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From The Post
Campaign Finance Overhaul Efforts Advance in Congress, Industry (Sept. 25)

House Panel Backs Immunity for 3 in Campaign Probe

By Edward Walsh
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 25, 1997; Page A09

The House Government Reform and Oversight Committee agreed yesterday to request grants of immunity from prosecution for three relatively minor figures in its investigation of campaign finance improprieties amid sharp partisan exchanges and a charge of Republican "race baiting" by a committee Democrat.

The unanimous vote to seek the immunity grants did not mask the deep divisions within the committee, which then voted along straight party lines to deny a Democratic request for the release of depositions of witnesses who have been interviewed under oath.

"It is no secret that I have a low regard for this committee's campaign finance investigation," said Rep. Henry A. Waxman (Calif.), the panel's ranking Democrat. Waxman said he supported granting immunity because the three witnesses had been interviewed earlier by committee investigators without having their own lawyers. "They know little that seems relevant to our investigation but they risk possible prosecution without immunity," he said.

The three witnesses are David Wang, a contributor to the Democratic National Committee; Manlin Foung, the sister of Yah Lin "Charlie" Trie, a former DNC fund-raiser and friend of President Clinton's; and Joseph R. Landon, a friend of Foung.

Committee sources have said that Foung and Landon told investigators that $35,000 they gave to the DNC was handed to them by Trie for an improper "pass-through" political contribution, and that Wang served as a "conduit" for a $5,000 contribution to the DNC. It is illegal to contribute to a campaign in someone else's name.

Like Waxman, committee Chairman Dan Burton (R-Ind.) portrayed the three as victims, but in his case victims of Democratic campaign financing abuses. They "are really victims of an `anything goes' White House and a `don't ask, don't tell' DNC," Burton said.

The "race baiting" charge was leveled by Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) and provoked a sharp GOP reply. Noting that two of the first three scheduled House witnesses, as well as several called before the Senate committee investigating campaign finance abuses, have been Asian Americans, Lantos warned that there was "a great danger that stereotyping and Asian-bashing will become part and parcel of this investigation."

Rep. Joe Scarborough (R-Fla.) retorted: "It shows how desperate members of the Democratic Party are to change the subject."

It was not clear yesterday when the three witnesses will be called to testify. The House first must formally request the immunity grants from the U.S. District Court here. Then the witnesses must be interviewed privately under oath before they testify in public.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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