Huang encouraged by Democratic Party Documents show fund-raiser was asked to boost contributions

December 22, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- Documents released by the Democratic National Committee portray the top levels of the Democratic Party encouraging John Huang to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars from Asian-Americans and urging him to do more.

In recent weeks, top party officials have tried to distance themselves from Huang, saying little about the specifics of his fund-raising efforts. But a July 4 letter reveals that Donald Fowler, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, challenged Huang to "do better." Huang single-handedly raised $3.4 million.

The documents also describe how Huang sought a top fund-raising job in a meeting with the president and his most senior aides in the White House and that after the meeting, President Clinton instructed them to "follow up" with Huang.

In the 10 months that followed, Huang crisscrossed the country, organizing at least 18 major fund-raising events, raising nearly $40,000 a day at the height of the presidential campaign, and generating the largest amount in campaign contributions that has come into question in more than two decades.

More than 3,000 pages of records from the Democratic National Committee document the rise of Huang on the recommendation of the president, and the committee's damage control efforts as his fund-raising came under fire.

The records have been requested by federal prosecutors and a House subcommittee now investigating Democratic fund-raising practices. They were made available to reporters Friday evening.

The records illustrate how deeply Huang had tapped into the Asian-American business community, which in past elections had been overlooked as a major source of campaign cash.

But by the fall of this year, the Democratic National Committee had been forced to return nearly $1.2 million of that money. Prompted by news reports questioning the true sources of several large contributions, the committee grew suspicious that

they might have been improper.

In one case, a donor who had given $325,000 testified a few weeks later that he had no assets in this country. In a second case, a couple who gave $450,000 failed to file an income tax return. In a third case, the committee learned that one contributor who gave $253,500 was not the true donor.

The records show that one week before the presidential election, with the fund-raising practices generating criticism from Republicans and independent groups advocating campaign finance reform, officials at the Democratic National Committee tried to devise a public relations strategy to challenge the criticism as "racist" and "Asian bashing."

Huang, 51, received some of his largest donations from a small group of Arkansans and Asians who shared his long-standing ties to an Indonesian billionaire, James Riady, who has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democratic campaigns and causes over the years and whose ties to Clinton are also under legal scrutiny. Huang was the senior American executive for Riady's Lippo Group, a $12 billion conglomerate, before he joined the Clinton administration in July 1994.

Pub Date: 12/22/96

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