in Washington. Under the current one-China policy, the United States has full diplomatic relations only with the mainland People's Republic of China.

The Pacific Cultural Foundation is a private, nonprofit organization more than two decades old and known for cultural exchange programs and for sponsoring trips to Taiwan for members of Congress. The exact source of the organization's funds is not known, but some news reports over the years have described it as having close links to the Taiwanese government.

The Aug. 5 memo asks for a list of those who attended the seminar, the minutes of the seminar and "a receipt." The memo concludes by noting that should Bolton "wish to write an acknowledgment letter," he should address it to Jason C. Hu, the representative of the Taipei Office and Taiwan's top government emissary in the United States.

Hsu said in an interview that the Pacific Cultural Foundation used the Taipei Office as its interlocutor "because they have no people stationed in Washington, D.C." He said the office considered it proper for Barbour to send a thank-you note to Hu, since the office had transferred the check.

Barbour, writing as board chairman of the NPF, followed up in an Aug. 22 letter to "Dear Ambassador Hu." He said, "I thank you personally for the Pacific Cultural Foundation's most generous contribution in support of the National Policy Forum. . . .

"The Foundation's willingness to underwrite our Member Trade Briefing is greatly appreciated and enables NPF to continue to develop and advocate good international policy," Barbour said.

Separately, the Associated Press reported yesterday that a top adviser to House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) was largely responsible for obtaining another big donation to the NPF, for $50,000. Bolton, former president of the now-defunct NPF, has testified that GOP consultant Joseph Gaylord, Gingrich's closest adviser on political matters, helped secure the donation in July 1995.

The contribution was made by a California company owned by an Indonesian businessman who reportedly has close ties to China.

"We certainly intend to pursue it," a Democratic investigator on the Senate Governmental Affairs panel said, even though the businessman and his daughter gave far more – $250,000 – to the Democratic National Committee.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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