Story of a Foreign Donor's Deal with '92 Clinton Camp OutlinedBy Guy Gugliotta
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 9, 1997; Page A12
Two Democratic fund-raisers have offered to testify about a foreign donor who gave $50,000 to the Democratic Party in 1992 in return for a signed letter from the Clinton campaign endorsing an Asian politician, House investigators said yesterday.
In his opening statement at the first session of campaign finance hearings by the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, Chairman Dan Burton (R-Ind.) identified the pair as Gene, 58, and Nora T. Lum, 55, a husband and wife.
He said he wanted the committee to consider an immunity grant before the end of the month. The Lums, of Torrance, Calif., were sentenced in September to 10 months' incarceration and fined $30,000 apiece as part of a Justice Department plea bargain for campaign financing violations unrelated to the foreign contribution.
The long-awaited start of the House hearings, coming three months after similar hearings began in the Senate, opened another front in the public airing of alleged wrongdoing by Democratic officials on behalf of the Clinton campaign.
Burton added his complaints to those of Senate Republicans and the Justice Department regarding the administration's tardiness in finding and providing tapes of White House coffees, fund-raisers and other political events requested by investigators.
"What is happening over at the White House, in my opinion, borders on obstruction of justice," he told reporters. The president "is being disingenuous to the American people."
In a letter to White House counsel Charles F.C. Ruff, the committee said it would seek depositions from White House special counsel Lanny A. Breuer, who is responsible for collecting materials for investigators; other White House aides; and officials of the White House Communications Agency, which makes the tapes.
On the other side of Capitol Hill, Sen. Fred D. Thompson (R-Tenn.) sent Breuer a letter demanding that the White House produce by Friday "all video and audio recordings that relate in any way to fund-raising activities during the 1996 elections." Thompson said his committee also required printouts of the White House Communications Agency's database during 1995 and 1996 as well as records of phone calls made by or for the president and vice president.
Breuer testified for about an hour before a federal grand jury yesterday to explain why he gave Justice Department officials the tapes more than two days after he knew they existed.
"This White House . . . has consistently said that we would produce materials in good faith, and we did so here," Breuer said in a prepared statement read to reporters after his grand jury testimony. "From the time that we discovered the existence of the videotapes, we expeditiously did everything we could to produce them. I'm proud of that."
In opening his hearings yesterday, Burton released a summary prepared by the Lums' lawyer that described what the couple would be prepared to tell the committee under a grant of immunity.
The summary described how the Lums set up a Democratic Party-linked fund-raising operation in California in 1992, using it to sponsor several events in the area. The summary described several incidents in which the Lums appeared to break the law, either by reimbursing donors improperly or by using personal funds to stage events in most cases with the knowledge of the Democratic National Committee.
The two pleaded guilty Sept. 9 on unrelated charges of improper fund-raising for the 1994 campaigns of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and House candidate W. Stuart Price (D), son-in-law of then-Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell (D-Maine).
In 1992, the lawyer's summary said, "an individual" told the Lums that he could arrange a large contribution to then-Gov. Clinton's campaign "in exchange for a letter signed by the campaign endorsing the candidacy of a man who is now the leader of an Asian nation."
This was done, the summary said, and "the individual gave the Lums a check for $50,000," telling them the source was "a foreign person then residing in the United States." It was not clear from the summary whether the source was a resident alien, who could legally contribute to federal candidates, or a non-resident foreigner, who could not.
In a second incident, the summary said, another "individual" gave the Lums "a large sum" of money for the Clinton inauguration in 1993. Subsequent to the contribution, "a foreign business associate" of the donor was able to sit with Democratic Party Chairman Ronald H. Brown at an inaugural event. The Lums "have since come to believe" that the foreigner was the source of the funds, the summary said.
Staff writer Toni Locy contributed to this report.
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