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From the Post
Election Probe Looks at L.A. Businessman (Sept. 12)
For Democrats, a Campaign for Finance Reform (Sept. 12)
Berger Put on Defensive Over '96 Role (Sept. 12)

Burton's Men Nailed Wrong Ma

By Al Kamen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 12, 1997; Page A23

It was a partly cloudy August morning in Los Angeles when three House Government Reform and Oversight Committee investigators set out to find Democratic campaign contributors.

The trio, two Republicans and a Democrat allowed to tag along, first went to the home of Felix Ma. He wasn't there, so the gumshoes decided to stake out the house. They secretly parked their large Chevy in the main driveway to several houses, placing the vehicle so that it partially blocked at least five individual driveways.

When Ma and his wife got home, "your staff swooped . . . behind him" and confronted him as he got out of his car, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (Calif.), the committee's top Democrat, complained in a letter last week to Chairman Dan Burton (D-Ind.).

Ma was shocked, then amused, Waxman wrote. Seems the gumshoes got the wrong Felix Ma. The man introduced the investigators to his wife as the "political police." She didn't laugh. No sense of humor.

The investigators then searched for a "Mr. Negara," who lived in a Beverly Hills condo. Burton's aides, John Irving and Chuck Little, explained to Waxman's aide, 20-year FBI veteran Harry Gossett, that they weren't sure if this was the right "Negara." They rang the bell to his building. No answer. They slipped in behind someone going in and banged on "Negara's" door. No answer.

Undaunted, a Burton investigator knocked on neighboring doors and questioned people in the hall. He asked the building manager if she knew where Negara was. She said she didn't but "was quite upset that three large men were inside the building bothering residents and guests without having been properly admitted," Waxman said.

Well, no one said this was easy work.

The group also went looking for a Cindy Tashima, who Waxman said was "at most only tangentially related to our investigation." She worked in 1990 for a company that "was listed in 1991 as the employer of someone who made a suspect contribution."

Iffy, but you can never tell where a good lead will pop up.

They banged on her door repeatedly, "drawing the attention of passersby." Tashima, a "diminutive" woman who was home alone, appeared to have been intimidated by two large men in suits banging on her door. She said they "looked like the Men in Black."

Sgt. Friday didn't have days like this. Of course, he was a real cop.

Asked about the letter, Burton spokesman Will Dwyer said, "The chairman hopes that chairman Waxman or others [Democrats] will play the part of Howard Baker in Watergate, seeking the truth even when it hurts your own side. We're not playing games."

-- From In the Loop, a regular column on The Washington Post's Federal Page.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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