In Tuesday's edition of The Washington Post, it was incorrectly reported that former Rep. F. Edward Hebert (D-La.) was defeated in a congressional primary last year. In fact, Hebert retired at the conclusion of the 94th Congress. CAPTION: Picture 1, GOV. EDWIN W. EDWARDS . . . $20,000 gift alleged; Picture 2, ELAINE EDWARDS . . . allegedly got cash payment
A former aide to Louisiana Gov. Edwin W. Edwards told a federal grand jury yesterday that South Korean businessman Tongsun Park gave Edwards $20,000 in cash for his 1972 gubernatorial campaign.
Clyde Vidrine, who worked with Edwards throughout the governor's mansion in Baton Rouge, testified here that he was present on two occasions when Park gave packets of $100 bills to Edwards, who gave them to Vidrine. Vidrine later determined that each packet contained $10,000.
Vidrine gave this account of his testimony before the grand jury in a separate interview with The Washington Post.
According to Vidrine, he has been feuding with Edwards since leaving a $1 per year job with Edwards in December, 1972.
Edwards at first denied receiving any contributions from Park, but then acknowledged last October that unknown to his wife, Elaine, received $10,000 in cash from Park during the gubernatorial campaign. Sources who have seen the former governor recently said he denies receiving both the $10,000 contributions Vidrine testified to. Edwards did not return a call from a reporter last evening.
The federal grand jury here is investigating allegations that Tongsun Park spent between $500,000 and $1 million annually on cash gifts and campaign contributions for U.S. congressman and other officials in an effort to "create a favorable legislative elimate" for the South Korean government of President Park Chung Hee.
Recently the grand jury has been hearing testimony concerning former Rep. Otto Passman (D-La.) and Edwards, a Lousiana congressman until he was elected governor, and their possible roles in purchases of U.S. rice by South Korea.
Information in the hands of the Justice Department contains allegations that Tongsun Park used commissions he received as the exclusive broker for the multimillion dollar rice deals to generate cash for his congressional influence-peddling schemes.
Also under investigation are allegations that certain congressman used their powerful positions to get more aid for South Korea.
A source noted that prior to yesterday's grand jury testimony, Vidrine contacted the IRS to change some previous testimony before a grand jury probing Edward's finances. He also has given a television interview at variance with his testimony yesterday.
According to sources close to Vidrine, Edwards has sought for the past year to get Vidrine to retract his statements about the governor and to attribute them to chronic alcoholism.
Vidrine's testimony before the grand jury yesterday, according to a source, detailed a complicated series of deals and agreements involving rice, warplanes, jobs for relatives and friends, and sweet potatoes. Most of the principals described in the testimony denied Vidrine's version of events.
The grand jury heard Vidrine testify that he traveled with Governor-elect Edwards to Washington on March 22, 1972, to discuss a pending sale of Louisiana rice to Korea and other political matters.
At the time, the rice sale was considered a significant factor in Edwards' political popularity in Louisians and his role in arranging a major sale of surplus rice to Korea in 1971 through Tongsun Park was credited as the key factor in his election as governor.
Edwards and Vidrine met for lunch with then Korean Ambassador Kim Dong-Jo, several Korean Embassy aides and Tongsun Park, according to Vidrine's testimony.
Ambassador Kim mentioned at the meeting that the South Korean government desperately needed three more Phantom jet fighter planes (F-4s) to increase its air arsenal against the threat of attack from North Korean, Vidrine testified. Kim then mentioned that Korea would like to buy more Louisiana rice, rather than California rice which the government had been buying due to its preferred standing in South Korea, Vidrine told the grand jury.
Edwards told Kim that he could assure Kim that Korea would get the F-4s, Vidrine testified.
Park then explained that the planes were a condition of the rice purchase, the grand jury was told.
Immediately after the lunch, Vidrine testified that he and Edwards went to the office of Rep. F. Edward Hebert (D-La.), then the powerful chairman of the Armed Services Committee. Edwards asked for Hebert's help in securing the extra planes, according to Vidrine's testimony.
Hebert assured Edwards that he would assist him, the source said, Vidrine testified.
Edwards and Vidrine then went back to Passman's office, where Tongsun Park waited. After explaining that Hebert would assist with the planes, Edwards asked for Passman's assistance in arranging additional credit through the U.S. "Food for Peace" program for the rice purchases, according to Vidrine's testimony.
A sum of $80 million in credits was agreed upon. Vidrine testified, but Passman insisted on several conditions of his own. He wanted several relatives and friends "taken care of," meaning employed, according to Vidrine on the spot to appoint one relative to a position in the governor's office when they assumed office, Vidrine testified. The others were to be employed by a local rice dealer, who stood to profit from the rise sale, according to the testimony.
The second condition was that Korea agree to purchase sweet potatoes, in addition to rice, Vidrine told the grand jury. Passman's congressional district was about to be redrawn and would include a depressed sweet potato growing area, according to Vidrine's testimony.
Park told Passman that it would be "no problem," according to Vidrine's testimony.
Passman could not be contacted yesteday.
Reached yesterday, Hebert said he did not recall any such meetings. Hebert said he had never intervened on behalf of any specific government for increased military aid, although he acknowledged that he generally supported Korea military assistance plans.