Two Republican former congressmen say they got $500 campaign contributions from Korean rice dealer Tongsun Park, bringing to 10 the number of current or former members of Congress who have acknowledged getting cash from Park.
But like most Democrats who have acknowledged getting Park payments, former Reps, Lawrence J. Hogan (R-Md.) and William H. Ayres (R-Ohio) said the contributions in 1970 were legal, even routine. They said Park asked no favors for the money.
The House and the Justice Department are investigating whether Park made the contributions as a businessman, which would have been legal then, or as an agent attempting to buy influence in Congress for the South Korean government.
Ayres said FBI agents interviewed him about the contribution and apparently are interviewing all members of Congress listed in Park's bank records.
A former business associate of Park reportedly has detailed payments to about 20 congressmen plus other officials.
Hogan said he did not learn about the 1970 contribution until last year. He said he assumed Park had given it because of Hogan's general support of U.S. aid to South Korea.
"I saw him occasionally and he never mentioned it," Hogan said.
He said he ran into Park from time to time on Capitol Hill. Although Park called several times to make appointments with him. Hogan added, the two never got together in that manner.
He said the only time he remembers Park mentioning Korea was once when "I asked him how things were going and he said, 'Oh, not so good; they're talking about cutting troops in Korea,' or something like that."
In 1970, Hogan was on the relatively minor Post Office and District of Columbia committees. He later became a member of the Judiciary Committee and did not seek re-election in 1974.
Ayres became a ranking member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee during his 20 years in Congress. Ayres, who was defeated for re-election in 1970, said he never knew Park, that a secretary who had been to some of Park's parties arranged the contribution.
"She said Tongsun Park was making political contributions and she knew we were having trouble raising money," Ayres said. "I said sure. At that time I just thought Park was a nice guy."
Park never made any attempt to contact the office after that, Ayres said.
He said he did not report the contribution on the voluntary questionnaire the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct sent to more than 700 former and current members of congress because it was made to his campaign committee, not to him personally.