A Democratic Party memo released yesterday showed that party officials worried in 1993 that fund-raising efforts by John Huang would look like he was trying to buy a federal job.
Huang was named to a Commerce Department post in the summer of 1994, nearly a year after the memo, but was under consideration for a Clinton administration job much earlier.
The memo was released by the House Government Reform Committee, which concluded three days of testimony by Huang, a key fund-raiser who in 1996 became the Democratic National Committee's chief money-raiser among Asian Americans.
Huang has pleaded guilty to arranging illegal contributions but said such activity took place before his appointment to the federal job.
Yesterday and several other times during the hearings, Huang insisted that his Commerce Department appointment had nothing to do with his money-raising activities.
The internal DNC memo was written by a staff member, Vida Benavides, regarding a fund-raising event for Asian Americans in Los Angeles on Sept. 28, 1993. She worked on the party's Asian American political desk and is no longer at the DNC.
Huang, who in 1993 worked for the Lippo Group, an Indonesian conglomerate, was chairman of the Los Angeles event. After listing his plans for the event, Benavides wrote in her memo: "Since John Huang himself is up for an appointment, his early commitment of 200,000 [dollars] would be perceived as a buy-off."
Rich Hess, the DNC's deputy press secretary, said, "There's no indication that any appointments were considered or made on the basis of fund-raising.
"The memo reflects the sensitivity that there could be an appearance of that, and wanted to avoid that appearance," Hess said.
The memo added that the Asian Americans raising money for the party "would like to help in the future" but "would look foolish if they themselves commit to give without a guarantee of a possible appointment. Their own credibility will be questioned."
In a separate internal memo on the same event, Benavides said key Asian American Democratic leaders from California "have not yet been appointed by the administration."
She said several fund-raisers "felt hesitant with committing donations without a guarantee that there will be appointments made by the time [the] fund-raiser will take place."
But, without a specific reference to Huang, she wrote, "My concern is that if the WH [White House] made significant appointments too close to the fund-raiser, the perception is that the APA [Asian Pacific Americans] from California were 'buying' off appointments."